I’m. Too sexy for this rope walk.
I have about 50 half written articles in my WordPress drafts folder. The good news about this procrastination is when someone beats me to an historic writeup, I have instant commentary! Such was the case today on Twitter when chatter erupted over the old Tubbs rope walk.
Historic rope walk? You had me at “Sanborn map pasted over”…
A few years ago, Wade Roush over at Xconomy dug deeply into those oddly angled buildings on Third Street between 22nd and 23rd.
The ghosts of former industry in Dogpatch, Hunters Point and Butchertown could very well be its own blog. The short of it is as downtown SF developed in the 1850s and 1860s, the messy industries and ones that needed lots of space moved to SESF.
These particular buildings were once adjacent to the Tubbs Cordage Company’s “rope walk” factory that was built in 1856 and lasted until 1963. Today, one of them is the Hells Angels’ clubhouse, and Wad Roush disovered that in the 1980s, two of them were owned by none other than DAVID RUMSEY.
Anyway, here are their 1915 facilities presented in BurritoVision. Click to zoom.
Close up of those angled buildings (1558,1560, 1562, 1564, 1566 and 1568 Kentucky), which match up pretty well:
Overlaying the 1886 maps, the lots look the same, but the buildings, 46 aka 1564 and 45 aka 1562 Kentucky look different, and that saloon (which I can’t yet track down) isn’t there:
And here are the 1905 Sanborns, stitched and rotated to show the full length of the plant. IANARM, but apparently you needed an extremely long “rope walk” to make rope — at 1400′, it dodged under Kentucky/3rd Avenue and jutted into the Bay on piers (click to zoom):
Zooming in on our angled buildings:
The National Parks Services gives us a glimpse into how Tubbs & Co got started:
The 1886 Sanborns don’t show the extend of the rope walk, but it can be seen in this crop from the 1884 Coast Survey map, where it sticks a rather significant distance into the bay.
…along with this 1868 bird’s eye, looking from the west.
And the 1869 Coast Survey map:
And the 1859 Coast Survey map:
And just to give you an idea of how utterly isolated the area was while downtown SF boomed, here’s the rope walk sometime after 1857 (looking north, with the Bay on the right).
Zooming in on the 1859 Coast Survey map (which was actually surveyed in 1857, the same time as the photo), you can see some of the same buildings, as well as the fences (marked in green on the map). The red is my estimate of the field of view — I’m guessing the photographer was standing around 25th and Connecticut, looking to the northeast.
The rise is the lost Irish Hill (you can see the Oakland Hills in the very far distance). The powder magazine would be just to the right of this photo — in fact, that small building you see on the crest of the hill may be part of that complex.
An ad in the California Daily Alta from January 1857 (around the time that the photo above was taken) proclaims “the establishment of a very superior rope walk” — a bit defensive perhaps, but they must have been seriously pissing off the folks shipping rope from the East Coast in clipper ships around the horn.
July 1857: “No really, our rope is as good as what you can get out east.”
1858: But in case you want other people’s rope, we have Ratline! Spunyarn! Marline! Housline! Seizing!
1860: prices reduced! Constantly manufacturing! Whatever you want! The rope walk NEVER SLEEPS!
In case you were wondering how they made rope, the National Parks Service has your back with this short history:
1878: You want rope? We’ll make you rope. (But we’d prefer to make hay rope.)
1888: as they got bigger, the name of the company gets changed.
The Tubbs brothers passed away in 1896 and 1897, but the company kept going. The rope walk lasted for over 100 years until 1963.
The old Tubbs office building on Front St was moved to the Hyde Street Pier where you can see it today.
And I just learned from Wade Roush that there’s a book published in 1954 called “Men of Rope” which is now on my reading list.