File under, yeah, we know

This Zendesk info graphic popped up on Laughing Squid yesterday and a few people also wrote in to point us to it. We had actually already seen it back in August at their opening press conference. We didn’t really bother to post anything about it as it just seemed like a big “duh” to us. But, for those of you who are just starting your 2-3 year stint in San Francisco, or simply for those who enjoy cool illustrations, here it is. Now you can act like you’re all informed about the neighborhood.

Let’s really remember Mid-Market

As we will undoubtedly hear little tidbits picked and chosen from the archives of yesteryear in regards to how marvelous Mid-Market used to be, our friend Bluoz is showing what entire articles from the 1980s were actually saying such as this one from 1985 by the ever so to-the-point Herb Caen. For anyone who has moved to California in the last decade, you probably have no idea who this was or why people reference him. I grew up on his columns and loved his quips including the response as to what he thought of Oakland, “Well, the Bay Bridge had to end somewhere”.

Go over to Bluoz and read the whole article by Herb Caen about Mid-Market titled “Eau de Vie” to get an idea. Here’s how it starts, talking about the obvious shortage of toilets in downtown:

Pardon my French, but downtown San Francisco, especially in the seamy streets of the Tenderloin and around Hallidie Plaza, has turned into le grand pissoir, an infortunate fact the recent hot weather made all too evident. Part of the problem, of course, is the paucity of pulblic restrooms, which the authorities are against as “cesspools of human behavior,” to quote a police official. Ergo, as your nose informs you with noisome precision, the downtown streets, doorways, phone booths and even the rear sections of Muni buses have become cesspools, too. It’s a fact of life that nobody seems to want to address, but something has to be done if we don’t want to acquire the title of Latrine-by-the-Bay.

Bluoz also points out that everything in Mid-Market really started to make it to print only when Randy Shaw came in to the scene (in the 1980’s). It’s also the case (and as Bluoz points out, there are photos to prove it) that Mid-Market has steadily become a gigantic craphole since Mr. Shaw popped up and started working on creating an industry out of housing the homeless. I can only hope that Bluoz will continue his library archive digging and release more gems like this one as time goes on.

The 105th remembrance of the quake

For those of you who, like me, woke up this morning and thought, “What the hell is with all this 1906 earthquake stuff?” it is because today is the 105th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake which between seismic activity and to a greater extent, massive fires, leveled the crap out of San Francisco. More importantly, it’s directly responsible for the Tenderloin neighborhood having the buildings that it does now as this area was gutted by the catastrophe and subsequently rebuilt.

If you’re looking to thumb through archives today, SFMTA put up a rather awesome little photostream from which the above image of Sutter & Hyde is taken. Something even cooler is recently-unearthed account by Dr. Leonie von Zesch’s who was living in San Francisco and working as a dentist at the time, only to lose her home and practice after the quake. She lived at Sutter & Leavenworth in a house, yes a house, not a ten story apartment. It was a most different hood back then.

Back from Tenderloin the First

Dear Tender Readers, we’re happy to report that we’ve managed to weather well-meaning friends in New York hell-bent on destroying our livers to come back to (somewhat) sunnier San Francisco after a week away. Naturally, while there, we had to run around the original Tenderloin in the US. “What?”, you probably aren’t asking, “There was another Tenderloin?” Yes, like many things on the West Coast, the term “Tenderloin” did not start here but on the East Coast. Tenderloin the First was an area bounded by 5th Ave, 42nd St, 7 Ave, and 23rd St which meant it was right in the heart of Manhattan, just like our beloved district of many an adjective.

But what happened to Tenderloin the First? Well, this thing called the Empire State building got plunked down in the middle of it, as well as well as Penn Station. Still, a great many original buildings in the area have remained as the neighborhood changed. These things can and do indeed happen in cities, although admittedly, once back, our Tenderloin has stayed much as how we left it last week and we now appreciate it even more. Onwards and Loinward!

Same old Tenderloin, minus 112 birthdays

Via Bluoz (our favorite blog to find weird stuff about the neighborhood), we find this gem of a movie titled ‘The Tenderloin at Night’, produced by the Thomas Edison studios in 1899. (Note that it’s not called the “Uptown Tenderloin” as Shaw & Co. keep insisting.) As Bluoz points out, it is probably the first exploitation movie of all time, showing alcohol, prostitution, crime, police, it’s all there in barely two minutes.

The film was actually made in West orange, New jersey, but according to the Library of Congress, it depicts the Tenderloin district in San Francisco 112 years ago. Still looks exactly the same, doesn’t it?

