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1906 Dining Opportunities

May 14, 2013

@donnyo was kind enough to be my Facebook Whisperer and point out this rather interesting photo posted by Lost San Francisco. It looks to be an earthquake relief kitchen / restaurant.

1906 restaurant la lengua

The photo belongs to Lauren, who says

“Now, if I can only figure out why it was in the photo album in inherited from ancestors who lived in North Beach and survived the earthquake. The tall guy in the back is circled, if you zoom in, but he doesn’t look like one of my relatives. Maybe a family friend.”

Matt Brauer noticed the “Gilbert Grocery” sign

1906 Gilbert sign

…and figured out that this was taken in taken in La Lengua, looking west at the intersection of San Jose Ave and Army Street (where St. Luke’s currently sits). The Bancroft Library would have been to the left of and a little behind the photographer.

You can see the buildings behind it on the 1905 Sanborn fire insurance map.

1905 la lengua red cross restaurant

Unfortunately, all those houses along San Jose Ave were torn down in the 1960s to build the ever exciting St. Luke’s parking lot.

Open for breakfast, dinner and supper! (7:15 seems a little early to cut off supper though.)

1906 la lengua red cross meal hours

I was able to dig up an article on the restaurant and its founder David Nieto from the San Francisco Call using the all-powerful California Digital Newspaper Archives.

1906 SF Call Red Cross restaurant

Adjusting for inflation, the meals ran from about $3.75 to $20. I would love to see a menu. (The SFFD Museum has some details on post-quake relief supplies and food distribution — sounds like it was pretty basic, though $20? I’m intrigued.)

But this being in the SF Call, there’s drama to come. Uh oh!  It looks like two of his other kitchens (on 19th & Dolores, and 16th & Carolina) got shut down in August 1906 for risk of flies and typhoid.

Nieto is a pretty distinct name, and there are lots of results for him in the SF Call. Seems like red tape got in the way of him getting reimbursed for his soup kitchen work. Soup Kitchen Man Is Angry!

1906 Nieto angry soup man

So David Neito’s got to be in the photo, right?

When we have our big earthquake, I suspect food trucks will play an important part of San Francisco’s rapid recovery. At least they will have a track record.

Also visible on the Sanborn map is the Buckingham & Hecht shoe factory, which is still standing today as part of the Salvation Army:

1905 Sanborn buckingham and hecht shoe factory valencia & 26th

One of many ads for a San Francisco company emphasizing they were still in business.

1906 sf call buckingham and hecht shoe factory valencia & 26th

@donnyo just found this vignette of the B&H:

b&h shoe factory

Fret not, Buckingham & Hecht is on my list of things to write about some day. Anyone been inside?

Findery trackback:

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2013 2:45 pm

    This is awesome. I am actually surprised that some enterprising San Franciscan hasn’t already dug up the menu and opened an earthquake-themed food truck.

    By the way, check out this ad for BUCKHECT boots:

  2. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable permalink
    May 14, 2013 2:59 pm

    So cool!

  3. May 14, 2013 3:53 pm

    I know some Nietos from Bernal Heights — one side of the family had a grocery store on Crescent. I will ask them whether there’s a connection.

    • pa2sf permalink
      May 15, 2013 12:04 pm

      There’s a William Nieto on Gates Street in Bernal Heights. Related?

  4. May 14, 2013 5:14 pm

    I’m Chris Anderson of the “Lost San Francisco” page on facebook. Thanks for posting the story of this photo, which was sent in by one of our viewers. I really like the part in the article that they keep the restaurant “as free from flies as possible”! We love your page and the work you’re doing!

    • May 14, 2013 5:21 pm

      Hooray! The blog-Facebook barrier has been breached with no effort on my part! (Well, other than writing this post.) Thanks though, great photo, and ping me @burritojustice if there are other mysteries to be solved.

  5. Claudia permalink
    May 14, 2013 5:32 pm

    Awesome, S.F. Information.

  6. May 14, 2013 7:43 pm

    Hi! I’m the person who owns the photo and shared it with Lost San Francisco. I’m thrilled you found out so much information! Now, if I can only figure out why it was in the photo album in inherited from ancestors who lived in North Beach and survived the earthquake. The tall guy in the back is circled, if you zoom in, but he doesn’t look like one of my relatives. Maybe a family friend.

  7. Caltico13 permalink
    May 14, 2013 10:13 pm

    Wonder if this is the same Nieto family still in SF? Gary Nieto runs Neeto’s Cafe on Stevenson Street downtown and has opened an art gallery. His kitchens are always sanitary, by the way. :-)

  8. May 16, 2013 12:57 pm

    More on David Nieto and his work with providing earthquake relief in the US Army archives! See page 242 and Appendix F (which confirms the location of the restaurant at Army & San Jose)

    “The first hot food camp under the Desmond regime opened on Lobos Square on May 12, 1906, and this system was rapidly extended throughout the entire city (with the exception of the seventh relief section), as shown in the map herewith (Appendix F).

    Some time after Mr. Desmond had begun his operations and had demonstrated the practicability of the plan, one David Nieto entered into agreement with this bureau on May 28 to furnish hot meals, the territory assigned him being several locations within the sixth relief section, and one P. J. Sullivan, who also took a limited contract along the same line on June 19, 1906, applying to but one kitchen.”

  9. Emile permalink
    May 17, 2013 11:29 pm

    Speaking of mission earthquake relief, I am sure you remember this from sf_historian
    I love this 25th and Guerrero intersection (half a block from where I live) with an old Rambler in the picture. Some of the houses in the back are still around. And the place above is also really close to the mission relief headquarters as well.

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