Sooner or later, as they say, everything has to go. (And if they don't say that,
they should!) So here, in no particular order, are a few things that left their mark
on The City before making the big bye-bye.
THE METAL ARCHES ACROSS FILLMORE ST.
In the years following the 1906 earthquake, the merchants along Fillmore attempted
to make their street the trendy area to shop. As part of this campaign, ornate steel
arches were installed over fourteen Fillmore St intersections.
Fillmore never caught on as a shopping mecca. During a World War II scrap metal
drive, the arches were torn down and donated to the cause.
With its distinctive architecture and green tilework, Omar Khayyam's was a San Francisco
favorite for decades. The restaurant is long gone, and for some time the building
sat vacant. A few years ago, however, it was completely renovated and transformed
into valuable retail space, as shown in the bottom photo.
"The Chutes" was an amusement park that originally opened in 1895. Over the years,
it moved a few times, eventually being incorporated into Playland-at-the-Beach. The
attraction was demolished in 1950.
The postcard below (photographed around 1905) shows the 350-foot waterslide at the
Fulton St location.
Quick! How many women are in the group shot?
(If you answered any at all, you're wrong!)
For over sixty years, Finocchio's was a world-famous venue for female impersonators. It
closed it doors in 1999.
MARQUARD'S LITTLE CIGAR STORE
Below is a picture of Marquard's, as it looked before it closed in 2004. A landmark
for decades, it was where to go to pick up a quick pint of whisky, a cheap cigar
and a racing form. Skyrocketing rents forced it out, and these days, a hat shop
occupies the space. The famous sign intact, but, sadly, they’ve removed the WELCOME
ANYBODY that used to be above the entrance. Too bad – I always liked that.
If you feel like creating a little trouble, go into the hat shop and take a snapshot
or two. I can tell you from personal experience, they hate that!
THE OLD HALL OF JUSTICE
In the days of Sam Spade, San Francisco's Hall of Justice stood on Kearny Street,
across from Portsmouth Square. TV buffs may recognize this building from Raymond
Burr's old cop series Ironside. Today, a high-rise hotel occupies the space.
THE PANAMA PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION
An elaborate world’s fair, the 1915 PPIE was ostensibly to celebrate the opening
of the Panama Canal, but was also designed to show the world that San Francisco had
bounced back after the 1906 earthquake.
A storybook city of dazzling palaces was constructed on new land created by filling
in part of the bay (what is now the Marina District).
All that remains today is the Palace of Fine Arts, and even that is not the original. The
original Palace, designed to stand for one year; was in terrible shape half a century
later, when it was recreated, this time in durable concrete.
THE ORIGINAL STEINHART AQUARIUM
Opened in 1923, Steinhart Aquarium was a favorite Golden Gate Park attraction. The
original building was demolished in the early 2000s, and replaced with a dazzling
state-of-the-art structure. Still, I kinda miss the one that I grew up with...
THE WHITE HOUSE
No, not that White House. This one was a major department store at the corner of
Sutter and Grant.
The White House was so successful in its day that it eventually annexed every other
building on the block, much as Macy's has done today. It closed in 1965.
Although the outside of the building looks much the same today, the upper floors
have been converted to a parking garage.
FLEISHHACKER SWIMMING POOL
It was supposedly the world’s largest swimming pool when it opened in 1925, so insanely
huge that the lifeguards patrolled in rowboats! But San Francisco (especially right
alongside the Pacific) makes for chilly swimming weather.
Long story short: Bulldozers filled in the pool during the 1970s.
Throughout the 1940s, people joked that the best restaurant in San Francisco was
in Oakland. Then, in 1951, Victor Bergeron brought his popular Oakland eatery into
San Francisco. As a location, he chose (of all places) an obscure alley called Cosmo
The Tiki-themed restaurant and bar soon became a San Francisco legend, attracting
both the famous and infamous. Imitators immediately sprung up.
After Bergeron died in 1984, things were never the same, and Trader Vic's eventually
passed into history. The building in Cosmo Place is currently occupied by an upscale
In the 2000s, a new incarnation of Trader Vic's appeared on Golden Gate Avenue. Reviews
were mixed, and it only lasted a few years before closing.
SOUTHERN PACIFIC DEPOT
Built in 1912, this Mission Revival-style depot was razed in the 1970s. Rumor has
it that the bells in the towers were actually wooden fakes!
The San Francisco Seals (Pacific Coast League) played here from 1931 to 1958. The
newly-arrived Giants took over tenancy during 1958 to 1959, while waiting for Candlestick
Park to be completed. Seals Stadium was demolished shortly after.
OLD CITY HALL
Before the 1906 earthquake, City Hall stood roughly where the new main library is
today. This strikingly ugly building took almost 40 years to complete under several
administrations, using a variety of materials and architectural styles.
Despite this (or because of this), it collapsed during the first moments of the earthquake.
THE INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENT
The International Settlement was the “official naughty section” of town during the
1940s and 50s. Nightclubs, bars and girlie shows filled the single block of Pacific
Avenue between Kearny and Montgomery. Today, fragments of the poles that once supported
the archway remain, but all other evidence has been erased.
Debuting in 1928, Playland was San Francisco’s answer to Coney Island. For more
than forty years, it was a family favorite, but by the 1960s, times and tastes had
changed. Playland was razed in 1972, leaving not the slightest trace.
BERNSTEIN'S FISH GROTTO
For many years, the sidewalk on Powell Street was partly blocked by the bow of a
ship! This was the unusual entrance to Bernstein's Fish Grotto. The interior of
this famous restaurant was also decorated to resemble a ship.
The building still stands, but is now retail space. The yellow outline indicates
the same area depicted on the postcard.
THE GOLDEN GATE INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION
The 1939 Expo was held on Treasure Island, which had recently been created from soil
dredged from the bottom of the bay. Following the end of the Exposition in 1940,
Treasure Island became a Navy facility. The base closed in 1997. Treasure Island
is, if things go as planned, in the process of transforming itself it an upscale
THE MURAL ROOM
Throughout the Big Band era, The St Francis Hotel’s Mural Room was the place to see
and be seen. (By all accounts, it had terrible acoustics and worse ventilation.)
But swing bands were considered corny by the late 1960s, and the Mural Room shut
THE SUTRO BATHS
Gazillionaire Adolph Sutro opened the Sutro Baths in 1896. An elaborate glassed-in
public swimming facility, the Baths piped ocean water into the seven separate swimming
pools, each of which was heated to a different temperature! There was also a museum,
and (in later years) ice skating. A popular attraction for decades, Sutro Baths
eventually fell out of fashion. The entire complex burned down in the 1960s, leaving
nothing but a big watery hole in the ground.