Grab Bag #010

Appreciating Skid Row, Juanita's Midwinter Fair act, and the idea of a San Francisco Historian Laureate.

Grab Bag #010
Salesforce Tower begone!

New Year, New Beginnings

The postcard image at top was about the Spirit of San Francisco recovering from the 1906 earthquake and fire (seen darkly at left), but I think it makes for a good new year’s image, the crowned and diaphanously clad fairy magically making the Salesforce Tower disappear.

Skid Row, early 1960s

Street and SRO hotel
West side of 3rd Street between Market and Mission Streets, early 1960s. (San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, AAR-6070)

I’ve been browsing photographs from the San Francisco Public Library’s collection of records from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. These were obviously taken less for documentation and more as supporting evidence for change, pushing for “slums” to be scraped clean for big new developments. So, above, the photographer wants to highlight the pile of trash on 3rd Street between Market and Mission Streets (ho-hum). But what are your eyes really drawn to?

Capitol Clothing with its jewel-box window displays of union-made men’s clothing, back when people actually cared about unions. Forty-nine-cent t-shirts. The Owen Hotel, an SRO giving the world its name twice on one side of the entry overhang, and Barrel House cocktails at the right edge. Men in hats, one ambling and one purposeful.

I don’t mean to glamorize a tough time and a rough place, although the big characterless hotel that now fills this block adds nothing of visual interest for me. I’m just doing a bit of time-travel tourism. I like the details of “real life” when I find them.