In case it was too confusing, here’s the plot as described by YouTube poster TigerRocket (who thinks it’s New York City’s Tenderloin, but we’ll go with the Library of Congress on this one):

This bawdy crime vignette has all of the seedy charm of the ‘Tenderloin’ at night as a stranger enters a drinking house, let’s call him ”Mark.” He’s heartily greeted by the other patrons, so he pulls out a gloating wad of cash and buys the house an impressive round. He quickly finds himself and his presidential pals the center of flirtatious attention. By way of diversion the flirty gal’s man / beau / pimp, slips the guy a ‘Mickey.’ He drinks himself into a convenient stupor with each woman cleaning his pockets. One woman gives the audience a blue moment when she slips the cash in her shapely silk safe. The mark wakes up to find his gains gotten. Out numbered by the crooked locals, he finds himself ejected by the knowing proprietor and a conveniently available cop, leaving the house full of ‘low lives’ to celebrate their ill gotten gains. The babes burst into a brief can-can. More leg show! The victim returns with the law but the film ends as abruptly as the marks good time.

Tenderblog Today: history, music & literature

  • Panel discussion at SOMArts from 2-4pm as part of Julie Michelle’s “I live here: SF” photo exhibit that runs until the 30th (if you haven’t seen it yet, hurry up!). Of course, she’ll be there as well as Rick Prelinger, film archivist and creator of the “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco”, which is currently playing in the video gallery, will speak about his work. Also scheduled to present are Mark Bittner, the subject of the documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”, blogger/cyclist/fashion and coffee expert Meli Burgueno of Bikes and the City, Wigg Party founder Morgan Fitzgibbons, National Yo-Yo Champion Joseph Harris, youth activist Jose-Luis Meija, Colleen Rivecca of St. Anthony Foundation, Valerie Coleman of Rebuilding Together SF.
  • Community Property installation at the Tenderloin National Forest, from 4:30-8pm (performance starts at 5pm). see. think. dance. and Studio Rue Dance collaborate with Luggage Store Gallery artists-in-residence, Chris Evans and Ernest Jolly to add an installment to the larger work of “Community Property”. Community Property is a multi-media project that incorporates dance, music, video and visual art. Chris and Ernest collaborated with community members and professional artists to explore the existing creativity of the neighborhood. The collaborations developed video, sound recordings and movement in response to the area. Oh, and there will be pizza from Arizmendi baked in the outdoor oven!
  • Tenderloin Reading Series #7 is at 7pm at Koko Cocktails. Organized by our friend Jonathan on a quarterly basis, this one also includes Steven Gray, Valerie Chavez, Joel Landfield/Landmine, Pam Benjamin, and some guy named pcr. If like us, you love to hate Muni, there’s an added bonus: Pam Benjamin will be reading a story about the 38 Geary bus!
  • Tonight 7pm at Kokoro Studios, 682 Geary & Leavenworth : The Flat Earth Collective presents : The Headbangers Bütterball. An evening of poetry, prose, and projection. Featured Readers include: Lizzy Acker, Andrea Kneeland, Dana Teen Lomax, Dan Sanders. With a short film by Evangelo Costadimas and Syren Johnstone.

When the bunny hug was banned in the Loin

So I was researching some San Francisco history when I saw this bit from the Chronicle’s archives on Oct. 4, 1910:

Last night marked the closing of the dancing in the Tenderloin, and up to 1 o’clock, the habitues of the various places made the best of their opportunities in tripping the light fantastic in the smoke-laden atmosphere of their favorite places of amusement. The order has gone forth that with the beginning of the administration of Chief Seymour the “bunny hug” and the “hug-me-tight” would live in memory only. Another rule going into effect today is that no female habitues of the Tenderloin will be allowed to puff their usual cigarettes in public.

For reference, the bunny hug is a dance that’s said to have originated in the dance halls of San Francisco. Allegedly, it was an interpretation of bunnies humping. Fun! There was even a bunny hug cocktail which would be enough to make anyone want to get it on: “whiskey, gin, and pastis, stirring over ice (or shaking) and straining into a cocktail glass.”

