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San Franthropomorphism

October 20, 2010

Looking for a Halloween costume? @Seismogenic brings us San Francisco Infrastructure Superheroes!

He scans the city from above, perched on his hill, ready to act. She keeps watch from sea level, welcoming to those who visit with good intentions, but prepared to stop those who intend otherwise. Together with their faithful canine sidekick, they assure the City of San Francisco that it is in good hands, should anything bad happen.

…so, uh, yeah. Couple of new characters here.

The guy on the left is Sutro Tower. It’s a television and radio tower, and is the tallest structure in San Francisco. When it’s not covered by fog, it’s visible from many parts of the City. I wanted him to look a little goofy, since it’s an odd-looking structure, but this was the first time I drew him, so his facial features could change a bit over time. He also has a bit of an origin story as a nemesis to the Golden Gate Bridge (well, according to Herb Caen), but that’s a story for another time…

The dog is meant to be the radio antenna atop Bernal Hill. There are bajillions of dogs in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, and the Hill itself is a very popular place for dog walking. It just seemed to me that the Bernal antenna had to be a dog. It was a bit tricky to get radio antenna patterns on a dog, though, especially since that antenna looks like a random jumble of parts sticking out every which way. Again, the design will surely be tweaked in future pictures.

Aaaand you already know the Golden Gate Bridge. Or, I certainly hope you do.

That is one hell of a jacket.  And I am loving the canine giganticism (thanks TL!) But in all seriousness, Sutro would be a tough Halloween costume to pull off. (Scaling things up or down is tough.  I was a super burrito a few years back, and to be honest I looked a lot like a giant robot / beer can.)

Anthropomorphism is all the rage on Twitter — @Fog_SF and @SFBayBridge just to name a few.  Sadly, @Sutro and @SutroTower are abandoned accounts.  Is there an expiration date for accounts that are clearly abandoned after a few posts?

So given this, does anyone at Pixar want to help me with my movie idea?


Camera pans through the fog.  A glimpse of the bridge. Fog closes again.

Metallic creaking sounds come from the south. Fog parts to reveal…

…Sutro Tower ripping its feet from moorings!

Sutro tri-legs it down Twin Peaks and Clarendon Heights.  With increasing speed, it strides north from intersection to intersection, deftly avoiding damage through Cole Valley, Upper Haight, The Richmond, the Presidio…

to kick the shit out of whatever @hartlaubian entity is currently attacking the Golden Gate Bridge.

I am certain this movie would attract international appeal, no?


Treat Treatise

October 15, 2010

Tanforan cottages, you have met your match. Mission Loc@l reports on the discovery what is perhaps the oldest house in San Francisco at 1266 Hampshire (between 24th and 25th), dating to 1849.  It has been traced to the brothers John and George Treat, whence the street name came.

“The house on Hampshire, historians said, was likely built in 1849 — the year a pair of influential pioneer brothers arrived in San Francisco — or 1850.” It was identified during the city’s South Mission Historic Resources survey.

Gregory Thomas of Mission Loc@l does a fine job referencing maps, but he makes the rookie mistake of stopping with the 1861 Langley map in the search for Treat.  But  going back to the 1859 US Coast Survey map, we can see the Treat compound at its original wonky angle, next to their Pioneer Race Course.

“Historians believe the house was lifted and moved about 100 feet east of its original location as streetcar lines were extended into the Mission –- reoriented to comply with a grid-style layout as the neighborhood took shape.” The concept of lifting up and moving a house simply blows my mind.

It seems like that block of three houses (marked in green) are the Treat compound. Red is the “new” position at 1266 Hampshire.  The red arc is the edge of the Treat’s Pioneer race course, about 300 yards away.

(Google Earth rant — make sure you frequent save your Places.  Apparently Google doesn’t believe in autosave.  GE crashed and I lost about 15 hours of work on maps.  Ripshit doesn’t begin to cover how I feel right now.  Someone please make me an HTML5 based map/image overlay tool, OK?  (Hint hint ,Stamen.))

