Ingleside Racetrack: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

Thanksgiving falls on November 28th this year, same as it did in 1895. That makes this Thanksgiving the 124th anniversary of the opening of the Ingleside Racetrack. The Pacific Coast Jockey Club opened the Ingleside Racetrack on Thanksgiving day in 1895. It was located just off what was then called Ocean Road, now Ocean Avenue, in an area near where there was a dog track, a shooting range, and roadhouses. So the new horse racing track fit right in with the other vice activities there1.

The Ingleside Racetrack was built for the then expensive amount of $400,0002 as a grander alternative to the Bay District Racing Track in the Inner Richmond District. Ed Corrigan and others had purchased the Ingleside location from Adolph Sutro for $165,000. The grandstand was constructed with what was called an “unusual slant3” so that fans would not have a blocked view.

Ingleside Racetrack Grandstand on Opening Day, November 28, 1895. (Photo by Isaiah Taber.)

12,000 people turned out for the opening day of horse racing, despite the Cal-Stanford Big Game happening the same day at the Haight Street Grounds, which drew 14,000 spectators4. To handle the crowds coming to the track, electric streetcar lines were running all day. Southern Pacific added a spur to the racetrack to accommodate race fans. Soon, a grand clubhouse was added next to the grandstand. The first floor of the clubhouse was to be for gentlemen, while the second floor was reserved for ladies and their escorts.

Ingleside Racetrack Clubhouse and Grandstand, 1895. (Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

Even before the Ingleside Racetrack opened, there was talk about whether the Bay District Racing Track could survive the new competition. In fact, it could not. The initial success of the Ingleside Racetrack led to the closing of the Bay District Racing Track on May 27, 1896. For a short while, the Ingleside course enjoyed a lack of competition in the local thoroughbred racing circuit.

Horses racing at Ingleside Racetrack, circa 1899. (Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

The monopoly was short-lived though. After the Bay District Racing Track closed in 1896, its owner, Tom Williams, purchased the run down Oakland Trotting Park in what is now Emeryville and transformed it into a sleek new facility for thoroughbred horse racing. Initially, the Ingleside and Emeryville tracks had an agreement to alternate racing schedules. However, gambling foes got San Francisco to pass an anti-betting ordinance that Mayor James Phelan signed on March 13, 1899. Horse racing was still allowed, but the public could not bet on the ponies (or dogs). Without the lure of gambling, horse racing at the Ingleside Racetrack could not continue and was shut down two days later on March 15, 1899. Williams did not have that problem at his track, as he had incorporated Emeryville and set it up to permit gambling. By November of that year, a new track in San Bruno was also opened, the Tanforan Race Track.

Auto racing at Ingleside Racetrack, early 1900s.Auto racing at Ingleside Racetrack, early 1900s. (wnp4.1708; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

The owners of the Ingleside Racetrack soon found a loophole though. The anti-betting ordinance failed to mention anything about betting on automobile racing. In 1900, an auto race was held at the course, the first such race on the West Coast. A fight ensued thereafter to return horse racing to the course with thousands signing petitions for and against the idea. The Board of Supervisors approved a limited schedule of 36 days of racing, but Mayor Phelan quietly vetoed it, though he failed to tell anyone until after a day of racing was held on March 16, 1901. The fight within the city continued though and Williams jumped into the fray by buying both the Ingleside and Tanforan tracks.

While the gambling fight was waged at City Hall, auto racing returned to Ingleside on August 17, 1902, this time with “motor-bicycles” as well. A month later, the Board of Supervisors again approved a limited schedule of racing and betting at Ingleside and, this time, new Mayor Eugene Schmitz signed it into law. On November 15, 1902, horse racing returned to the Ingleside Racetrack before a crowd of 6,000. The return of horse racing was short-lived though. With auto racing becoming more popular and two nearby competing race tracks, the popularity of the Ingleside Racetrack began to wane.

Grading for Ingleside Terraces, Ingleside Racetrack Clubhouse in background, 1912.Grading for Ingleside Terraces, Ingleside Racetrack Clubhouse in background, 1912. (wnp4.1726a; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

The end of the 1905 racing season on December 30, 1905 would turn out to be the final horse racing at the track after the 1906 earthquake damaged it. The track and its buildings were briefly used to shelter earthquake refugees. In 1910, the Urban Realty Development Company purchased the Ingleside Racetrack and began to redevelop it for housing. The track and grandstand were torn down, but the clubhouse was kept as a sales office for the company. The centerpiece of the new development was Urbano Drive, an oval street that was laid out on top of the loop of the old racecourse.

Ingleside Terraces Sundial, Ingleside Racetrack Clubhouse in background, circa 1912.Ingleside Terraces Sundial, Ingleside Racetrack Clubhouse in background, circa 1912. (wnp4.1729; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

Inside the west end of the Urbano Drive loop, the developers built a short circular street called Entrada Drive with a landmark feature, a large sundial. Over the ensuing years, development filled the area with houses. The old Clubhouse was used as meeting place for the homeowners association until 1930, when it was torn down in order to build more houses. The sundial remains, but you have to go looking for it now as it can no longer be seen from neighboring streets since being encircled by houses. It is well worth visiting and, when you do, imagine yourself in the middle of a grand horse-racing track.


