Sunday, November 5, 2017

San Francisco then & now, part one: November 2017

Click on an image to see the full-size photograph.

THENThis is San Francisco City Hall under construction. Construction began in 1913 and was completed in 1915. Arthur Brown Jr. was the architect who designed the building. The camera that took this picture was attached to a kite; the camera's shutter was actuated by the photographer via a cable, while the photographer was standing on the ground. The camera could snap only one picture at a time. The photographer would have to reel in the kite, remove the exposed photographic image from the camera, then install a new, unexposed piece of film in the camera and relaunch the kite if he or she wanted to take another photographThis photo was snapped in 1915. 

NOW: San Francisco City Hall as seen today. It took two years to build this structure. This building was constructed after the previous San Francisco City Hall was destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire of 18 April 1906. An earthquake of 7.1 magnitude struck on 17 October 1989 and damaged the current city hall so severely that the dome itself moved four full inches. Repairs and restoration were completed in 1999. An earthquake safety enhancement called a base isolator system was installed within the building. A base isolator system absorbs shocks and movement at a building's foundation, which will hopefully protect the integrity of the above structure.

THENSan Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building, 25 April 1945. On this day in San Francisco, representatives of 46 nations met to discuss the creation of the United Nations, an international organization intended to maintain peace between nations. The conference began as troops from the United States, and the Soviet Union linked up on the Elbe River, in central Europe, a meeting that dramatized the collapse of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe.The San Francisco Conference lasted two months and eventually included 50 countries.
The leaders at the conference confirmed the organization of the United Nations and drafted the United Nations Charter, which was signed at the War Memorial Veterans Building by President Truman and other heads of state on 26 June 1945. The building was designed by Arthur Brown Jr., and was dedicated on Armistice Day, 11 November 1932.

NOW: The War Memorial Veterans Building is now commonly known as Herbst TheatreDistinguished as the site of the United Nations Charter signing in 1945, the building is now the primary venue for some of the Bay Area's premier cultural organizations. The 892-seat auditorium has been renovated, and it contains murals painted by Frank Brangwyn for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
THEN: The Geary Car House in 1918. This building was the first San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcar storage and maintenance facility. It was built in 1912 as a single story building. The second floor was added in 1915. The building ceased being a streetcar facility after the Geary public transit lines were converted from electric streetcars to electric buses in 1956. Muni built the Presidio Division bus yard behind the Geary Car House in 1949. This photo shows Muni Superintendent Fred Boeken at the Geary Car House in 1918. Behind him are the first five gasoline-powered buses purchased by the City of San Francisco.

NOWThis is the Geary Car House building today. It is still being used by the San Francisco Municipal Railway. The Presidio Division bus facility is located behind this building.

NOWThis is a view of the Presidio Division electric bus yard. It is located at the rear of the Geary Car House. Many electric buses are parked in the lot on this, a Sunday morning.

THEN: The Coliseum Theatre opened on 22 November 1918. It is in the Richmond District of San Francisco and is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Clement Street and 9th Avenue. The theatre was severely damaged by the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 20 October 1989. This picture is circa 1942.

NOW: Here is the Coliseum Theatre building today. The building was rebuilt with condominium apartments upstairs and a Walgreen Drug Store on the first floor, after the 1989 earthquakeIt appears that the theatre's auditorium was reconstructed to contain two floors of apartments.

THEN: The Alexandria Theatre opened on 26 November 1923. It is located in the Richmond District on the northwest corner of the intersection of Geary Boulevard and 18th Avenue. Long-run, reserved-seat roadshow attractions became its trademark, beginning in 1958 with a 48-week showing of the movie South Pacific. The theatre closed in 2004 because of decreasing ticket sales, and faced an uncertain future. This picture is circa 1942.

NOW: The Alexandria Theatre has remained closed from 2004 to now. After years of discussions, proposals, and counter-proposals, an agreement was reached by the parties involved, and the Alexandria Theatre is currently in the midst a significant upgrade. The theatre's parking lot was located behind the theatre. You can now see a condominium apartment building under construction at that locale. It will be a four-story building with forty-three one, two and three bedroom units. The theatre building is scheduled to be converted to a swim center and office spaces.
THEN: This photo was taken on 1 November 1917; 100 years ago. The photograph was taken by an employee of the San Francisco Municipal RailwayThe location is at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. The brick building on the left side of the photo is now the site location of the California Public Utilities Commission. The view is looking northeast, across Van Ness Avenue. This picture is courtesy of Market Street Railway, which wrote an interesting and informative review about this photograph.

