26th and Valencia Through The Ages
Restaurants and bars come and go. Toad’s is Dead, Long Live the South End Grill ‘n’ Bar. So say the signs. But history (oh why yes, history, as ye soon shall see) shows us there is no good reason a restaurant or bar can’t do well on that corner.
I never really saw that many people inside since it opened in early 2006. Yelp suggests that the owners are redoing the menu. The La Lengua corridor does not forgive mediocrity.
Pi Bar certainly shows you can draw crowds with the right idea and execution. Show us what you’ve got, SEBnG.
But I do love this exciting Toad’s review on their website, via yelp:
the mission jumps into the bay…and swims to the bottom of the ocean…and stares…and stares…and stares at the bottom…and finds its soul…and finds its eternal flame…and emerges with newly found clarity and resolve…and produces a spectacular working class establishment that the old man would be proud of…
toad’s is that establishment! toad’s is the old man’s prayer to the gentrification of the mission! toad’s is the retrosexual’s answer to the metro-pussification of the mission!
toad’s is simply a glorious pub/restaurant in the outskirt of the valencia area (valencia and 26th), which means no hipsters or metros cuz we all know that those people are too scared to venture past 24th street. omg! it’s soooo scaaary out there!
24th is certainly a hipster semipermeable membrane.
Anyway, that building has been there since at least 1889, and as you will no doubt be unsurprised, the corner has always had bars and restaurants aplenty as we can see from the Sanborn maps. (Red are bars and green are restaurants. S stands for store, F for Flats and D for dwelling. (The Sanborn codes are deceiving – for the record, “Out Ho” sadly does not stand for out house, just “Outer Building”. But FB stands for Female Boarding, aka Bordello.))
Click to zoom:
Drilling into what was where when — in 1889, Toad’s/1499 Valencia was actually 1441 Valencia (but nothing shows up in the directories). By 1899 the block had been renumbered we see that 1499 Valencia was run by James and Mary Ward. James passed away sometime between 1901 and 1907, and Mary ran the saloon for a few years afterward. (There is a widow Mary Ward listed in the neighborhood until 1913 though it is unclear if it’s the same one.)
By 1918 Chris Petersen had taken over, but Prohibition forced him to turn it into a soda fountain shop which he ran until at least 1927.
The history of the spot now occupied by Dovre Club across the street is even more interesting.
From at least 1886 to at least 1901 (if not 1906), a man with the particularly awesome name of Cornelius Crowley ran a saloon on the NW corner of 26th and Valencia.
His house is in orange below.
Nice front yard! Cool discovery – that octagon is a 50 foot windmill that lasted until at least 1915.
In 1896 Cornelius threw a summer saturday night party at his house that was pleasant enough to be noticed by the SF Call:
He continued to run the bar for at least another decade until his sons (or so I assume) took over:
Remember that 212 changed to 242 in the mid 00’s.
You can see the progression on this block of San Jose Ave from 1889 to then (and effectively today). 1889, 1900, 1915, 1950. (Rotated with west up, north to the right.)
UPDATE: I initially thought he got to live in the cool house that now sits there, but I just figured out it was not built until 1916. But a long-time Mission dweller named John Stelling moved in soon after it was built, and lived there until 1924. Residents of 242 from 1911-1924 listed here.
Rossi was also a bootlegger and rumor has it that his fortune more than doubled during prohibition. We recently opened a wall in the basement and found more than a case of very old Carta Blanca bottles that probably were holed up there by a resident drunk or construction worker as we think that part of the house was added afterwards.
John Stelling was a bookkeeper, and I thought it was a bit odd he moved into a giant house like that. One possibly related tidbit — he worked for Rolph Shipping, owned by Rossi’s predecessor, Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph (1911-1931), who helped start Muni amongst other things. Connections?
But back to Cornelius — the last record I have of him of before he passed on to the great big bar in the sky is 1909. His family continued to run the bar until Prohibition. (Given the number of bars in the city, that transition must have been a brutal real estate issue.) Afterwards, it was a cigar shop, a restaurant, and a grocery.
(As for after 1927, that would involve me actually getting up and going to a library which isn’t going to happen soon.)
So — next time you’re in the Dovre, make a toast to Cornelius Crowley and his epic 35 year bar empire.