Queens vs. the Machine - a look at nearly two centuries of drag culture in San Francisco and how it survives in today's tech economy.
Mr. Phelan's Building. Medium's Sarah Agudo and Marcin Wichary investigate the building they work in: "Ancient and modern at the same time; multiple slices of time meeting under one penthouse-sporting roof." [more inside]
Narrowly saved from the scrapyard just a few years earlier by then-mayor Dianne Feinstein, San Francisco's historic fireboat Phoenix has been credited with saving the Marina District from a blaze in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Following this heroic feat, two anonymous residents donated $300,000 towards the purchase of a second fireboat, Guardian, and a $50,000 gift from a Buddhist temple in the Marina funded her refurbishment. While Guardian's 1,200-mile journey from Vancouver did not go entirely smoothly, the crew arrived safely to a hero's welcome in San Francisco, including a water display from Phoenix. Now, with a recent vote, city supervisors have approved funding to build the city's first new fireboat in 60 years. [more inside]
Jose Julio Sarria, Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, Jose I, The Widow Norton, passed away on August 19th, at the age of 91. [more inside]
How the streets of San Francisco got their names: a fun little history lesson, nicely formatted as a giant clickable map (with search if you just want to look up a specific street).
Anyone who has spent any time at all on the Western side of San Francisco is familiar with the name Sutro. Being the 24th mayor of the City was actually one of his smaller and lesser-known accomplishments. Born in Prussia in 1830, he first made a name for himself with The Sutro Tunnel, which was used to drain water from underneath the Comstock Lode, improving working conditions and lowering the mine's operating costs. He sold his interest in the company he founded and left for San Francisco, where he built himself a mansion, among other things... [more inside]
At the western edge of Golden Gate Park sit two Windmills, claimed to be among the largest in the world. Built over 100 years ago to irrigate the park, they were eventually made functionally obsolete by electric water pumps and were allowed to fall into a state of neglect. The North (Dutch) Windmill was given a face-lift in 1980, and more recently The South (Murphy) windmill has been completely restored. For the first time in decades both windmills started spinning, appropriately enough, on Queen's Day earlier this year. The entire reconstruction process of the South Windmill is documented in this extensive photo gallery.
"My friend showed me around the MUNI Kirkland bus yard. MUNI is the municipal public transit system serving the city and county of San Francisco. It will turn exactly 100 later this year." [via]
On September 13, 1859, a former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court shot and killed a U.S. Senator in what has been called the last notable duel in American history. The duel itself can be interpreted as a sort of proxy battle between pro- and anti-slavery groups of the time, and a harbinger of the American Civil War (which would begin a year and half later).
In December 1974, New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh's front-page account (paywall) of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program documented their illegal domestic intelligence operations against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States. The article eventually prompted investigations by the Rockefeller Commission and the Church and Pike committees. "There have been other reports on the CIA's doping of civilians, but they have mostly dished about activities in New York City. Accounts of what actually occurred in San Francisco have been sparse and sporadic. But newly declassified CIA records, recent interviews, and a personal diary of [George H. White,] an operative at Stanford Special Collections shed more light on the breadth of the San Francisco operation." SF Weekly: "Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA doped San Francisco citizens with LSD." MK-ULTRA: Previously on Metafilter. (Via)
The Fleishhacker Pool, formerly located in San Francisco, California, was once the United States' largest swimming pool, as well as the world' largest heated saltwater pool. The pool closed in 1971 and was eventually acquired by the adjacent SF Zoo, which filled in the giant pool to make its present parking lot. The Pool's Bath House, however, is still standing, albeit derelict.
Let's Go to the Morgue! features images dug up from the San Francisco Chronicle's basement photo archives. Peter Hartlaub got distracted from his parenting blog to find and caption vintage photos of Golden Gate BART and Other Failed Rapid Transit Dreams, Sexy time! Five decades of Bay Area bathing suits, Tourist season in San Francisco, Six decades of roller derby in the Bay Area, When arcades ruled the Bay Area and A journey back to your high school prom. [more inside]
Keeping Score is designed to give people of all musical backgrounds an opportunity to explore signature works by composers Hector Berlioz, Charles Ives, and Dmitri Shostakovich in depth, and at their own pace. The interactive audio and video explores the composers’ scores and pertinent musical techniques as well as the personal and historical back stories. [more inside]
Forty Thanksgivings ago Alcatraz Island was occupied by a number of Native American activists as a protest. The occupation lasted until June of 1971 The best place to learn about it is PBS's website for Alcatraz Is Not an Island, Jim Fortier's documentary about the Alcatraz Occupation. Besides an overview of the events it has video interviews with the people involved. [RealPlayer required] Here are photographs of the occupation, mostly from newspapers. For a flavor of how the local media covered the events, here's the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive's Occupation of Alcatraz Collection which has over 40 contemporary newsreports [MPEG4]
Woodward realized that it was only a question of being pestered forever or quietly throwing open his place
"The What Cheer House catered to men only, permitted no liquor on the premises, and housed San Francisco's first free library and first museum." Opened in 1852 by Robert B. Woodward it became immensely popular. "[S]ailors enjoyed staying there... [he] was such a well-liked man that they would often bring him trinkets from around the world when they’d come to town. For Woodward, these gifts were the beginning of what would become a life-long obsession with collecting." He moved the collection and opened Woodward's Gardens in 1866 between Mission and Valencia at 13th-15th streets. Called the Central Park of the West, it was San Francisco's most famous public resort. [more inside]
"Shaping San Francisco is an ongoing multimedia project in bottom-up, participatory history." Earthquakes, freeways, baths, parks, jazz clubs, chutes, streetcars, neighborhoods dead and alive, and oh so much more.
Summer of Love: 40 Years Later, a series of articles appearing this week in the San Francisco Chronicle, revisits the fabled, far-out, semi-spontaneous happening of 1967 in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Videos and oral history interviews help tell the story of a utopian vision which created a pivot point for American social values, before going a bit rancid around the edges. For more consciousness expansion, see PBS' The American Experience episode on the same topic. Check out that summer's San Francisco Oracle. Oh, and the Diggers are still around.
The Bancroft Library unveils a new 1906 San Francisco Earthquake site featuring a really cool clickable map that features photos from each section of town. Haight Street didn't look too bad, but just down the road, City Hall was leveled. The exhibit offers a guide to the event that look place nearly 100 years ago.
You're either on the bus, or off the bus. And some people never leave it. Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters marked the beginning of the psychodelic sixties, LSD, the Greatful Dead, San Francisco as the center of the hippie universe, and 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test'. Forty years have passed - here's the legendary bus, 'Further', and here are the hippies who never left the age of Aquarius.