NOW: Here is the view from the corner of Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street, 100 years later. There is now a big hulking building in the background, unfortunately. The original apartment building is visible, and it appears to look the same today as it did 100 years ago.

NOW: The California Public Utilities Commision building is located on a parcel of land which is just out of view in the two Van Ness and McAllister photos as seen above. In this photo, you can see a Muni electric powered bus on McAllister Street, just below Van Ness Avenue. The bus is on the same route that was used 100 years ago by electrically powered streetcars. The concrete pole in front of the California Public Utilities Commision building appears to be the same concrete pole as seen in the above picture that was taken 100 years ago.

Rosa Parks mural. I happened upon Rosa Parks Elementary School during this ramble. The school is located on O'Farrell Street at Hollis Street. This beautiful mural, painted on an exterior school wall, caught my eye. The artist is Santie Huckaby.

The distance traveled was approximately 7.8 miles (12.5 kilometers). Mile markers are displayed on the GPS generated track. Click on the image to see the full-size map.

GO HERE to view part two of San Francisco then & now.

“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lang 

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view these photo galleries.

Thanks to Catherine Accardi for writing San Francisco Landmarks.

Thanks to Jack Tillmany for writing Theatres of San Francisco

 Thanks to Market Street Railway.  

A Sony camera was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at

Saturday, September 23, 2017

John Muir National Historic Site, including visits to Mount Wanda, the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, and the streets of Martinez: 23 September 2017

Click on an image to see the full-size photograph.
NOW: This is the 14 room Italianate Victorian mansion where John Muir lived from 1890 to 1914; it is located in the city of Martinez. The mansion was built in 1883 by Dr. John T. Strentzel, John Muir's father-in-law.

THEN: A portrait of John Muir's family taken in front of their home. Sitting on the porch of the house are the two daughters, Wanda Muir (1881-1942) and Helen Muir (1886-1964). Their parents, Louie Strentzel Muir (1847-1905) and John Muir (1838-1914) are standing on the front steps of the house. Sitkeen, the family dog, is in the photo. This picture was taken in 1901. Image courtesy of John Muir National Historic Site.

These are the gravesites of John Muir and his wife, Louie Strentzel Muir. They are buried in a small cemetery known as the Muir-Strentzel Hanna Cemetery, whose size is approximately 30 feet by 40 feet. The 1.27-acre parcel of land on which the cemetery is sited was acquired from the Strentzel family in 2000 by the National Park Service. In addition to John Muir and his wife, his in-laws, Dr. John Theophil Strentzel (1813-1890) and his wife Louisiana Erwin Strentzel (1821-1897) are buried in the cemetery. John Muir's daughter Wanda Muir Hanna and her husband, Thomas Hanna (1881-1947) are also buried in the cemetery. Helen Lillian Funk Muir, John Muir's youngest child, is buried in Bellevue Memorial Park, San Bernardino, California. This photograph was taken on 28 September 2017.

The distance traveled was approximately 10.1 miles (16.2 kilometers). The cumulative elevation gain was about 1,398 feet (426 meters). Mile markers are displayed on the GPS generated track. Click on the image to see the full-size map.

In 1988 Mount Wanda Nature Preserve was made a part of the John Muir National Historic Site

"Hiking - I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now, these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them." John Muir

A view from the summit of Mount Wanda, 683 feet (208 meters). The hillock to the right of Mount Wanda is Mount Helen. The view is looking west.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." John Muir

Mount Diablo is at an elevation of 3,848 feet (1,173 meters). Looking south from Mount Wanda

"I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news." John Muir 

On the trail and looking north. Suisun Bay is visible in the distance. 

"Wilderness is not only a haven for native plants and animals, but it is also a refuge from society. It's a place to go to hear the wind and little else, see the stars and the galaxies, smell the pine trees, feel the cold water, touch the sky and the ground at the same time, listen to coyotes, eat the fresh snow, walk across the desert sands, and realize why it's good to go outside of the city and the suburbs. Fortunately, there is wilderness just outside the limits of the cities and the suburbs in most of the United States, especially in the West." John Muir

On the trail

"The world is big, and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark." John Muir

Looking west from the Hulet Hornbeck Trail in Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline. John Muir Parkway is visible. 

