Maguire's Houses

Life on one Mission District block on February 22, 1887 at 11:35 a.m.

Maguire's Houses

In 2018, while working on the OpenSFHistory project, specifically processing photographs from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Martin Behrman Collection, I was struck by two Mission District images with very descriptive captions. Check out the notations scrawled on the bottom:

Street and houses in 1887.
View to northwest corner of Folsom and 20th Streets, February 22, 1887, 11:35 a.m. Grocery and liquor store on corner run by Charles G. Friedrich. (OpenSFHistory/wnp71.1614; Martin Behrman Negative Collection / Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives GOGA 35346, F810 RE-023.)

We analyzers of old photos spend a lot of time trying to pin down dates. Based on clothing fashions or automobile models we might guess 1880s or circa 1955 and have little expectation to ever do better. Rarely is the investigator lucky enough to be provided with an exact date, much less the time of day: 11:35 a.m.! Here is the far side of the same block on the same day:

Street and houses, 1887.
View to northeast corner of Shotwell and 20th Streets. Philip Faubel’s meat market on corner, Maguire flats on right, February 22, 1887. (OpenSFHIstory/wnp71.1613; Martin Behrman Negative Collection / Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives GOGA 35346, F810 RE-022.)

Both photographs document the northern block face of 20th Street between Shotwell and Folsom Streets. The notations make special mention of the residential flats— “Maguire’s houses”—contained in the long mid-block building with the undulating roof line.

What a great slice of San Francisco time and place. The block has a grocer occupying one corner and a butcher the other. Neighborhood children give their best poses for the photographer. A line of skeletal street trees is visible. In the first photo there’s a mailbox on a lamppost.

Children in front of store.
Kids in front of Friedrich's grocery and liquor business. Property owner Thomas G. Maguire lived in the residence above the store.
Children in front of store.
Three corn starch packages cost 23 cents and splendid 12-lb California hams look to be $2. I might go for the Willows lager beer though. Nice doll baby carriage!
Lamp post, mailbox, street, and houses.
Mailbox on the Folsom/20th Street lamp post. Maguire's Houses at mid-block behind with some pretty barren street trees.

The scene projects a refined urban neighborhood, but the water tower windmill visible in the background of the second photograph gives a clue that infrastructure of city life was relatively recent to the area. About the time these images were taken the block east was mostly open land with greenhouses. A large portion of the block east of that—between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street—was described on the Sanborn fire insurance map as “Swamp.”

1889 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of San Francisco, Plate 76. My red rectangle delineates the Maguire Houses at top and my oval the described "swamp" at bottom.

The Maguire mentioned in the photo notations was Thomas G. Maguire, a native of Ireland who owned the entire south third of the block. He lived in the corner building on Folsom Street above the ground floor grocery store/bar run by Henry Mangels and later by Charles G. Friedrich. The other corner business, at 20th and Shotwell, was rented to butcher Philip Faubel.

Butcher shop, street
Two guys labor on street work while one supervises at Shotwell and 20th Streets. Kids in the background try to look well behaved next to the corner butcher shop.

Maguire’s sons, Augustus Benedict Maguire and Joseph Maguire, lived off and on in different residences on the block while running a dry goods business on Mission Street and dealing in real estate and insurance. Thomas was a former plasterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, but the rents must have been good, because by the time of these photographs he was describing his profession in the city directory as “capitalist.”

Much of the Mission District burned in the fires following the April 18, 1906 earthquake and it was a close call for Maguire’s property. A fire at 22nd and Mission was contained after much effort on the day of the earthquake, and early on April 20, 1906, the great conflagration bearing down from Hayes Valley was stopped just a couple of blocks to the west.

1906 fire damage
View northwest from the fire line at San Carlos and 20th Streets after the 1906 earthquake. The Maguire flats were just four blocks to the east, out of frame to the right. (OpenSFHistory/wnp27.3376)

Into the 1910s, Maguire’s row of flats still lined the north side of the street and the old water tower remained a landmark behind them. The meat market became a saloon after the earthquake, but the Folsom Street corner still had the grocery store. During World War I, industrial and commercial warehouses began filling the area, serviced by nearby railroad lines.

In 1920, the Maguire properties finally succumbed to the changing character of the neighborhood. A 20,000-square-foot brick warehouse for a carpet cleaning company replaced the old grocery, butcher shop, and flats. This warehouse still stands, much older now than the flats were at the time of their demolition. Until recently, it served as a factory for the Timbuk2 messenger bag company. Now, part of it is occupied by a pottery studio with the rest available for lease.

Shotwell and 20th streets in 2022, former site of Philip Faubel's corner butcher shop and Maguire flats.
Northwest corner of Folsom and 20th streets in 2022, former site of Henry Mangels' grocery store and bar.

Woody Beer and Coffee Fund Established

The Woody Beer and Coffee Fund (not a nonprofit organization) has been established! Thanks to Karen P. for contributing $51 to the coffee side for 2023. Cheers!