1. “Ingleside Racetrack,” on

2. “All Ready For The Bugle Call,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 28, 1895, page 8.

3. “Ingleside Ready For The Race Meet,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 11, 1895, page 4.

4. “Ingleside Racetrack 1895-1905,” by Angus Macfarlane on

Five Favorites: Veterans

by Arnold Woods

San Francisco has a long history with the military and veterans. As soon as the Spanish arrived in 1776, they established the Presidio as their military outpost here. The Presidio was later a Mexican military base and then an American army base. San Francisco also featured Fort Point guarding the Golden Gate, Fort Funston, Fort Mason, Fort Miley, and the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Around the Bay Area, there are or were numerous military facilities for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. San Francisco continues to celebrate Fleet Week each year although most of these military facilities are no longer active.

With so many members of the military stationed in San Francisco and in the surrounding Bay Area for so many years, the City was a natural draw for service members. Of course, they frequently had their pictures taken as they marched in parades or took part in touristy activities around the City. Naturally, a fair number of those images have ended up in our OpenSFHistory collection. For this Veteran’s Day, we are taking a look at five of our favorite OpenSFHistory images of service members and veterans.

Veteran resting on car during parade, circa 1938.Veteran resting on car during parade, circa 1938. (wnp14.3704; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)

We love this image of a veteran taking a rest on the running board of a car during a parade. We don’t know who he is. We are also not sure when this parade took place or what the parade was for. Our circa 1938 estimate of the date is probably based on the car he is sitting in. He has a belt around his right arm that may have been used to help him hold the flag that is propped up next to him on the car. There is a quiet dignity to him as he rubs his sore foot and one feels certain that even though his dogs are barking, he will soon rejoin the parade and march with pride.

Veteran and dog during American Legion Parade, October 1, 1946.Veteran and dog during American Legion Parade, October 1, 1946. (wnp14.2301; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)

Another favorite because of this dog holding what looks like a block of wood that has an American flag sticking out of it and wearing an “Any Old Post” sign. The veteran leaning on a cane or walking stick appears to be giving the pooch a quizzical look. Behind them, a marching band is heading down the street. The image was taken during an American Legion parade on October 1, 1946 that went from the Ferry Building to Seals Stadium. The parade “wowed”1 a crowd of an estimated 100,000 people. The image was taken on 10th Street after the parade turned off Market.

Grand Army of the Republic Civil War veterans at the War Memorial Exercises, November 11, 1926.Grand Army of the Republic Civil War veterans at the War Memorial Exercises, November 11, 1926. (wnp36.04525; DPW Horace Chaffee – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

On Armistice Day in 1926, San Francisco broke ground on the War Memorial building, which it intended to be a peace memorial that would be a home for the arts. At the groundbreaking ceremony, there were numerous veterans of various conflicts, including World War I that had ended eight years earlier in 1918 and the Spanish-American War of 1898. There were also members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the fraternal organization of veterans of the Civil War. As over 70 years had passed since the end of the Civil War, there were understandably few veterans of the conflict still living at that time. This image shows the Grand Army veterans seated with American flags at the ceremony. Opera singer Louise Homer entertained the veterans with a rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic2.

Sailor at Playland, circa 1937.Sailor at Playland, circa 1937. (wnp27.0202; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

What would a military service member do in their free time in San Francisco? Visit Playland of course! Here we have a Navy sailor taking a swig of what looks like a beer in front of Playland and with Sutro Heights seen in the background. Based on the vehicles parked on the Great Highway, we estimate this image to have been taken sometime in the mid-to-late 1930s. We don’t know who this sailor is, but somebody was documenting his day off. We have several images of him at Playland, including one eating a candy apple, a couple more images of him posing on the Ocean Beach Esplanade, and one of him at the Lincoln Statue in the Civic Center. Although he looks pretty serious in the image above, he looks playful in other images. It appears he had a pretty good day on leave in San Francisco.

Navy WAVES on Market Street on V-J Day, August 15, 1945.Navy WAVES on Market Street on V-J Day, August 15, 1945. (wnp14.3497; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

Women make up an ever increasing percentage of our service members and veterans. These four women were Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and were out celebrating Victory Over Japan (V-J) Day on Market Street near Grant on August 15, 1945. About six months after the United States entered World War II, Congress enacted legislation to allow the Navy to accept female volunteers for the duration of the war plus six months. The idea behind the program was that women would take over jobs at U.S. Navy bases, freeing the men for sea duty during the war. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in getting the law passed. Although many women who served during World War II left the services after the war, President Truman signed a new law in 1948 that allowed women to serve in the Army or Navy on a permanent basis. Women have been a critical part of the armed forces ever since.


1. “American Legion Rolls Out The Barrel,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 2, 1946, page 1.

2. “Vast Throng Sees City Turn Earth For Peace Temple,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 12, 1926, pages 1-2.