"The battle for conservation will go on endlessly. It is part of the universal battle between right and wrong." John Muir

 On the California Riding & Hiking Trail looking north.

"Look up and down and round about you!" John Muir

Downtown Martinez as seen from the Rankin Park Trail. Contra Costa County Courthouse and the Shell Martinez Oil Refinery are visible. The view is looking east. 

"Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter." John Muir

The Benicia-Martinez Bridge is visible as is the site of the US Army's Benicia Arsenal, the city of Benicia and Suisun Bay. At one time, not too long ago, there was a fleet of as many as 340 old military ships anchored on the east side of the bridge. The fleet of ships was known as the "mothball fleet." If you look carefully, you will be able to see the one remaining military ship. The government has said that by the end of 2017 the mothball fleet will be history. Click Here for pictures of the now gone, but not forgotten, mothball fleet that was once anchored in Suisun Bay. This view is looking east.

"There are no accidents in Nature. Every motion of the constantly shifting bodies in the world is timed to the occasion for some definite, fore-ordered end. The flowers blossom in obedience to the same law that marks the course of constellations, and the song of a bird is the echo of a universal symphony. Nature is one, and to me, the greatest delight of observation and study is to discover new unities in this all-embracing and eternal harmony." John Muir

The Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, Martinez.

"Bears are made of the same dust as we, and they breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear's days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart pulsing like ours. He was poured from the same first fountain. And whether he, at last, goes to our stingy Heaven or not, he has terrestrial immortality. His life, not long, not short, knows no beginning, no ending. To him, life unstinted, unplanned, is above the accidents of time, and his years, markless and boundless, equal eternity." John Muir

Contra Costa County Court House is located in Martinez, the county seat of Contra Costa County.

"The bat­tles we have fought, and are still fight­ing for the forests is a part of the eter­nal con­flict between right and wrong, and we can­not expect to see the end of it. So we must count on watch­ing and striv­ing for these trees, and should always be glad to find any­thing so surely good and noble to strive for." John Muir

This chart shows the elevation changes encountered during this ramble. Click on the image to see the full-size graph.

“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lang 

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view these photo galleries.

A Sony camera was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at

Saturday, September 9, 2017

San Francisco – Market Street Railway Heritage Weekend: 9 & 10 September 2017

In San Francisco, you can see beautifully restored historic public transit vehicles operating in everyday service alongside San Francisco's modern bus fleet and light rail streetcar fleet. During the annual Market Street Railway Heritage Weekend, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Market Street Railway celebrated the 100th anniversary of gasoline-powered public bus service in San Francisco. On 1 September 1917, Muni made the 1-Park transit route the first gasoline-powered public bus route in San Francisco. The 1-Park transit route provided supplemental service on the A-Geary streetcar line between the Inner Richmond District and the Inner Sunset District.

Click on an image to see the full-size photograph.

Muni Superintendent Fred Boeken at the Geary Terminal in 1918.

Motorcoach # 1 on the 1-Park line, 1917.

By the end of the 1920s, buses became an essential companion to Muni’s streetcar network, which had expanded with the opening of the K-Ingleside, L-Taraval, and N-Judah streetcar lines.

After World War II, pressures from decreasing ridership and rising operating costs led Muni to replace all but five of its streetcar lines with bus routes. While buses cost more to maintain and have a shorter lifespan than streetcars, they’re cheaper to purchase and operate. They were seen as the solution to an aging rail system in need of rehabilitation and Muni bought hundreds of buses over a 10-year period. 

A fleet of 209 buses manufactured by the White Motor Company are being introduced to the people of San Francisco in 1948; the buses are traveling outbound on Market Street.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Muni updated the system again. Muni consolidated some routes into longer crosstown routes for better transit connections between neighborhoods. Also, longer articulated buses were introduced to San Francisco to increase passenger capacity and provide wheelchair accessibility. 

Today, buses provide the vast majority of Muni service. Currently, buses manufactured by New Flyer Industries, are being added to and revitalizing the bus transit system. Powered by hybrid-electric engines that run on 100 percent renewable biodiesel fuel, they are San Francisco’s most environmentally friendly buses. Along with Muni’s electric trolley buses, light rail vehicles, historic streetcars, and cable cars, which are all powered by hydroelectricity, they make San Francisco's Muni fleet one of the greenest mass transportation systems in the nation.

