Mapping San Francisco, 1927 & 2009


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  • There are few things like an old map to show us how much an area has changed. I’ll start with a personal note. I went to college in my father’s college town, Austin, Texas. We went looking for the house he used to live in. He drove himself crazy driving around the neighborhood where he knew it had been. He was an engineer who worked overseas, so he was a champion navigator. He gave up and we went to have lunch at a restaurant. The placemats were copies of outdated maps of Austin. There on the map was Archway, the street he had lived on. When we retraced our steps, we discovered that two blocks of houses were razed to make a parking lot that was called “Archway Annex.”
  • This is a digital image of a street map of San Francisco drawn by Harrison Godwin dated 1927 that came from my husband’s grandparents’ house in San Francisco. People love to look at this map and pick out places they’ve lived in The City, as San Francisco is known, and to note changes to “the Town on the Hill.” the boxes along the bottom contain historical facts. There are cartoon-like characters all over this map depicting events and places. In the lower right-hand corner is a map of development in the Bay Area at the time. In the lower left-hand corner is an overview map of The City with historical notes around it. I thought it might a worthwhile project to make copies of this map and place them in collections and also to illustrate how a map can show important land use and even political changes. We will take a closer look at this unusual map and take a brief tour around The City to see how places have changed. We will also develop a real appreciation for the work archivists do when we see my pretty lowdown production values.There were a couple of challenges in getting copies. First I contacted the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center, which has the San Francisco History Center on the sixth floor. People research the history of their houses and neighborhoods there ( The library did not have a way to make a copy of this map, which measures 28” x 35”. Also, I was advised against undoing the framing, since the map appears to be a newspaper page and could crumble if exposed to air at this point. I also contacted David Rumsey, whose outstanding map collection we know about from our class. Mr. Rumsey made the same suggestion as Dr. James Aber: Photographing the map. I took it to professional photographer Shirley Borba of Auburn, CA, who photographed and saved the map in three sizes; 8” x11”, 11” x 14” and 36” x 48”, because that is the largest size Kinko’s can print out. I then emailed the JPEGs to David Rumsey and the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center just so that other people would have copies of this unusual map. I photographed some of the changes to compare them to the old map, which recorded many of The City’s landmarks at the time.
  • This is a close-up of the map’s title, “Map of San Francisco showing principal streets and places of interest.” This one reveals quite a lot about the society at the time. On either side of Harrison Godwin’s name, we see a man giving a large bouquet to a lady with the inscription “The City That Knows How,” an old slogan about San Francisco. To the right of the medallion with Harrison Godwin’s name is a man banging his fist on the table over the inscription “san Francisco: The Ideal Convention City.” No idea what the two creatures wearing blue shorts next to the medallion. They look like wolves or wildcats, which is the mascot of a private high school in the city. Information about The City is contained in small boxes all over the map. Around the edges of boxes that contain historical facts with illustrations of the events in a somewhat cartoonish style, such as the discovery of the San Francisco Bay by Spanish explorers in 1769 and the discovery of gold in 1848. The box depicting the United States move on California in 1846 shows a United States officer knocking a Mexican off his feet.
  • There are a few boxes containing information about The City. Of course, these informative boxes block out portions of the city streets! These two, “Stage & Screen” and “Banks,” list “principal down town theaters” and banks of the day, respectively. I apologize for the poor production values. This project has given me new respect for archivists and all the map libraries we’ve seen during the course of our class together.
  • The 1927 map shows that development in the San Francisco Bay Area was mainly in the financial district and the industrial sections along the bay. Across the bay, development was mainly along the bay from Richmond to Oakland. A satellite map of the same area today shows more development all around the bay.
  • Here’s a Google Map of our tour today. We will start on the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, jot down to Ortega Street and 37th Avenue, then drive up Sunset Boulevard to Golden Gate Park, over to Sutro Forest and then down to the former site of four cemeteries and a baseball field. We will see compare what we see on the 1927 map to what is there now. We will see where residential neighborhoods replaced an amusement park, sand dunes, cemeteries and a baseball field as well as a forest in the middle of the city. We will also see street names changes and that a street that appears on Google maps really isn’t there.