Anyway, rant off. The San Francisco County Recorder’s office has ridiculously detailed maps of the land tracts and subdivisions through the history of the city. (Warning, not friendly to browse. A/B/1/2/3 are the oldest sets.)  Here we see the 1864 submission for the “Pioneer Race Course Tract” (click to zoom):

Some fascinating details in the text, describing the lands belonging to George Treat and his neighbors in the 1850s:

And of course, the requisite Google Earth transparospinoverlay (click to zoom):

Zooming in on the Treats – the three green squares indicated in the 1859 Coast Survey map are probably their original buildings. The smaller red square is 1266 Hampshire — it looks like a second larger building also seems to have been moved once the street plan became apparent.  I’m guessing they moved the houses sometime between 1857 and 1862 (when the Coast Survey Map and Pioneer Tract map were surveyed).

Other interesting details:

  • the red oval is the Pioneer Race Track and the upper orange line is their path to the track — it went all the way past the grandstands (to the south of 24th, between Folsom and S Van Ness) to Mission
  • the lower orange line is the boundary between the Bernal Rancho and Potrero Viejo (aka Mission Dolores)
  • the yellow lines are stone walls marking the boundary to Portrero Nuevo (aka Potrero) — from the surveyor’s text, it seems that the green buildings at Potrero & 24th once belonged to “R.J. Perkins”

Looking to the west towards the road to San Jose, we see more interesting things:

  • Bernal’s stone wall (more on that in another article)
  • Serpentine Road, i.e. the northern border of the Bernal Racho above Precita Creek
  • Capp next to the now historic Palace Steak House is one of the last remnants of Serpentine — hey, how about making that whacked corner and parking lot an history park?
  • the Pioneer grandstands, theoretically pictured here:

In 1924, Anita Day wrote a history of the city in the San Francisco Bulletin that I touched on this in my Mission Baseball post. The amount of detail of the Mission is stupifying — she makes mention of the Treats:

(More on the Nightingale and bars of the 1850s in another article.)

A few pages later, she interviewed the son of Will Shear, the founder of the “pear shaped” Union Race Course:

Looking at the map, you can see a place on the NW corner of 24th and Mission called the “Red House”.  But then we come across this ominous reference:

This of course explains all the ghosts floating around Payless Shoe Source. ¡Fantasma de los Zapatos Baratos!

(Note I entirely avoided any Treat related Halloween puns throughout this entire article.  You are welcome.)

While we’re looking into the neighborhood, anyone know the story behind the wood shingled apartments on the NE corner of S Van Ness and 26th?

They kind of look like stables, and straddle the end of the 2nd (SE) turn of the Pioneer race course, just above Serpentine’s ghost.

First reference I see of them is the 1914 Sanborn maps.

Wondering if the architect had a sense of history.

UPDATE: Jonathan Lammers, architechælogist, lets us know in the comments that “The Arts & Crafts cottages at 26th and South Van Ness were developed by the T. B. Potter Realty Company in 1905. They are now San Francisco Landmark No. 206.”

What is this “Sunrise” of which you speak?

October 12, 2010

I am not exactly a morning person, so this particular angle of illumination is rather novel. Thanks @Sky1Ron.

Oh, and if anyone tilt-shifts this I WILL DESTROY YOU. God do I hate tilt-shift (perhaps more than HDR).


Transit Time Machine

October 4, 2010

Eric Fischer brings us a time machine, in more ways that one. (No, this does not involve a hot tub on Muni (though that could be surprisingly entertaining.))

First is a 1913 transit time isochron map for the Peninsula and East Bay to 3rd and Mission — steam and electric trains, as well as ferries. Surprisingly fast, and for the Peninsula, not all that different from today (which makes me very sad).

Also, a 1933 isochron map.  (Geary Street, if only…)

Finally, Eric’s datavisiogeniusness brings us this map of where 45 minutes of Muni gets you.

White dots are where vehicles were located the indicated time after they had been to 3rd and Market.
Green dots are where these vehicles had been earlier in their trips from 3rd and Market.

Parting of the Fog

September 28, 2010

In an homage to cooler, foggier times, reader Bernal Jim sends us yet another dramatic Sutro picture (taken by his cousin Primo Louis Montesi IV).

“And Sutro stretched out its antennae over the Mission; and Sutro caused the fog to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the fog clear the land, and the fog was divided. And the children of the Mission went to Brunch upon the sunny ground: and the fog was a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.”

Dramatically wider version for those reading in RSS:

4-D Fog

September 21, 2010

In this summer of odd fog, Seismogenic brings us this dramatic picture:

If you couldn’t guess, it’s the Golden Gate Bridge solidly encased in what I can only assume is a Vonnegutian Fog-9.

