Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

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class="post-8836 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-photos tag-san-francisco tag-streetart">

The murals at 23rd and Capp

November 18th, 2019
Murals at 23rd and Capp

 

At the intersection of 23rd Street and Capp — two relatively small streets — there’s a series of colorful murals so wide it spans two buildings and a fence. I couldn’t find a way to fit it all in one shot.

Surprisingly it still looks good as new despite being up for nearly a decade. Of course it’s been touched up a few times, but even some of the most beloved murals in the Mission tend to be more short lived than these.

 

Murals at 23rd and Capp Murals at 23rd and Capp

 

The murals facing Capp Street are on the abstract side, with a man vs. machine vibe against a sky blue background. There’s a lot to unpack with various hidden faces, skulls, cracked teeth, and more; all woven together in a quasi-organic fabric.

 

Murals at 23rd and Capp Murals at 23rd and Capp Murals at 23rd and Capp

 

On the 23rd Street side the murals depict daily life in the Mission District — on the surface, anyway. Street food vendors are selling ice cream, hot dogs, fruit, and tamales. In the background we see landmarks like the New Mission Theater, Mission San Francisco de Asis (aka Mission Dolores), and the long gone Giant Value building.

But on closer inspection, the food theme extends beyond the street food vendors. The streets themselves have been replaced with colorful stripes as though they were rows on a farm. If that’s too subtle, the eagle logo of the United Farm Workers Union takes up a section of the mural.

What I find particularly notable about these murals is how much they stand out — both in size and color — compared to everything else on this corner. And yet you don’t have to go terribly far from this little island of murals to find all the street art around 24th Street, most notably Balmy Alley.

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class="post-8829 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-golden-gate-park tag-nob-hill tag-photos tag-san-francisco">

Portals of the Past

November 11th, 2019
Portals of the Past Portals of the Past Portals of the Past

 

While wandering through Golden Gate Park on a particularly foggy afternoon, I stopped by Lloyd Lake to see one of the park’s more unusual features up close.

Although Portals of the Past looks like a sculpture — and in a way it is — originally it was something else entirely.

Some time ago while on a tour of Nob Hill, the guide mentioned the doorway to a California Street mansion was the only part of the building to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire. She then opened a binder and showed us a photo of Portals of the Past in Golden Gate Park. That doorway was donated and moved to the park shortly after 1906.

It’s pretty easy to find Portals of the Past on Google Maps. From the Music Concourse just walk on the sidewalk to the right of JFK Drive. After you see the waterfall on the right, follow the little creek until it ends at Lloyd Lake.

For more information, check out this Atlas Obscura article.

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Haunted Ghost Tour from Wild SF Walking Tours

November 10th, 2019

Over Halloween it occurred to me that I tend to gravitate toward “ghost tours” everywhere I go, but I’d never taken any traditional ghost tours at home here in San Francisco.

The tricky part it turned out was figuring out which one to go on — there’s a surprising number of such tours from different companies in different neighborhoods. I eventually decided on the Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour from the relatively new Wild SF Walking Tours.

This tour is only offered after dark, beginning at Union Square and making a loop through the Tenderloin. The group I was in was maybe 15 people or so, led by a very entertaining drag queen performer who goes by “Mary Vice.”

As with a typical ghost tour format, it’s a mix of high profile murders and other deaths, morbid historical events, as well as reports of mysterious activities attributed to ghosts.

I never know how much to give away when reporting on a tour like this — I don’t want to say so much as to spoil it for anyone who’s interested, but I do have to mention a few key aspects to provide a taste of what’s involved. I’ll do my best here to provide a high level overview.

The tour includes:

  • San Francisco’s ban on new cemeteries and eventual relocation of all (known) buried human remains.
  • The Zodiac Killer and the time he was spotted committing a murder by multiple witnesses.
  • The rise of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple and the resulting Jonestown atrocities.
  • Several tales involving the 1906 earthquake and fire.

One of the more interesting traditional ghost stories is at the St. Francis Hotel, which have apparently freaked out guests on the top floor of the old wings of the building.

In general ghost tours are best led by theatrical minded guides and “Mary” was no exception. The tour has two other guides, or three if you include Mary’s alter ego.