  • Here is my son Jesse looking at the 1927 map. He is right across from Ocean Beach in San Francisco on a sidewalk along the Great Highway. The lot pictured here is still as empty as it was on the 1927 map and is now a conservation project. Across Balboa Street from this lot was the site of an amusement park labeled “Chutes on the Beach” on the 1927 map.
  • Balboa Street ends at the Great Highway at Ocean Beach. Looking at the 1927 map, we can see that “Chutes at the Beach”, an amusement park that included a large slide and a hot dog stand according to the map, was situated on the two city blocks south of the intersection of Balboa and the Great Highway. This amusement park, later known as ‘Playland at the Beach,” closed in 1972. In its place are two or three city blocks of condominiums built in the old bay window style. The pier shown on the 1927 map is no longer there.
  • When plans started to develop Golden Gate Park in 1870, the western part of The City was sand dunes. Here is an excerpt from the 1927 map that shows a man on a camel wondering how far to water. The area labeled “Sunset District”- west of Sunset Boulevard - is labeled “sand dunes.” The red balloon on satellite photo from Google Map is on the spot where the 1927 map shows a man on a camel. As you can see, not a sand dune in sight until Ocean Beach. Sunset Boulevard is the visibly greener, wider north-south artery in the satellite photo also near the red balloon. The southern edge of Golden Gate Park is in the top portion of both the satellite photo and the 1927 map.
  • Established in 1870, 1013-acre Golden Gate Park’s streets had descriptive names like North, South, and South Park drives. Two streets were renamed after tumultuous events of the 1960s, the assassinations of two leaders of social change, a president and a minister. North Drive was renamed John F. Kennedy Drive after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. South Drive was renamed for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1983. Current maps alternate the new names with the old names.
  • You could still use the 1927 map to navigate through the park, although the street names – North, South and Middle drives – don’t appear on the map.
  • Sutro Forest, opened by Adolph Sutro on Arbor Day in 1886 when it was known as Mount Parnassus, was not as large in 1927 as it had been. According to our 197 map, the forest was bordered by 8th Avenue to the west, Parnassus on the north, Woodside on the south and Stanyan on part of the east. The illustration at the bottom of the forest shows a robber holding up a man where today on the same spot there is a neighborhood with a dozen streets weaving around the southern slope of the mountain. Laguna Honda is now below a hillside neighborhood that was not there in 1927, according to this map. The 1927 map shows a series of streets dead-ending at Stanyan Street, but I am not sure they did. They might On the left is an EarthExplorer portion of a 7.5-minute quadrangle map showing Sutro Forest. Inroads on Sutro Forest since 1927include development on the southeast slope of old Mount Parnassus and a great deal on the northern slope where UCSF Medical Center is now. Let’s see the forest up close at the end of Belgrave Street.
  • We drove in search of an entrance to Sutro Forest using the 1927 map. The 1927 map shows that Stanyan Street forms the eastern edge of the forest, so this block and entrance were carved out of the forest. Stanyan Street is behind us a half-block as we approach the path into the forest.
  • Maybe all maps needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Neither the old map or recent satellite photos reflect what I saw and photographed. As we see in the photo on the left, Stanyan Street ends at Belgrave, but the satellite photo shows Stanyan Street connecting to Clarendon. The 1927 maps shows Stanyan Street forming the eastern boundary of the forest and connecting to the ends of Clarendon, Mountain Spring, St. Germain and Palo Alto avenues. Maybe that portion of Stanyan was taken for building sites, but it looks awfully steep for a road. The edge of the forest is now a half-block away and newer houses were built up to the edge of the forest.
