Lindbergh in SF: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

On a rainy September 16, 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh flew in to San Francisco. By the time hundreds of thousands of people met him on Market Street, the sun had begun to shine and one reporter opined, “Apollo must have felt bound to add his homage to this fellow rider of the skies.”

Spirit of St. Louis at Mills Field.
Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis entering special hangar at the municipal airport at Mills Field, September 16, 1927. (wnp36.03528, Department of Public Works photo by Horace Chaffee, negative courtesy of a private collector.)

It’s difficult to conjure a modern day example that compares with the acclamation Lindbergh received for being the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in May 1927. Today, in the United States, such hero worship with motorcade parades and thousands cheering themselves hoarse are reserved for championship football or baseball teams. Even then, an entire squad of victorious athletes shares the accolades over a series of vehicles, and in only one city for one day. Lindbergh’s life from May 1927 to April 1928 was a series of mad parades from New York City to Mexico City. He made 82 stops in 48 states flying the Spirit of St. Louis around North America and had the hero’s welcome wherever he went.

Banqueted, feted, pelted with ticker tape, deluged by fan letters, mobbed by hoards in hotel lobbies, Lindbergh also had to make speeches, wear tuxedos nightly, and deal with hundreds of reporters asking him about his love life.

It was the same in San Francisco. He had left Portland, Oregon, at 6:20 a.m., flew down the coast and buzzed San Francisco’s nascent skyscrapers at 1:45 in the afternoon, and then landed at Mills Field on the peninsula. The second the monoplane was in view of the field, some 5,000 people who awaited his arrival stormed the runway. Lindbergh had to circle repeatedly, gesturing he couldn’t land, until infantrymen were able to push back the receiving committee of thousands.

Lindbergh motorcade on Market Street.
Charles Lindbergh welcomed with ticker-tape parade on Market Street, September 16, 1927. (wnp27.4115, print courtesy of a private collector.)

After his parade into the city, the flyer fought through the Civic Center (“a pin cushion for people,” a reporter described it) to City Hall’s balcony to be introduced by the mayor and to give a short speech. A reporter wrote that the weary Lindbergh spoke “as though he was reciting a piece he had learned by heart and he appeared relived when the piece was finished and he could sit down again behind the friendly screen of the balustrade.” He was presented with proclamations, scrolls, and medals from an eleven-year-old boy (representing San Francisco’s children), the postmaster (who recommended to Lindy that he marry a California girl), and the Swedish Consul-General (Lindbergh’s father was Swedish).

Spirit of St. Louis at Mills Field.
Charles Lindbergh addresses the crowd from City Hall, September 16, 1927. (wnp36.03532, Department of Public Works photo Book 40 #A609, by Horace Chaffee, negative courtesy of a private collector.)

After a short rest at his hotel, where reporters asked for his opinion on the uncertain morality of modern youth, Lindbergh changed into dinner dress, and went to the Palace Hotel to dine with 1,800 of the city’s fine society. There he gave his much-practiced short pitch for the establishment and growth of commercial aviation—he proposed airports at all cities and predicted that passenger carrying planes would soon be widely used—before finally be allowed to retire for the evening.

The next morning, Lindbergh flew to Oakland, and did the same thing all over again.

Green Apple Books: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

Beloved bookstore Green Apple Books is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this weekend, September 9-10, 2017. (Get over there for discounts and free beverages.) The current owners, Kevin Ryan, Kevin Hunsanger, and Pete Mulvihill, also threw a nice party at the Great American Music Hall earlier this week, and many people fondly mentioned the old creaking floorboards of the rambling store at 506 Clement Street.

Different customers trod those same floorboards before Richard Savoy opened his Richmond District institution in 1967. In the late 1940s, the building’s storefront was shared by Ed’s Togs, dealing in men’s’ clothing, and Vincent Belmonte’s Coliseum Furs.

Clement Street at 6th Avenue, late 1940s.
Clement Street at 6th Avenue, late 1940s. 2-Clement streetcar #241 eastbound. Ed’s Togs and Coliseum Furs occupy what is today Green Apple Books. (wnp27.3994, negative courtesy of a private collector)

That the building is old should not be surprising to anyone who has climbed the wood staircases inside Green Apple, but what shocked me was how different the structure looked originally.

504 Clement Street, late 1890s. Courtesy of Jean Portello.

At the turn of the century, 504 Clement Street occupied the site, the home of Hippolyte Cuneo and his family. Cuneo was a foreman at the Joshua Hendy Machine Works in North Beach. He had moved with his wife, Julia, and their six children to the corner about 1895, and it’s possible the house was built about 1897.

One of Hippolyte’s granddaughters, Jean Portello, returned to Clement Street earlier this year with her granddaughter. Jean was able to find the bedroom she slept in during the 1930s (upstairs in in what I believe is now the Philosophy section of the store). I was lucky enough to be making my weekly trip to the store and met them. This week, Jean’s granddaughter forwarded to me the image above of the Cuneo Family home in the late 1890s. I believe Jean’s mother is one of the girls on the steps.

How can this peaked-roof Victorian match up with the familiar stucco-clad façade we all know so well today? If you look at an aerial view of the building now, the roof is flat all the way across. Those double-front windows are in place when Ed’s Togs dealt seersucker suits in the 1940s. Even earlier, as you’ll see in the postcard view from the 1910s below, the windows were the fronts of two bay windows before an Art Deco remodel flattened the front, but no Victorian home is seen.

Colorized postcard view of 6th Avenue and Clement, about 1910.

Ah, but you’ll note that Hippolyte Cuneo’s house was set back from the sidewalk. Perhaps less than ten years after the home’s construction, a storefront addition was put in the front. The Richmond District’s population boomed in the first years after the 1906 earthquake, when so many were dislocated from the burned neighborhoods on the east side. Sixth and Clement was a center of activity and a transfer point for streetcar lines, so a candy store and soda shop in front of the house made eminent economic sense. In this 1909 photo, we can see the peak of the old house is poking up above the Quality Inn candy store run by Miss L. B. O’Neil at 504 Clement Street:

Detail of a United Railroads photograph (#U02412) taken of 6th Avenue and Clement on October 20, 1909. Courtesy of SFMTA Photography Department and Archive.

Even neighborhood institutions that we know intimately, like Green Apple, can hide historical surprises. As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Great thanks to Jean Portello and Jean Minton for being kind to a strange historian accosting them on the sidewalk.

Jean Portello and her granddaughter visiting the family home earlier this year.