On my way home after the tour I started thinking about all the subjects this tour didn’t cover. Most were well out of the tour area like the somewhat mysterious death of President Harding at the Palace Hotel, the double assassination of Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk at City Hall, as well as my personal favorite local ghost story — the Lady of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

The only story I could think of that might fit the tour was the attempted assassination of President Ford outside the St. Francis Hotel. Then again it may not be noteworthy: it was the second time someone tried to kill him that very month. Besides, there’s already enough spooky stories at that hotel anyway.

 

My recommendation: With so many ghost tours in San Francisco I can say this one is absolutely worth considering. It’s reasonably priced, about the right length, and not too strenuous of a walk. There are stairs and the stories include subjects not suitable for younger children. If you’re interested it can be booked through their website or through Airbnb Experiences.

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class="post-8810 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-museum tag-photos tag-san-francisco tag-victorian">

Haas-Lilienthal House

November 4th, 2019
Haas-Lilienthal House

 

A block away from Lafayette Park in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood is the Haas-Lilienthal House, a well-preserved 19th century Queen Anne Victorian home.

Today the house is a museum of sorts. I took the tour earlier today. The only way to see the interior is on this tour, which takes around an hour.

The tour begins in the “basement” ballroom — really the first floor of the home — where the guide explains the history of the Haas family. The gist of it is two German Jewish immigrants, William Hass and Bertha Greenebaum, moved to San Francisco separately, met there, and got married. Mr. Hass worked his way up in the family’s food wholesale business. The couple built their home in 1886.

The Hass family had three children, and the house stayed in the family for three generations until the early 70’s when it was vacated and left to SF Heritage to use as a museum.

Surprisingly, the house went largely untouched over the years. The original furniture, wallpaper, and even children’s toys are still there.

To enter the house properly, we went outside and walked up the stairs to the main entrance from a tiled porch. The guide demonstrated how heavy sliding doors in front of the main entrance would have been closed in the Victorian era to indicate the family was not accepting pop-in visitors. In the days before phones it was common to meet friends and neighbors without advance plans, sort of like a professor’s office hours in a university.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House Haas-Lilienthal House Haas-Lilienthal House

 

Visitors accepted into the home would be first taken into a drawing room on the left. Here the adults in the family could chat with small groups and individual visitors for a few minutes.

Through the next set of doors is the dining room. According to the guide the table could be pulled out with removable leaves dropped in, supporting a party of up to 20 at a time.

This is easily the most ornate room on the tour, with hand-crafted redwood paneling, furniture, and decorations. At some point (I think it was in this room) our guide pointed at the chandelier and remarked that it had lights facing both up and down. The upward facing lights were gas lamps, whereas the downward facing lights were electric. An indoor light source that could be pointed downward was a novel concept at the time.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House

 

Behind the main dining room was a smaller and much more ordinary dining room where the servants would eat. The guide said the Haas family would sometimes use this room for breakfast as well.

The strangest part of this room is the window in the photo above — not only is it unusually large, it’s not a typical window. The entire thing including the wood panel below slides upward to provide a short but usable service entrance. This may have been used for moving furniture in and out of the house.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House Haas-Lilienthal House

 

Entering a doorway to the right leads to the first part of the kitchen area, the dish room where servants washed dishes and stored them in a large cabinet. A hidden cabinet in this room stores the leaves to extend the dining room table.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House Haas-Lilienthal House

 

The second part of the kitchen is where the chef would prepare food. It features a large Magic Chef oven/stove combo and a tiny refrigerator, both of which are new relative to the house, but still quite old considering the family lived here up until the 1970’s.

The small fridge was due to the fact that the backyard was originally intended for growing produce, and daily deliveries from the local butcher — sort of a proto-Instacart I guess — meant there wasn’t much need for cold storage on-site.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House

 

Next we were led upstairs to the “second” (really third) floor. Though the room is roped off to visitors, we could pop our heads in to see the baby room complete with an antique dollhouse.

Our guide explained that the dollhouse isn’t always present as the family’s descendants are still very much attached to it and borrow it from time to time.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House Haas-Lilienthal House Haas-Lilienthal House

 

In the front corner of this floor is a former bedroom the family later converted to a dining room. With the rise of the automobile, front-facing bedrooms were no longer desirable due to the noise.

Turning the corner we entered what would have been the original master bathroom. Not all of the plumbing looked original, though it certainly looks dated. The guide pointed out a large vanity mirror which had medicine cabinets on either side. The mirrored doors of the medicine cabinets were hinged on opposite sides so it could be easily transformed into a wrap-around mirror.

The next room is a small, fairly plain bedroom intended for the girls in the family.

The adults and some of the servants would have slept upstairs. Unfortunately we were not allowed up there as its currently the head offices of SF Heritage. But the guide did mention another upstairs room: the children’s playroom.

 

Haas-Lilienthal House

 

Heading back down into the “basement,” our guide ended the tour showing us part of the toy Lionel train set that at one time took up much of the playroom. He hit a switch and the lower train jumped into action, going around in a circle.

One strange coincidence: before I started writing this post I looked up the Haas family to learn more about them. The name seemed familiar since in Los Angeles I stayed in The Haas Building, but I assumed there was no relation. Turns out it was originally owned by William Hass’ brother Abraham. Small world.

 

My recommendation: Anyone interested in Victorian-era life and architecture in America should enjoy this tour. It’s the only museum of its kind in San Francisco, though it very much reminded me of the similar Driehaus Museum in Chicago. Be aware there are many stairs involved. For up to date tour information see the museum’s website.

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Salesforce Tower Tour

September 30th, 2019

Salesforce Tower Tour
 

I got to see the city from a new perspective yesterday thanks to the free Salesforce Tower Tour. Tickets for this are rarely available and are snapped up quickly — somehow I was able to snag one back in June.

The line to enter the tour is on the small plaza at Mission and Fremont, which is also an entrance to the Salesforce Transit Center next door and the location of the gondola ride to Salesforce Park.

I should point out that despite the names, neither of these two buildings — nor the park — are owned by Salesforce; they just paid for the naming rights.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour Salesforce Tower Tour
 

There’s a dedicated lobby area for the tour where Salesforce’s “National Park” aesthetic begins complete with astroturf throw rugs, curved LED screens, a plastic bear, and “trees” disguising the building’s outer columns. This theme contrasts strangely when placed in the almost comically bland Salesforce Tower. Oh and there’s also a completely deserted gift shop for some unknown reason. As Yoda might say, “Disneyland, this is not.”

After checking in with my ID I got a plastic wristband disguised to look like a blade of grass, as well as a Salesforce sticker I put on my hoodie. I was also handed a map and a pamphlet and was told this was a self-guided tour, or to put it another way not really a “tour” at all. But that’s fine, it’s really all about the view.

From there we went through metal detectors and a bag check. I had to place my keys and phone in a bowl, but kept my belt on without setting off the metal detector. I was also allowed to bring the small water bottle I’d brought with me, although this turned out to be unnecessary as complimentary water was available.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

From there we were directed by staff over to a row of elevators in the center of the building. The photo above is looking toward Mission Street at a roped-off bank of elevators. Presumably those were for workers if they had to come in on the weekend.

The elevators for the tour were preprogrammed to whisk us to the top of the building, the Ohana Floor. It’s a pretty quick ride and while my ears popped going up, it’s worth pointing out that the building isn’t really as tall as it looks. Not including the building’s “hat,” it’s only 61 stories tall. While that’s tall by San Francisco standards, it’s nowhere near the height of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
Salesforce Tower Tour Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Before getting into the views, I should point out what’s on the Ohana Floor. It’s intended to be a space for nonprofits to use as part of Salesforce’s philanthropy efforts. As such there’s plenty of seating, living plants all over the place, a conference room, restrooms, and even a full service restaurant.

Unfortunately the restaurant was not open, which seemed like a missed opportunity. People will pay a lot of money for cocktails or a weekend brunch with a nice view. You don’t have to take my word for it, that’s been the business model of Top of the Mark since the late 1930’s.

I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth here, I’m glad there’s an opportunity to see the space for free. All I’m saying is this seems like an untapped source of revenue — some of which could be used to benefit the nonprofits hosted by Salesforce.

The last feature I want to point out here are the skylights. These round windows peer up into the building’s “hat” known for displaying videos at night. During the day these provide natural light, but also raise the question of what it looks like on the Ohana Floor after dark.

All that aside let’s get into some of the views.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Looking south, we see the city split by a freeway that unfortunately runs through it. Near the bottom center is the gray windowless AT&T building that serves as a giant internet hub, where a whistle-blower reported mass surveillance by the NSA years before it was confirmed by Edward Snowden.