  • See Bigler Ave. on this satellite Google map? Well, it isn’t there. See how the gray strip depicting the street looks transparent? That’s because it’s overlaid over a satellite photo of the trees in yards that really are there. Bigler Avenue is not on the 1927 map either. Belgrave and Clarendon are on the 1927 map just as shown in this photo. That does mean that the 1927 map may not be completely accurate. It’s possible that Bigler Avenue met the same fate as many an alley in The City: All or some of many thoroughfares were incorporated into backyards.
  • Ballot measures about whether to move most cemeteries out of The City went before voters in 1914, 1924, 1925 and finally in 1937. Gravestones that were claimed were moved. Unclaimed gravestones went into building seawalls and other structures. This screenshot shows four cemeteries – Laurel Hill, Calvary, Masonic and Lake – and a baseball field that are no longer there. Ewing Baseball Field, we now know, was sold in 1939 and developed.
  • Our 1927 map, left, shows a baseball field and four cemeteries in most of the blocks bordered by Geary, Arguello, Fulton and Masonic. Ewing Field was sold for development in 1939, now only recalled in the name of Ewing Terrace, shown by the red balloon in the Google Map. In the upper portion of the old map, you’ll see that the green area is called “Lone Mountain,” now recalled in the name of a University of San Francisco campus, which you can see on the Google Map on the right labeled ”Lone Mountain Campus.” Graves were constantly moved from San Francisco as the city developed. No new graves were allowed in The City after 1900. Anza Street now goes through, connecting Arguello and Masonic streets.
  • These photos show the current uses for the site of the former Laurel Heights Cemetery. After the graves were moved to Colma, the area was opened for development. Laurel Street was the eastern boundary of the old cemetery, and Euclid Street is a new street put through the old cemetery. Euclid Street does not appear on our 1927 map as far as I can tell.
  • Post and Presidio were at the eastern boundary of Laurel Heights Cemetery, according to the 1927 map. Now The City’s bus terminal take up three city blocks along Presidio.
  • People love maps and they love looking at old maps to see how their town or region has changed. They love locating a place that used to be there and they love finding out the history of their houses and who used to live there. If you find an old map and find a way to preserve it and put it into a collection, you will be making someone happy.
  • Mapping San Francisco, 1927 & 2009

    1. 1. Charting the Past Using an Old Map<br />Cynthia McCarthy, 220-02, Fall 2009<br />
    2. 2. Saving an Old Map<br />
    3. 3. This old map has many unusual features <br />
    4. 4. This map lists existing theaters and banks in 1927<br />
    5. 5. Maps chart developmentover eight decades<br />
    6. 6. Our Tour Map <br />
    7. 7. Let’s start at Ocean Beach<br />
    8. 8. Housing replaces an amusement park<br />
    9. 9. Sand dunes become neighborhoods<br />
    10. 10. Kennedy & King drive change<br />Nearly a century after Golden Gate Park’s development, streets are renamed after slain leaders<br />
    11. 11. Golden Gate Park ca. 1927<br />
    12. 12. Sutro Forest, 1927 & 2009<br />
    13. 13. Sutro Forest on a foggy day<br />Entrance to Sutro Forest from Belgrave Street<br />In the forest looking north<br />
    14. 14. Take maps with a grain of salt<br />Stanyan Street ends here<br />But not according to Google!<br />
    15. 15. Satellite photos show a street that is not there!<br />
    16. 16. Onward to Laurel Heights<br />We leave Sutro Forest, lower left, to go to Laurel Heights, upper center, from the shrunken forest to the cemeteries that are no longer there.<br />
    17. 17. Cemeteries were moved out of The City<br />
    18. 18. Baseball field, cemeteries gone<br />
    19. 19. A new street was added here<br />Euclid Street goes through former cemetery <br />Living residents only!<br />
    20. 20. A bus barn now operateswhere graves were<br />
    21. 21. What is the history of your house or neighborhood?<br />Was it an amusement park, a baseball field or a graveyard? Are you sure you want to know? If you do…<br />
    22. 22. Find your city’s history center<br />Your town’s history center probably has a revealing map. Just Google “city history centers” to find yours.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />