These two Victorians were almost certainly built at the same time in the 1880s. Originally they probably looked similar.
The blue house on the left still has its over-sized cornice and other fancy trim. The three-color paint job emphasizes all the details. There are four colors if you count the black front door.
The red house on the right no longer has its cornice, though the wall that extends above the roofline is still there. I'm told architects refer to this as a false front.
Along with the cornice, the fancy trim around the windows is gone. A close-up look reveals that the front of the house has been covered with asbestos shingles.
This tells us a couple of things. At some point in its history, the owners decided to remove the fancy woodwork rather than pay for a paint job. They may also have been convinced that asbestos would fire-proof the house.
Left in place, those shingles will probably last as long as the house does. Removing them would be extremely expensive, given the precautions now required to avoid the health-hazards of working with asbestos.
The red house will probably never be restored to its original glory.
San Francisco is famous for fog. Tony Bennett sang about it: "the morning fog may chill the air, I don't care." Lots of black-and-white suspense films, mostly film noir, have used it to great effect.
I took this photo in Tiburon, not far from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. If it weren't for Angel Island and fog we'd be looking at the city of San Francisco across the bay. This small town has turned its waterside into a walkable park. I was mighty impressed by the way someone used that natural rock as the base for a fishing pedestal at the end of that pier.
Decades ago, when I was reading Popular Photography magazine, I saw an article which said not to wait for sunny days to take pictures; some of your best opportunities are in "bad" weather.
Since 1915, the station next to the Bay Bridge has been home to the San Francisco Fire Department's boats and firefighters who respond to fire alarms near the water's edge and calls for water rescues.
Last week it's replacement showed up, a new fire station built on a barge and brought to town from Treasure Island by a couple of tug boats.The new station is permanently moored and will float up and down with the changing tides. The old station will be maintained and used for storage.
In a way this is the latest phase of a process that began with the Gold Rush in 1849. A long wharf was built to cross the mud flats that separated dry land from the deep water where ships could anchor. Over time oyster shells and other refuse were used to fill in the flats and create dry land between the shore and the ships. Today, about seven city blocks separates the sea wall from the former shoreline.
Even in recent decades there have been proposals to fill more of the Bay to create valuable real estate next to downtown. They have all been rejected. But occupying more of the Bay by building barges looks like it may have a future.
The Lumiere Theater used to be our preferred venue for seeing the Oscar-Nominated Shorts each year. We were never attracted to anything else in this neighborhood on the western side of Nob Hill. Seeing the shorts here was like a two-hour vacation from our usual orbit. I always liked the idea that its name referred to those pioneers of Cinema, August and Louis Lumiere. Since it closed, another Landmark Theater, Opera Plaza Cinema, has become the place to go for the shorts.
The building started as a firehouse and at different times housed restaurants and retail stores. It opened in 1975 as the Lumiere Theater and showed its last film in 2012. It had a room seating about 300. At different times in its history, it had a second and a third screening room according to San Francisco Theatres .
As the marquee says, it is now the Marine Layer Workshop. Marine Layer is a designer clothing label based in San Francisco. Reviews say the workshop is a combination workplace, retail outlet, and entertainment venue. Apparently they still offer popcorn and run movies on the wall as kinetic art.
You might think the apartment building on the left and its pedestrians are victims of erosion. But the nearby wall of rock has been that way since the Gold Rush days.
Starting in 1849, ships came to San Francisco (known then as Yerba Buena) from around the world bringing mining equipment and people who wanted to get rich by filling their pockets with gold nuggets.
Since the town was a small fishing village, there was nothing for the ships to carry away. Some were anchored offshore and used as housing. When more than a hundred blocked the port, some were burned.
Some of the ships managed to sail on to other ports by replacing their cargo with ballast in the form of rocks created by dynamiting Telegraph Hill, leaving it with a flat side.
So it would seem that apartment building and its pedestrians are the victims of building too close to a known hazard.
Not to worry: management has "solved" the problem but installing a sign.
This is what we call normal traffic on San Francisco's one-way streets. There are lanes for parking on either side. There are lanes for double-parking on either side. There is one traffic lane in the center.
San Francisco has pairs of one-way streets, one east bound, one westbound. The lights are timed to keep traffic moving at around twenty-five miles per hour. Used properly they would be efficient means of moving around a city with the worst traffic congestion in the USA (yes, worse than you, NYC).
They are not used properly. People try to drive forty miles per hour on them and end up creating stop-and-go traffic. And people double-park. Delivery trucks double park because alleys for making deliveries are extremely rare. Also, Uber and Lyft started here, seemed to assume they could double-park, and no one ever told them they couldn't.
When I call this "normal traffic," I am not exaggerating. Mid-day, you cannot drive more than three blocks in any direction without encountering the kind of situation shown here. Doesn't this make you want to ride an electric scooter on the sidewalk?
This is what I call a coffee shop. It has a machine for roasting coffee beans. Not surprisingly, it's called Coffee Roastery.
It doesn't look nearly as inviting as usual with the chairs and tables stored at the end of the room. When it is again safe to sit indoors together, this room will again invite patrons to linger while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Coffee Roastery has several locations around San Francisco. Each shop has its own machine to roast the beans used and sold in that shop. Does it make a difference whether the beans are roasted within hours of being brewed? It can't hurt.
We always enjoyed seeing Movies at the Bridge. With its seating capacity of 350, it had the feel of a neighborhood theater. Around twenty years ago, we went to see The Station Agent one afternoon. While waiting to buy popcorn, we saw my brother-in-law and his daughter were there for the same showing. Love that small-town feel.
It closed in 2012, having operated as a movie house since it was built in 1939. Now the former auditorium offers baseball batting cages. Landmark was the last company to operate the Bridge as a movie theater, just as it was the last to operate the Clay Theater.
Yesterday the internet was full of photos of the ominous red sky over San Francisco at day break. I snapped a few but couldn't improve on the ones I'd seen.
Around mid-day, I ventured downtown and saw all the street lights on. This is what Market Street usually looks like around 6:00 pm in winter, not in the middle of a summer day.
The red sky at dawn and darkness at noon were caused by high-altitude layers of smoke from California's wildfires. No fires are near the city, but their smoke covers the state. Throughout the day, ash and soot rained down on everything.
Of the ten largest wildfires in California history, seven have occurred in the past five years. Why? 1. People living further away from cities and demanding, 2. suppression of small wildfires, which clean up "fuel" that accumulates in forests. 3. Climate change making the air warmer and therefore drier.
On the right, you can see people sitting at outdoor tables inside a blue fence with lights strung over head. Across the street you can see people seated in a similar enclosure. Each of these occupies two or three parking spaces at the curb in front of a restaurant.
The City of San Francisco began issuing permits for these temporary outdoor dining rooms in June. Restaurants had been closed since March, along with retail stores and most everything else. The idea was to give the owners a way to pay the rent and keep a few employees on the payroll.
San Franciscans are as eager as anyone to pay someone to prepare a meal. These have proven very popular, despite the climate here, which is . . . let's just say it's not like Southern California. Most afternoons there's a chilly wind off the ocean. As you can see both of these outdoor dining rooms have tall heaters.
We took a walk in Dogpatch yesterday. It's a neighborhood on the east side of the city, facing the bay. Recently it was an industrial area with a neighborhood of little houses and some dive bars. Now, the factory buildings are lofts for small shops and apartments.
There are also new apartment buildings, and, as in the rest of San Francisco, there are no bargains. Let's just say incomes of less than six figures need not apply. This is one of those newish apartment buildings. As you can see, it cozies up to a ramp.
As my co-pilot pointed out, it's not a freeway ramp, but rather a connector of a surface street in Dogpatch to a surface street on Potrero Hill. So the traffic and noise may not be too intense. Still, the rule applies: no bargains.
I'll admit I didn't call the rental/sales office to check. At a certain point, one stops checking. I suppose the units whose windows look directly at the edge of the ramp may cost less than those facing the street but not by much, I'll bet.
The inscription reads: "Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park, 1814 1904. Mother of Civil Rights in California. She supported the Western Terminus of the Underground Railway for fugitive Slaves, 1850---1865. This legendary pioneer once lived on this street and planted these six trees. Placed by the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society."
The circumstances of her birth are unclear, but while still a girl she became a bonded servant to a Quaker family in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Through them she became involved in the abolitionist movement. Able to pass as white, she worked for the Underground Railway in the South, and came to San Francisco in 1850 to extend its reach.
She made her living managing restaurants in men's clubs and used information she overheard to invest and become a multi-millionaire. She built a house on this location. It no longer stands, but the six trees referred to in the inscription are still alive on Octavia Street. They are eucalyptus, now as tall as the four-story apartment building across the street.
This memorial is the smallest park in San Francisco, consisting of this marker and the six trees.
What is going on here? In the center of this jolly scene of people enjoying a day at the beach, a woman plays a guitar. Facing her is a man holding sheet music for her to read. Everyone else in the scene wears swimsuits or other light clothing, but he wears a dark business suit. Everyone else has a ruddy complexion, but his face is chalky white.
A closer look shows the man's eyes are closed. The guitarist isn't reading the music. She is looking at us from the corner of her eye, as is the harmonica-playing man behind her. No one else in the group looks out at us.
Who is the mystery man? Why has he joined these people on the beach? Why are the two musicians looking away from the sheet-music he's holding?
This picture is part of a set of frescoes in the Beach Chalet on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The frescoes were painted by Lucien Adolphe Labaudt as part of a Works Progress Administration project in 1936.
If I remember correctly from the displays in this room, the faces of the people in this scene are taken from members of the artist's family. Also I think I recall the song on the sheet-music is "Red River Valley." Judging by the view of the Marin Headlands in the background, the scene must be on Baker Beach.
Please let me know if you have any ideas about what the artist meant by including this ghastly figure.
The Crocker Galleria is a privately owned public open space (POPOS). Built in 1982, it is an example of San Francisco requiring builders of tall buildings to provide places for relaxation open to the public. The bigger the building, the bigger the POPOS. For lots of info, including a map of their locations, visit the city's planning website
This one is in the form of a mall with casual food service on the first and third floors and retail on the second. It also features two roof terraces reached by stairways from the top level. The glass roof, inspired by Bernini, lets the place feel like it's outdoors.
In years past it was a bustling spot for strolling, lunch, coffee, and resting downtown. A few years ago the take-out food vendors started closing. The pandemic has accelerated that trend. But it's still a magnificent spot for recreation.
On a visit to San Francisco, we saw Seabiscuit at the Metro Theater on Union Street. As you can see, it's not a theater any more, and at the moment it's boarded up because of the pandemic.
Movie theaters were already declining before the pandemic. The Metro turned into an Equinox gym in 2014, according to San Francisco Theatres, an excellent blog on the subject (Thank you, Carol Ann Riordan!).
Seabiscuit was an entertaining movie based on an entertaining book about an unlikely champion thoroughbred horse. Seeing it here had special resonance because one of the three principal characters, Charles S. Howard, played by Jeff Bridges, started out in San Francisco.
We saw the movie with Ann's parents and her sister and brother-in-law. Afterward we walked up the street and had dinner at a restaurant. It made a nice family outing. I suppose in the future we'll be making memories such as: We all went to my uncle's house because he had the largest flat-screen and after the movie we had food delivered.