 The below photographs were taken on Saturday, 9 September 2017.

Click on an image to see the full-size photograph.

Motorcoach # 042 was manufactured by the White Motor Company in 1938.

Motorcoach # 042

Motorcoach # 042

Motorcoach # 2230 was manufactured by Mack Trucks in 1956. It is currently being renovated, and it is scheduled to re-enter service in 2018.

The interior of motor coach # 2230

The engine compartment of motor coach # 2230

Muni bus # 8853 is a hybrid-electric vehicle; it was manufactured by New Flyer Industries in 2016.

General Motors Corporation built bus # 2103 in 1958. This bus was one of a fleet of twenty-one buses operated by the Key Route System. The buses were in service on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This bus was overhauled and restored in 1995.

Two trolly coaches and two buses are waiting on Steuart Street.

 Trolly coach # 776 was manufactured by Marmon-Herrington in 1950.

Bus # 3287 is a diesel bus manufactured by General Motors Corporation in 1970.

Trolly coach # 5300 was manufactured by Marmon-Herrington in 1975.

 "Boat tram" # 228. was constructed in Blackpool, England in 1934.

 Municipal Railway streetcar # 1  was constructed in 1912.

Lon is the transit operator of Municipal Railway streetcar # 1

This photo was taken from aboard Municipal Railway streetcar # 1 as it rolls through the Fisherman's Wharf area.

 This photo was taken from aboard Municipal Railway streetcar # 1. A portion of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf area is visible.

This photo was taken from aboard Municipal Railway streetcar # 1 as we roll past Pier 39.

This is one of America's oldest streetcars. Market Street Railway streetcar # 578 was manufactured in San Francisco by the Hammond Car Company in 1896. This was the same company that later built San Francisco's California Street cable cars. Streetcar # 578 survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. It also escaped destruction by being converted into a work car. The streetcar was restored in 1956. Streetcar # 578 is only put into service on special occasions.

Emma is driving Market Street Railway streetcar # 578.

Emma was the transit driver, and Angel was the conductor.

This photo was taken from aboard Market Street Railway streetcar # 578 as it rolled past the Ferry Building.

 Streetcar # 1051 was manufactured in 1946 and was originally used in Philadelphia. It was acquired by Muni in 1995. In 2009 it was dedicated to the memory of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. It was rebuilt by the Brookville Equipment Corporation in 2016 and re-entered service in San Francisco on 15 March 2017.

This photo was taken from aboard streetcar # 1051. Phil is the transit operator of the streetcar. We are traveling southwest, outbound on Market Street.

Streetcar # 1051 is still on Market Street. Ahead are Twin Peaks. The view is looking southwest.

Streetcar # 1051 is on Church Street and veering to the left. Ahead is the summit of Church Street. We are bypassing this portion of Church Street due to the steepness of the route. The passageway we are about to enter is known as the Church Street Bypass. The view is looking south.

The Church Street Bypass.

On the Church Street Bypass.

Streetcar # 1051 is now on 30th Street at Church Street, the dead-head portion of the terminus of this route. Ahead is Bernal Heights Summit. The view is looking east.

Phil is in the process of preparing the dead-head track section to return the streetcar to the Ferry Building on the same route we used to reach this point.

Phil is standing in front of streetcar # 1051 at the Ferry Building, the starting point and endpoint of this delightful ride.

Go Here to view: The San Francisco Market Street Railway streetcar excursion: 27 August 2017

Go Here to view: The 100th anniversary of San Francisco's J-Church streetcar line: 11 August 2017

“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lang 

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view these photo galleries.

Thanks to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Jeremy Menzies for providing information about the history of the first 100 years of San Francisco's public bus service. 

A thank you to all of the employees of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for doing the work necessary to make this event a success. 

A tip of the hat to Market Street Railway and all of its volunteers for helping to make the 2017 Heritage Weekend a fruitful and free public event. 

I would also like to thank Rick Laubscher for authoring "OnTrack: A Field Guide to San Francisco's Streetcars and Cable Cars." The book is an excellent source of information about the historic streetcars and cable cars being used in San Francisco. An updated edition of the book has just been published.

A Sony camera was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at