I briefly worked at the building across the street, 303 2nd Street, which features a grassy terrace and series of fountains that make for a hotspot for outdoor lunches. Moving diagonally up 2nd Street you can see the Clocktower Building as well as the ballpark.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Looking south-ish we can see the bay in the distance with numerous cargo ships in the background. The tall building in the back center is One Rincon Hill, which for many years stood as the tallest tower in SOMA.

Recently a number of other towers have popped up, which mostly either mimic the circular tower of One Rincon Hill, have taken on a reflective mirror coating to blend in, or have some combination of the two.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Looking east we have a nice view of the Bay Bridge leading to Alameda County in the background. Sailboats dot the bay with Yerba Buena Island and its man-made neighbor Treasure Island in the center.

The three piers jutting out into the bay from left to right are two SF Bay Ferry terminals at the Ferry Building, followed by the public Pier 14.

If you noticed the shadow at the bottom left that was cast by Salesforce Tower itself.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Going north we can see some of the most iconic elements of the San Francisco skyline. From left to right there’s the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bank of America Building, the extremely pointy Transamerica Pyramid, and Coit Tower and Alcatraz.

Next to the Bank of America Building the creepy Corporate Goddesses are visible. That’s the building where the Jejune Institute was located.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Turning further to the west it looks like chaos in the foreground, with buildings built along different street grids rather than facing each other.

Although outside city planners came up with complete redesigns of the street grid after San Francisco was leveled in 1906, those plans were rejected and the city was rebuilt along the same awkward street layout.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Lastly here’s a view to the west with Sutro Tower in the distance. Mission Street is prominently visible running down the center.

This seems like a good as point as any to point out that the windows of Salesforce Tower were a little grimy during my visit, not that I’m volunteering to go outside and clean them. But the dirt is visible in some of these photos, particularly on the west side where the sun was shining toward the windows.
 

My recommendation: Definitely try to sign up for a ticket if you’re interested, this is a one-of-a-kind way to view the city. Your ID is essentially your ticket, so they are non-transferable (in other words, don’t try buying them from scalpers.) Do be aware the tower is tall enough it’s often engulfed in fog, and there’s no way to predict if that will be the case months in advance.

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The Tony Bennett statue

September 23rd, 2019

Tony Bennett statue
Tony Bennett way Tony Bennett statue
 

Today I came across the statue of Tony Bennett just outside the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. It’s been there since 2016 though I don’t think I’d ever gotten around to seeing it until now. The statue is in the front lawn of the hotel on Mason Street — a block also now known as Tony Bennett Way.

Though many would rightfully associate Tony Bennett with his home in New York City, he debuted the song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at the Fairmont Hotel in 1961. The song wasn’t originally written for Bennett, yet he released the first recording of the song a year later.

The following two lines of the song stick out to me:

To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care

Decades later those same foggy weather patterns persist, and thanks to an almost insurmountable effort those little cable cars are still climbing halfway to the stars.

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The Emperor Norton plaque is back

September 13th, 2019

Emperor Norton plaque
 

Those who visited the old Transbay Terminal before it was demolished may remember the plaque dedicated to Emperor Norton next to the front door.

The plaque reads:

Pause traveler
and be grateful to
Norton 1st,
 

Emperor of the United States
Protector of Mexico, 1859-80,
whose prophetic wisdom
conceived and decreed the
bridging of San Francisco Bay
August 18 1869
 

Dedicated by E Clampus Vitus, Feb 25th, 1939

Recently the plaque was restored and installed at the new Salesforce Transit Center, the replacement for the Transbay Terminal. The plaque was restored by the de Young museum, naturally by a current member of E Clampus Vitus.

All the rust was carefully removed and it now looks nearly as good as new. It’s located next to bus bay 7 inside the transit center, where it won’t have to weather the elements nearly as much as before.

A plaque next to it recalls the history of the Norton plaque when it was relocated from the Cliff House to the Transbay Terminal.

 
Emperor Norton plaque
 

This second plaque reads:

This plaque re-located and re-dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the bridge envisioned by Emperor Norton
 

And so recorded by E Clampus Vitus Nov. 11, 5991 (1986)
 

Yerba Buena Chapter 1
Joaquin Murrieta Chapter 13

For many more details on the history of this plaque, see this blog post from The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign.

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The Central Subway is here… on the web

September 10th, 2019


 

Hot on the heels of my previous post about subway station plaques, it appears three new San Francisco subway stations are online: well, on the web, anyway.

