OpenSFHistory Top 10: Guerrilla History

by Arnold Woods

It started with an idea by WNP founding board member David Gallagher after seeing some posts showing OpenSFHistory images on windows and telephone poles. People were bringing history to the streets. To facilitate this and to create a family friendly pandemic activity, David built in a poster link for the images and invited the public to print the posters and post them in their locations so others could see what was once there.

Since then, this guerrilla history project has taken off. Posters have popped up around the City. The project has been featured in local newspapers and television, various websites, and many social media accounts. We love seeing how much you have taken to this. You may have seen some of these posters on the streets or on social media, but here’s a look of what some of you guerrilla historians have done so far.
10-Line Streetcar coming off of 14th Street onto Guerrero Street, circa 1939.10-Line Streetcar coming off of 14th Street onto Guerrero Street, circa 1939. (wnp27.4012; Courtesy of a Private Collector.) <href=”http://opensfhistory.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/14th-Guerrero-from-@x.jpg”>Poster of 14th Street & Guerrero at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of @x on Twitter.)
San Francisco streetcars once roamed a greater portion of the City than they do now, including the 14th and Guerrero Streets area. The building at the intersection still remains some 80 years later, but the streetcars and their tracks are gone now.
Wrecked streetcar on Valencia Street at 14th Street, 1927.Wrecked streetcar on Valencia Street at 14th Street, 1927. (wnp30.0069; Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt Collection / Courtesy of Emiliano Echeverria.) Poster of Valencia & 14th Street at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of @SFAlisonLeRoy on Twitter.)
Just a block away at the intersection of Valencia and 14th Streets, you could have found this wrecked streetcar back in 1927. To the right behind it, you can see a three-story building with the Chancellor Cigars shop on the ground floor. Today, the building remains, only the vices have changed. The ground floor of that building now houses Healthy Spirits, a liquor store.
Terminus of Muni 6-Line at 14th Avenue and Quintara Street, February 1968.Terminus of Muni 6-Line at 14th Avenue and Quintara Street, February 1968. (wnp25.2494; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)
<href=”http://opensfhistory.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/14th-Quintara-from-@colazioneAroma.jpg”>Poster of 14th Avenue and Quintara at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of @colazioneAroma on Twitter.)
Not much has changed at the Muni 6-Line terminus at 14th Avenue and Quintara Street in the last 50 years. Except for the trees that is. Trees have grown around the overlook there, so there is no longer an uninterrupted view of the Outer Sunset District from that spot.
Pacheco Street Stairs from 15th Avenue, January 16, 1928.Pacheco Street Stairs from 15th Avenue, January 16, 1928. (wnp36.04434; DPW Horace Chaffee photographer – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.) Poster of 15th Avenue and Pacheco at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of @TheCarmineSF on Twitter.)
The stairs at the end of Pacheco Street at 15th Avenue must have looked a little out of place back in 1928 when there was little around them. Golden Gate Heights was then in the early stages of development. In the nearly 90 years since then, a lot has changed as seen in the guerrilla history poster placed there.
B-Line streetcar on Cabrillo near 46th Avenue, 1950.B-Line streetcar on Cabrillo near 46th Avenue, 1950. (wnp5.51163; Courtesy of a Private Collector.) Poster of Cabrillo at 46th Avenue at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of @n8coombs on Twitter.)
We have a feeling that streetcars will be a recurring theme in many guerrilla history posters. Here, we see the B-Line Streetcar that once ran across the Richmond District before terminating at Playland. Today’s youth may not comprehend how widespread streetcars once were in San Francisco. Unless they have visited Chris Arvin’s fantastic “Where The Streetcars Used To Go” website that is.
B-Line streetcar on Balboa Street at 37th Avenue with Balboa Theater in background, 1950.B-Line streetcar on Balboa Street at 37th Avenue with Balboa Theater in background, 1950. (wnp5.51166; Courtesy of a Private Collector.) Poster of Balboa and 37th Avenue at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of Arnold Woods.)
Speaking of that B-Line streetcar, it ran for 12 blocks on Balboa Street, between 33rd and 45th Avenues. That took it right by the Balboa Theater, where we hope to see a movie again someday soon. There are many neighborhood theaters to be found on OpenSFHistory.
K-Line Streetcar on Ocean Avenue near Ashton Avenue with El Rey Theater in background, December 1951.K-Line Streetcar on Ocean Avenue near Ashton Avenue with El Rey Theater in background, December 1951. (wnp67.0687; Jack Tillmany Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector.) Poster of Ocean and Ashton at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of phantasmagorial_kat on Instagram.)
Unlike the Balboa Theater, the El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue no longer operates as a movie theater. The building, as seen in the guerrilla history image here, does still exist and was designated as San Francisco Landmark #274 in 2017. The building also housed the very first Gap store. The main differences between now and 70 years ago are the new-ish four-story building besides the El Rey and, once again, the cars on the street.
N-Line streetcar on Carl Street at Cole Street, 1948.N-Line streetcar on Carl Street at Cole Street, 1948. (wnp67.0703; Jack Tillmany Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector.) Poster of Carl and Cole at intersection, May 2020. (Courtesy of @chrisarvinsf on Twitter.)
The Sunset Tunnel opened in 1928 allowing streetcars to run from Duboce street, under Buena Vista Park, and emerging at Carl Street near Cole Street. The view from 1948 in the poster has not changed much from today’s view, though the cars on the street look vastly different.
Valencia Street near Army Street (now Cesar Chavez), circa 1930.Valencia Street near Army Street (now Cesar Chavez), circa 1930. (wnp4.1951; Courtesy of a Private Collector.) Poster of Valencia near Cesar Chavez on wood siding, May 2020. (Courtesy of @burritojustice on Twitter.)
Back around 1930, Mission Chevrolet was a large auto dealer. The store fronted on Mission Street, but there was a service entrance to the building on Valencia. The building still exists, though the dealership is gone. It later became an auto parts store and is now a motorcycle rental and parts store. Today’s view shows a City Surf Project building that did not exist in the image from 90 years ago.
Protestant Orphanage on block surrounded by today's Haight, Buchanan, Page & Laguna Streets, 1868.Protestant Orphanage on block surrounded by today’s Haight, Buchanan, Page & Laguna Streets, 1868. (wnp71.1633; Martin Behrman Negative Collection / Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives.) Poster of Haight & Laguna area at intersection, May 2020 (found in wild and posted to Twitter by @OpenSFHistory.)
We end by going way back. 150 years ago, there was a Protestant Orphanage located near the intersection of today’s Haight and Laguna Streets. It was surrounded by sand dunes and not much was located around it. Today, it looks much, much different there. We imagine the people who live there now will be very surprised to see the Orphanage that was once there.

We are really touched by the response to the #guerrillahistorian project and look forward to seeing how it grows in the days and weeks ahead. If you haven’t already, read how to become a guerrilla historian here or see how to become a guerrilla historian here. More than anything, we hope you will have a little fun while gaining a little history knowledge. Enjoy and keeping sending us pictures of what you’ve done.