Monday, March 20, 2017

San Francisco's Noe Valley, Then & Now: 20 March 2017

Noe Valley is named after José de Jesús Noé, the last Mexican mayor of Yerba Buena; now known as San Francisco. He owned the land currently known as Noe Valley; he sold the land to John Horner in 1854. 

Along with the nearby neighborhood of Corona Heights, Noe Valley was the site of rock quarries until 1914. Noe Valley was primarily developed at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, especially in the years just after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

The neighborhood contains numerous examples of Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture for which San Francisco is famous. One of the attractions of Noe Valley is that Twin Peaks mountain which is just west of Noe Valley partly blocks the coastal fog and cold winds that blow in from the Pacific Ocean. Noe Valley is, therefore, sunnier and warmer than the surrounding neighborhoods. 



  THEN  Finding her way across the hills surrounding Noe Valley in 1923 was no problem for this young lady. She just drove her car from Sanchez Street to Noe Street via a very steep climb up Duncan Street. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  The Duncan Street intersection with Noe Street has since been closed to vehicles and is now only open to pedestrians. The house behind the car is still there, and although it was remodeled over the years, the side door on Duncan Street remains. The view is looking north. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

This map shows the location of the Noe Valley District of San Francisco. Click on the image to see the full-size map.


Today, the electric streetcars of the Muni Metro F‑line take you from downtown San Francisco, out Market Street, to the Castro neighborhood. Before there were streetcars on Market Street, people traveled from the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco to Castro Street by cable car! And they could continue on the same cable car over the Castro Street hill all the way to Twenthy-sixth Street in Noe Valley. 

From 1883 until the great earthquake and fire of 1906, cable cars ran on Market Street and Castro Street. After the quake, speedier electric streetcars took over those old Market Street cable car routes, except for the Castro Street route from Eighteenth Street to Twenty-sixth Street. That isolated stretch of Castro Street was too steep for streetcars and it continued as a quiet neighborhood cable car line. Noe Valley residents took the cable car to reach the Muni Metro 8-line streetcar near the Castro Theater at Market Street, to continue their commute to downtown. 

The Castro cable car line lasted until 1941 when it was replaced by an extension of the MUNI 24-Divisadero bus line. Cable cars on Castro Street are now just a fond but distant memory. The little Castro Street neighborhood cable car line was literally and figuratively a long way from today’s surviving cable car routes. Even before World War II, the Powell Street and California Street cable car lines carried many tourists and visitors to the city and received all the publicity. If you ran into a tourist on the Castro Street cable line, you could be fairly certain that he or she was simply lost.

 THEN  A Castro Street cable car heading south on Castro Street at the intersection of Twenty-fourth Street.This photo is circa the 1930s; and is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 NOW  It appears that almost all, if not all, of the buildings visible in the above THEN photo, are still standing in 2017. The Castro cable cars were removed from service in 1941 and were replaced by buses. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  The corner of Twenty-fourth Street and Church Street was the center of the business district in Noe Valley when this picture was taken in 1878. The view is looking southwest. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 NOW  The corner of Twenty-fourth Street and Church Street is now just a small part of the business district located on Twenty-fourth Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  This San Francisco Municipal Railway #11-Hoffman streetcar is making a turn from Twenty-second Street to Chattanooga Street. This line was operational from 1948 to 1983. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  The street is now much quieter and peaceful than it was in the clattering, clanging days of the old Municipal Railway #11-Hoffman streetcar. The view is looking northeast. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  In July 1907, the chief engineer of the San Francisco Fire Department recommended the creation of a new fire station on Twenty-second Street, near Noe Street. The station was opened in 1910 as Engine #11. The station became Engine #44 in 1916. This photo is circa 1913; and is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  The old fire station is now privately owned and is being used as a home. I noticed that a for sale sign was attached to the property fence when I took this photo. The asking price for this building is $5,750,000. No, that is not a typo. The view is looking north. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  Around the turn of the century, New Twin Peaks Fruit Market was located in this Italianate mixed-use building at the corner of Twenty-third Street and Douglass Street. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW The building is still standing, but the grocery store has been replaced by an apartment. The view is looking southeast. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  In this 1903 photo taken from Chattanooga Street, the view is looking east down Twenty-second Street towards the Mission District. A Municipal Railway #11-Hoffman streetcar is making its way toward Noe Valley. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  Just a quiet street. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This picture was taken the day after the 18 April 1906 earthquake. One of the approximately 52 fires caused by the earthquake is heading into the Mission District. This picture was taken near Nineteenth Street and Sanchez Street. Almost all of the buildings in this picture were eventually destroyed by the firestorm. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  All is well. This picture was taken from Sanchez Street at Nineteenth Street. The view is looking northeast. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This is a view of Mission Delores Church. The picture was taken 1865; the church is the oldest standing building in San Francisco. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.