Today I was making my way to Muni Metro and happened to pull up SF Muni Central on my phone to see if I had any chance of getting a train at a reasonable time. But something looked a bit off.

See, normally the SF Muni Central website displays a screenshot of the train positions in the subway. It’s part of the train control system and not very user friendly, but it’s easy enough to figure out once you’ve gotten used to it.

This time, a separate section appeared underneath the subway map…

 

 

It’s clearly a desktop window with the title “Line Overview.” But why? What does this even mean?

I’m going to make a wild assumption this is something we wouldn’t normally see: the user interface for the train control system. If you do a Google image search for the keywords “thales line overview” you’ll find slides with screenshots that look remarkably similar to this. Thales is the company that provides Muni’s train control, now that Thales owns a former division of Alcatel — it’s all very complicated.

 

 

But I’ve saved the best for last. On the bottom right is a new subway! Yes, it’s the yet-to-open Central Subway.

Following Muni’s convention of three letter platform designations with the first two letters indicating the name of the station, we have:

  • CT: Chinatown
  • US: Union Square
  • YB: Yerba Buena

The other two platforms at either end are presumably for maintenance purposes.

Now, obviously this isn’t finalized and probably not even meant to be shown to the public, but if this is the layout I’m already seeing two big problems.

  1. There’s only one place for trains to turn around at the end. We saw how poorly this worked with Embarcadero back in the day, with Muni eventually moving the turnback into the N-Judah extension that had room for more than one “scissor” turnback section. That could be a problem if a lot of people are using the subway to get to Warriors games, for example.
  2. The entire map seems flipped around. Conventionally Muni Metro has positioned outbound to inbound as right to left, but here it’s the opposite. Unless they intend Chinatown to be an outbound station, but that wouldn’t really make sense — inbound has always meant “towards downtown.” I hope that’s not how they’re going to label the stations, because that would be very confusing.

We’ll know more once the Central Subway finally opens. But as of now we don’t even have an official opening date yet.

 
Update: The bottom half of the image disappeared from SF Muni Central the next day.

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Every single BART plaque I could find in San Francisco

September 1st, 2019

“Always read the plaque” is the unofficial motto of one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible. Following that advice, over the past months I’ve been tracking down every BART station plaque located within San Francisco as a scavenger hunt of sorts.

Conventional wisdom tells us there are eight BART stations in San Francisco, so there should be eight of these, right? Well… not exactly. Read on to find out why.
 

Embarcadero Station plaque

 
Embarcadero

Serves: BART, Muni Metro

For some reason BART didn’t originally plan on this station, making it (in a way) the first infill station in the BART system. It was a smart decision in the long run as it’s now surrounded by offices buildings, and the nearby waterfront is much nicer now than it was in the 70’s.

The plaque is well hidden in a hallway off to the side on the ticketing level where payphones were once located. I had to step around a mop and bucket in order to get there. Since I took this photo this part of the station has been partially walled off.
 

Montgomery Street Station plaque

 
Montgomery

Serves: BART, Muni Metro

On weekdays everyone at Montgomery is in a hurry to get to or from their office jobs in the Financial District or SOMA, yet on weekends it’s practically a ghost town. The plaque is easy enough to find, it’s right next to one of the entrances on the ticketing level.
 

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Powell

Serves: BART, Muni Metro

San Francisco’s downtown is the Union Square neighborhood, and this is the closest station. As such it’s often overrun with tourists and shoppers at any given time. The station features two entrances directly into the basement of the Westfield SF Centre mall, as well as now barricaded off exits into other basements, and a half-completed pedestrian tunnel to Yerba Buena Gardens.

I spent enough time wandering through the station’s corridors to find a plaque but came up empty handed. My guess is it’s in one of the parts of the station currently closed off for construction.
 

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Civic Center/UN Plaza

Serves: BART, Muni Metro

Once again I came up empty handed. If the plaque’s still there it’s probably either hidden behind something — the bicycle storage area for example — or is in one of the underground corridors recently sealed off for good.
 

16th Street Mission Station plaque

 
16th Street Mission

Serves: BART

Even BART employees often incorrectly refer to this station as “16th and Mission,” which makes sense as it’s located at that intersection. But no, it’s called “16th Street Mission.”

This plaque is pretty easy to find as it’s right next to the escalator leading out of the station on the southwest side.
 