The Coronet: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

70 years ago, on November 2, 1949, the grandest theater on the west side opened. It was dubbed the Coronet Theater, though there was some thought given to calling it the Ritz Theater. Befitting a theater that was almost called the Ritz, the Coronet looked to provide a luxurious viewing experience when it opened with loge-style stadium seating for 1350 people, including 550 rocking chairs, a balcony, a large screen, and, in a nod to the “fad” of the day, a television room where theater attendees could watch TV for free. The opening day movie was the Howard Hawks comedy, I Was A Male War Bride, starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. It was “[t]he utmost in theater comfort” according to the Chronicle1.

Coronet Theater with marquee for first film shown there, 1949. (Courtesy of Jack Tillmany.)

Located at 3575 Geary Boulevard, the Coronet was built by San Francisco Theatres, Inc., which also owned the Alexandria Theater down the street at Geary and 18th Avenue and many other theaters, such as the Balboa, the Coliseum, the Metro, the Harding, and the Vogue. In those days, first-run films opened at downtown theaters. So beginning with I Was A War Male Bride, the Coronet was a second-run theater for its first six years. The Coronet and the Alexandria shared a booker who put “prestige” films at the Alexandria and action and/or adventure films at the Coronet.

Streetcars near Coronet Theater with Oklahoma on the marquee, December 1956. (Courtesy of Jack Tillmany.)

On February 1, 1956, the Coronet’s days as a second-run theater ended. It began a new life as a first-run theater with an exclusive–no other theater in the Bay Area had it–showing of the Fred Zinnemann blockbuster movie, Oklahoma! starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae. Oklahoma! stayed at the Coronet for a record 44 weeks, playing in a high-resolution, wide 70mm format with stereophonic sound called the Todd-AO process. When it left, it was replaced by Around the World in 80 Days. The Oscar Best Picture-winning David Niven film merely ran for an amazing 96 weeks at the Coronet, more than double Oklahoma!’s record.

Looking west down Geary Boulevard at Coronet Theater with Ben-Hur on marquee, May 10, 1960 (Courtesy of George Fanning/SFMTA.)

The Coronet became the king of the long-running movies. After the first two successes, it featured such top movies as Ben-Hur for 75 weeks, My Fair Lady for 50 weeks, Hawaii and Camelot for 35 weeks each, Funny Girl for 59 weeks, and The Godfather for 32 weeks.

Picketers outside Coronet Theater showing Camelot, 1968.Picketers outside Coronet Theater showing Camelot, 1968. (wnp5.50480; Courtesy of Jack Tillmany.)

In the mid-1970s, Gary Meyer was the booker for the Alexandria and Coronet Theaters. The big 20th Century Fox movie in the summer of 1977 was The Other Side of Midnight. Fox executives wanted it in the “important” theaters2. Meyer knew about a stealth marketing campaign by the director of another Fox movie that executives did not care for. So Meyer was more than happy to book The Other Side of Midnight at the Alexandria, while taking a chance on a space opera called Star Wars at the Coronet. The only other theater in the Bay Area that booked Star Wars at that time was in San Jose.

Ticket booth and terrazzo sidewalk at Coronet Theater, May 17, 2005. (Phaeton image by Anderson Gin and David West Reynolds.)

Everybody knows now that Star Wars became THE blockbuster film that summer and a cult phenomenon ever since. The Coronet saw lines around the block of moviegoers anxious to see Star Wars. Thereafter, every Star Wars film got the Coronet Theater treatment. Additionally, some of the re-releases and special editions had runs at the Coronet.

Like many, I saw all the Star Wars films that played at the Coronet. While I missed the first run of the first Star Wars film, I saw it there subsequently on a re-release. It was widely known throughout the Bay Area that the Coronet was the place to go to see a Star Wars film. George Lucas himself has said it was one of his favorite theaters.

Coronet Theater showing Million Dollar Baby, 2005. (Photo by David West Reynolds of Phaeton Group.)

In 2000, United Artists Theatre Co., then the owner of the Coronet, filed for bankruptcy and the Coronet was put up for sale. It was eventually purchased by the Institute for Aging, who planned to tear the theater down and build a nursing home. The Coronet remained open until 2005 when the last film shown there was another Best Picture winner, Million Dollar Baby. There was some hope among Star Wars fans that it would remain open through the summer of 2005 so that the sixth Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, could be shown there. However, the Coronet closed its doors forever on March 17, 2005, a mere two months before Revenge of the Sith opened.

Coronet Theater demolition, July 24, 2007. (Photo by Jim Cassedy.)

A couple of years after it closed, the Coronet was torn down and replaced by the Institute of Aging building you see there today. All of the “grand” west side San Francisco movie theaters are now gone, leaving just multiplexes and small theaters for Outside Lands movie lovers who do not wish to travel far for a theater experience. Those of us who grew up with movie palaces miss them dearly. Today’s young movie fans don’t know what they are missing.


1. “New Coronet Theater Open This Evening,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 2, 1949, page 32.

2. “Star Wars and S.F.’s Coronet in 1977: An Oral History,” by Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 2015.