  NOW  The original Mission Delores Church is on the left. Behind the wall adjacent to the sidewalk is the oldest remaining cemetery in San Francisco. The view is looking southwest. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  A lively group of young people have gathered at the corner of Castro Street and Valley Street, circa 1919. At that time the last block of Valley Street remained unpaved. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  None of the buildings visible in 1919 appear to be standing in 2017. The view is looking west. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  The Noe Valley Branch Library was the seventh branch library established in San Francisco. Using a grant provided by Andrew Carnegie, the City of San Francisco built the Noe Valley Branch Library as a two-story building with a Spanish-style facade of brick and terra cotta. The architect was John Reid, Jr. The library was open for use on 17 September 1916 at the cost of $45,499, including furnishings. This picture is circa 1917. Thank you, Andrew Carnegie!

  NOW  The library was renovated between 2007 and 2008. The branch received the Governor's Historic Preservation Award for the renovation. The library is located on Jersey Street between Castro Street and Diamond Street. The view is looking south. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  A picture that was taken in 1926; the view is from Noe Street looking west, up Thirtieth Street. The last block of Thirtieth Street has not yet been paved. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  Some of the houses standing in 1926 are still sited on Thirtieth Street. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

 THEN  Passengers alight from the Castro Street cable car at the end of the line, the turntable at Twenty-sixth Street and Castro Street. This photo is circa the 1930s; and is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  There is nary a hint that this location was the site of a cable car turntable. The view is looking east. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This is a view of the two Castro Street cable car barns on Castro Street at the corner of Jersey Street. The picture was taken during August 1921. The Market Street Railway Company abandoned the property in 1941, and it became a Safeway Market in about 1943. In the year 2000, the barn on the left became a Walgreens drugstore, and the site of the barn on the right became a parking lot for Walgreens. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  Walgreens drugstore and its parking lot. The view is looking northeast. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  A northbound Castro Street cable car passes Twenty-third Street as it climbs out of Noe Valley. The Castro Street cable car line ceased operation in 1941. This photo is circa the 1930s; and is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  Most of the buildings that existed on this block in the 1930s are still present today. This view is looking south. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

THEN  This view is from June 1909 and it is looking west along Twenty-fourth Street towards the corner of Diamond Street. A Municipal Railway #11-Hoffman streetcar is making its way toward Noe Valley is visible at the top of the hill. Twin Peaks, in the background, remains undeveloped. A portion of Twenty-fourth Street has been paved, but the area around the trolley tracks are still cobblestones. The picture is courtesy of the Noe Valley Archives. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.

  NOW  The building that housed the bakery in 1909 is now gone. So too are the trolley tracks, and Twin Peaks is now covered with residences. The view is looking west. Click on the image to see the full-size photograph.


San Francisco’s Noe Valley by Bill Yenne was an excellent resource for the preparation of this gallery of photographs.

 This is a somewhat detailed Google map of the Noe Valley District. Click on the image to see the full-size map.

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


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.

Panasonic GX7 camera body mounted with an Olympus 17mm lens was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com