Castro and 19th: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

My dad used to tell me how, as a young guy in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he’d prove he was tough by going with his "hoodlum friends" to Eureka Valley. The bars around Castro and Market had patrons who worked hard as longshoremen, in the trades, and in South of Market and Embarcadero warehouses. They also worked hard at drinking and had a low tolerance for kids in leather jackets from the Richmond District.

Men, leather jackets, and drinking are still to be found in what today is the Castro, but with a different flavor than my father’s youth. Oh, and more naked pedestrians.

19th Street from Castro 1970.
19th Street and Castro Street, 1970. (wnp25.2159, 35mm slide image courtesy of a private collector)

The image above, looking west on 19th Street from Castro, gives a good feeling for the slightly worn Eureka Valley neighborhood just before some big changes arrived. The handsome Victorian apartment building on the corner that housed the New Diamond Market and Chief Cleaners in 1970, is now alive with boutique businesses: hairstylist, café, spa, fine wine purveyors. (Castro Street Cleaners does continue the dry cleaning legacy.) The storefront church that had the “Jesus Saves” cross neon sign up the street on the corner of 19th and Collingwood is today “Spunk,” a barber and hair salon.

19th and Castro Streets in 2017.
19th and Castro Streets in 2017.

Cousins on my mom’s side owned a barber shop and Oasis Liquors on 18th Street near Diamond Street, and only sold the building a couple of years ago. (Q Cuts and Five Star Truffles occupy the storefronts now). Family members lived upstairs and just walked down a few steps to open the store in the morning. They attended Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Neighborhood kids had the run of the streets.

For all the changes that swept through the city top to bottom, east to west, in the 1960s and 1970s, the transformation of Eureka Valley into an internationally known haven for LGBTQ communities was one of the most dramatic.

My father had made his own transformation from hoodlum to law enforcement officer, and gave credit where he felt it was due. Gay men and women remade a worn and shabby neighborhood into a vibrant one. Large nineteenth-century Victorian homes that had been subdivided and covered with asbestos shingles or lumpy stucco were restored with paint and gilt.

Change is always controversial, even good change. For the 1970s versions of what today is the Pride Parade, my cousins on 18th Street open bottles of white wine and settled on the upstairs porch to enjoy the show. But many of the old-time Eureka Valley people weren’t happy having their quiet neighborhood become the international capital of gay and lesbian pride, whether because of plain homophobic prejudice or a more justifiable frustration with the neighborhood becoming a 24-hour-a-day party in new bars and dance clubs. (Ah, the late 1970s…)

When I first read the word “gentrification” in the early 1980s, the newspaper story was about the Castro. There were downsides to popularity and new money pouring into an old neighborhood. In 1979, one could get a two-bedroom flat for $175. A two-bedroom house was about $160,000. By 1984, some of those old Victorians were going for as high as $250,000. People were shocked. Defining a neighborhood (and a city) loved and claimed by so many is a continuing challenge.

Similar issues abound today, but some arguments have been settled. The name Eureka Valley is pretty much gone, as the sign in an apartment window on the corner of 19th Street and Castro proclaims (with a rainbow font and Barbie dolls below): “It’s Castro, Bitch!”

19th Street looking toward Castro Street
Another 8-line bus parked across the street five years later in January 1975. The gray perma-stone cladding on that building is apparently with us forever. “Castro” fern bar is open for business on the northeast corner of 19th and Castro Streets. (wnp25.2509, 35mm slide image courtesy of a private collector)

Westwood Park: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

With the 100th anniversary of the Westwood Park neighborhood upon us, we were excited to scan and put up a few dozen early images of the bungalow residence park under construction in a recent upload.

The images, mostly close-ups of houses under construction or just finished, are all dated with a circa 1920 date until we get better information investigating and identifying each building. Many have signboards propped on the front porches identifying homebuilders Nelson Brothers, Walter E. Hansen, or Bauer & Quinn, and architects Charles F. Strothoff or Ida F. McCain. We believe photographer Gabriel Moulin is the author of the album.

Westwood Park house.
Westwood Park house. (wnp27.4345, photograph by Gabriel Moulin, negative courtesy of a private collector)

This year, the Westwood Park Association is celebrating its founding in 1917, when the first residents arrived. Resident historian Kathleen Beitiks has a commemorative history being published for the occasion, and the community nestled on the south side of Mount Davidson has a small party planned next month. Preparations for the building and selling of this “residence park,” however, began earlier than 1917.

Archibald S. Baldwin was an experienced real estate man with the firm of Baldwin & Howell. He surveyed Adolph Sutro’s properties for his heirs in 1910, and subsequently pulled together the investors to create the Residential Development Company, which bought Sutro’s rural and forested land around Mount Davidson for development. The company sold off tracts to Mason-McDuffie, Newell-Murdoch, and Fernando Nelson to create the master-planned developments of St. Francis Wood, Forest Hill, and West Portal, but Baldwin held back ninety-three acres fronting the north side of Ocean Avenue for an experiment.

Entry gate to Westwood Park on Miramar Avenue from Ocean Avenue.
Entry gate to Westwood Park on Miramar Avenue from Ocean Avenue. (wnp27.4352, photograph by Gabriel Moulin, negative courtesy of a private collector)

With Westwood Park, Baldwin & Howell didn’t target doctors and lawyers as customers, but instead focused on their clerks. In August 1916, Baldwin made the his plane clear: “We propose to put Westwood Park on the market at conservative prices, placing it within the reach of those who desire moderate priced homes in highly artistic surroundings. This will be one of the first subdivisions of this character to be offered in San Francisco.”1

Westwood Park would have most of the amenities of other residence parks: looping, curving streets; wide lots with reserved yard space and front setbacks; buried electric lines; landscaped medians and ornamental concrete lamp posts. Louis Christian Mullgardt, well-known for his work at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and the de Young museum, designed the handsome entrance gateways and pillars. While Ingleside Terraces offered Craftsman-style homes and St. Francis Wood took on an Italian Renaissance Revival theme, Westwood Park had its own signature style: the bungalow.

Characterized by wide front porches and deep-eave roofs, the single-story bungalow design is simple, but attractive. Homes have economical floor plans, what would be called “good flow” today, and are embellished with rough-hewn elements, natural coloring, and brick or stone foundation facades.

Baldwin’s experiment was a success. Despite a pause due to building materials restrictions during World War I, Westwood Park completely sold out by 1925.

110 Southwood Drive
110 Southwood Drive in Westwood Park. (wnp27.4361, photograph by Gabriel Moulin, negative courtesy of a private collector)

Read more about Westwood Park on Outside Lands:

The Birth of Westwood Park, Part I

The Birth of Westwood Park, Part II

Notes:

1. “Worked is Rushed in Westwood Park Tract,” San Francisco Call and Post, August 12, 1916, page 10, column 3.