24th Street Mission Station plaque
 
24th Street Mission

Serves: BART

Almost everything that can be said about 16th Street Mission applies here as well as the two stations are nearly identical, including the placement of the plaque.

The easy way to tell the difference between the two stations is the color of the tiles.
 

Glen Park Station plaque

 
Glen Park

Serves: BART

This BART station is a good example of Brutalist architecture, with bare concrete and simple, functional forms. Unfortunately it hasn’t aged well in part due to a lack of maintenance — I’m sure it looked a lot nicer back in the day when BART had a budget for maintaining their plants and gardens.

The plaque at Glen Park is in the small outdoor plaza; not the most obvious place to look.
 

Balboa Park Station plaque

 
Glen Park

Serves: BART, Muni Metro

Going south this is the last BART station in San Francisco. It’s a sprawling mess of a station that also serves Muni Metro in the most disjointed way possible.

The plaque is again outside the station, near the bus stop on the street outside. I had to wait for a guy to finishing peeing on the wall before taking this photo. Perhaps the station could use a bathroom.
 

So we’re done now, right? Not so fast — we covered all the stations that are served by BART in San Francisco, but there are three more BART stations… sort of. BART built the entirety of the Market Street subway, including the stations only served by Muni Metro. So, let’s continue on!
 

Van Ness Station plaque

 
Van Ness

Serves: Muni Metro

While BART’s subway bends from Market to Mission, Muni Metro continues straight under Market. Van Ness is the first station in that direction only served by Muni Metro.

This plaque is tucked away in a corner above a drinking fountain in the paid area of the station.
 

Church Street Station plaque

 
Church Street

Serves: Muni Metro

Continuing along Market, Church is the station where the two platforms switch from a shared center platform to two side platforms, to the confusion of many passengers.

The plaque at Church Street can be found near the entrance on the north side of Market Street.
 

Castro Street Station plaque

 
Castro Street

Serves: Muni Metro

The final station under Market Street is Castro. It’s the only station with a curved platform, so please mind the gap. Back in the day streetcars would exit from the Twin Peaks tunnel onto the surface of Market Street, but that all changed in the early 80’s when the streetcars were replaced with light rail and were re-routed underground.

This plaque is just inside the paid area on the outbound side.
 

For the sake of completeness I visited Forest Hill and West Portal to see if they had any plaques. Neither of these were built by BART. Forest Hill is the oldest subway station in the city still in operation, dating back to 1918. While I couldn’t find any plaques inside, on the outside the words “Laguna Honda Station” are chiseled in stone on the front of it, reflecting the original name. Not really a plaque.

Although not really a subway, the current incarnation of West Portal Station was built around the same time as BART. The only plaque I could find were commemorative plaques about the original station, when it was just a pair of streetcar stands outside the tunnel entrance.

There is one defunct subway station, Eureka Valley. No idea if there’s a plaque down there as it’s not open to the public, though you can see the remains of the station between Castro and Forest Hill (it’s much closer to Castro.)
 

So there you have it. I don’t think anyone’s ever gone to every subway station in San Francisco for the purpose of hunting down plaques but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I’d also be curious to know if anyone out there has been able to find the Powell and Civic Center plaques.

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A ride on San Francisco’s boat tram

August 23rd, 2019


 

On Wednesday I mistakenly clicked on bookmark to streetcar.live, an online map displaying the current locations of each of San Francisco’s historic streetcars that are currently running. Before I had a chance to close the tab, I noticed something unusual: one of the Blackpool “boat trams” was running! I decided to take a long lunch and go for a ride.

There are two of these unusual boat trams in the fleet. They’re roofless, windowless streetcars (or “trams” for non-Americans) with a certain whimsical appeal. They’re not very practical since they can only operate on warm days when there’s no chance of rain. Though I’m not sure who came up with the “boat tram” name, I think they missed the opportunity to call these vehicles “railboats.”

Unbeknownst to me Muni has been running these all summer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between the Ferry Building and Pier 39. Normally the boat trams are only trotted out during special events, or for chartered rides.

In the video above I filmed the entire ride to Pier 39, sitting in the very front seat. Maybe not the best spot in terms of cinematography, though you can see a number of local sights along the way and an encounter with a Muni supervisor.

I also took a few photos before and after the ride:
 

Boat Tram Boat Tram Boat Tram Boat Tram