I love the last bit in the Chron article about women not being allowed to smoke in the Loin. One wonders what exactly the Loin was like just 4 years after the 1906 quake. I looked through a 1906 San Francisco phonebook and didn’t see any addresses in the Tenderloin. Probably because it looked like this:

View north from Ellis Street in 1906 with Fairmont Hotel in distance, SF Public Library Historical Photograph Collection

Comparing the addresses in the pre-quake, 1903 phone book to the current plan, it looks like a lot of consolidation went on after the quake. There are about 5 buildings on my side of the street, but back in 1903 there were about twice that. But even though pre-quake Tenderloin is hard to imagine, seems the area still had flavor, though a slightly posher one. On my current block in 1903 you could find a rooming house, the Princeton Hotel, Waldeck Sanatorium, and private homes. My neighbors would have included John Boyce, grocer; W.M. Copeland; W.R. Hanna; Mrs. E. Krupp; Dr. William P. Sprague. And up the hill, at California? A certain Mr. W.H. Crocker. Sound familiar? Yeah, he’s that Crocker, for which the glory of the Crocker Galleria is named. And damn, he was swank. Check out his amazing crib, below. Fabulous, but if he lived anywhere in a 10 block radius of me, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford the rent. Maybe I could stay at the Sanatorium.

Crocker Residence ca 1889, Britton & Rey, artotype, SF Public Library Historical Photograph Collection

How You’re NOT Getting to the Airport

Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could just walk a few blocks and get on a bus that would take you directly to the airport? That’s what city planners thought too in the 1970s and 1980s, when you could actually do just that. Picture below is of the intersection at Ellis and Taylor in 1982, which  hosted an airport bus terminal after the previous one at Ellis and Mason was torn down to make way for the Hilton hotel. Today, the closest thing to an airport bus is probably the private shuttles that run to nearby hotels and hostels, or maybe Powell Street BART. You can learn more about the intersection, and history of surrounding blocks, at our favorite local blog Up From the Deep written by our friend Mark.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library. Photo by Larry Moon

Hob Nob Lounge

Thanks to a friend who gave me a free ticket (I love freebies), I spent Saturday afternoon strolling around the SFMOMA collection. Of course, I enjoyed a great deal of the works, but this one in particular by John Harding caught my eye because of its Tenderloininess:

The brown bricks seemed familiar, but it wasn’t until I walked back home and I saw this corner, that I realized they are presently blue and the rocked-in window is an actual window again. Yes, the Hob Nob Lounge is now (as you probably already guessed/knew), the Angel Café. The picture is, of course, a lot less artistic than the one above, and also the angle is slightly different as Harding took his picture from a car. But, it’s still fun to compare the two, especially people’s clothing, which given the fact Harding’s shot is from 15 years ago, it looks like little has changed.

By the way, does anyone remember the Hob Nob Lounge? Did you like it?

Spooky Times in the Bristol Hotel

My Google News alert fed me this lil’ gem, about the SRO Bristol Hotel on Mason Street at Eddy. It’s a newspaper article from the San Francisco Chronicle, dated September 4, 1985. Apparently, some of the Bristol’s residents thought the former room of serial killer Richard Ramirez kept its bad juju even after its Satan-worshiping tenant had been re-housed on San Quentin’s death row. Ramirez, known as the Night Stalker, stayed in the Bristol during part of his 1985 cross-California murder spree. He was eventually convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, and numerous counts of sexual assault and burglary. The hotel’s manager was critical in catching Ramirez, as he contacted police after seeing a sketch of the suspected Stalker.

Ramirez sexually assaulted, raped, and mutilated women, and during his time in San Francisco he lived in the same building as famous Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM) founder and would-be Andy Warhol murderer, Valerie Solanis. Solanis died at the Bristol in 1988 of emphysema, and it’s not known how long she lived there. Solanas was in her 50’s when she died at the Bristol, twice as old as Ramirez. It’s unknown if they actually ever met one another, even in passing, but it’s certainly interesting to think about what it would have been like. Would there have been a spark of recognition between criminals? Or would they just have seen each other as potential victims?

From the Chron:

The vibrations are so bad in Room 315 at the Hotel Bristol in the Tenderloin that Daniel Sepeda thinks it’s time to bring in the holy water. ‘I should sprinkle some around and say some prayers,’ he said. ‘There are weird spirits here. It gives me the creeps.’ Sepeda and his roommate, James Bowton, attribute those creeps to Room 315’s former tenant, Richard Ramirez. Ramirez is the man police say is the ‘Night Stalker,’ a cold-blooded serial killer who murdered people while they lay sleeping and then scrawled satanic symbols on their walls. Ramirez stayed at the Bristol several times during the past two years, according to manager Alex Melnikov… Melnikov said Ramirez left behind a mysterious odor in the room. ‘It smelled like skunk,’ said one resident who declined to give her name. ‘The cleaning man sprayed like hell, but it wouldn’t go away.’ A five-pointed star, a pentagram, associated with devil worship, was found drawn on the bathroom door…