Since 3-D objects have 2-D shadows, 4-D objects would have 3-D shadows, no? Or perhaps this fog is a 4-D version of the bridge viewed through past, present and future. Can’t quite tell as this is making my head hurt – someone get me a chronodimensionologist.

Reminds me of this Sutro fog shot on Wikipedia:

Or this fog-sunset combo by craigiest:

Speaking of time and fog, we now have not just one but two epic foglapses (via Laughing Squid and Spots Unknown, respectively):

History of a Tree, A Branch, A Block

September 16, 2010

A big branch of the landmark 100+ year old Moreton Bay Fig tree next to St Luke’s fell on a car around 8PM. (15 second exposures.)

It’s the second branch to fall in the past year or so.  A panorama of the tree in better days:

This tree is well over 100 years old, and may have been planted by Bancroft (of the Bancroft Library) himself.

You may have seen the bronze historical marker below the tree – Hubert Howe Bancroft had his library at Valencia and Army / CC for 26 years.

Bancroft moved to SF in 1853 at age 20 to extend the family bookstore.  He started collecting books, maps and documents in 1860.  By 1870 he had opened a library on Market & 3rd, with 120 boxes of books. But within 10 years he had outgrown it and moved 622 boxes to a new library at Valencia and Army next to St. Luke’s hospital. (So, how do I get that job?)

I’ve always wondered why he chose to build on that corner.  It was pretty far out there in the day, and he lived on Van Ness & Sutter.

Good transit may have been a factor: streetcars had been running on Valencia since 1865, but stopped at 25th St (next to the SFSJ railroad station).  The streetcar line was converted to a cable car in 1883, and the line was extended across Army St (the car barn was at Valencia and Mission).

A picture of the “new” library sometime after 1880, looking from Valencia and Army, to the SW. (No fig trees as far as I can see.)

1886 Sanborn map (west is up). Tiny St. Luke’s hospital visible to the left.  Also, an “old ladies home”.

1888 view looking to the NW down from Bernal – the Bancroft library is just behind the big white barn looking building. (Can’t say that I see a tree.  If anyone has a higher resolution version of this I will buy you all the beer you can drink in one sitting.)

1900 Sanborn map.  (Cool, a hen house and a windmill!)

Because it amuses me, I include an undated picture of the St. Luke’s hospital  Taken from Valencia & Tiffany, looking NW. (1890s? 1900? When did guys stop wearing those hats?) Bancroft Library would just be to the right (along with our tree?) You can see the two hospital buildings on the Sanborn map above. (Nice deck!) Note also the tiny predecessor to the 1912 steps. And that retaining wall has been around forever.

Anyway, the Bancroft’s building was the only major library in the city to escape the fires of 1906. Alas UC Berkeley bought the Bancroft Library in 1906, moving it across the bay. “Three great vans full consisting of over three tons have already arrived . . . but it occupies five hours for a wagon to come from Valencia Street to Berkeley.” (24th to Berkeley on BART is half an hour.)

After Bancroft, the building turned into the “Eng Skell Company soda fountain supplies, syrup factory and warehouse” – a rather inelegant transition from a world class research library. Here we have the 1913 Sanborn map:

The shot below is supposed to be from 1910 and is labeled as the St. Luke’s, though I suspect it’s the employees of Eng Skell’s. (If they were nurses they’d be wearing their hats, no?)  Sometime in the early ‘1os, 1538 was taken over by St. Luke’s as an outpatient clinic.

Our Mortenson Fig could very well be the one on the left – it lines up perfectly with the Sanborn-Google overlay (library in red). If so, I’d guess that Bancroft planted it 20 years before this? Any tree people, feel free to comment on my growthstemation.

Note that the Guerrero side (top) isn’t misaligned — remember the city pushed back those house 20 feet when they widened Guerrero in the early 1950s. (Oh, and the green square? Just the site of the Bernal Rancho in the 1840s-1860s.)

The old library stood until the mid 195os:FIGURING IT OUT–Joseph Zem, right, director of St. Luke’s Hospital, and Episcopal Canon Charles Guilbert, talk about the new hospital annex to be built where they’re standing. The 74-year-old building behind them, formerly a library, will be torn down.”

(You can barely see the “ENG” above the door from the Skell days.)

I suspect our Moreton Bay fig is just visible on right in this photo.