La Lengua rebel propagandist Burrito Justice recently alerted me to the existence of an online set of aerial photographs taken over San Francisco in 1938.
Within that set of pics, there are some very detailed shots taken over Bernal Heights, with crazy-spooky Google Earth-like resolution. The detail is stunning. So strap in to your seat, and let’s tour some Bernal Heights highlights, way back in 1938, shall we?
First, look to the east: There’s no 101 freeway yet; instead, Bayshore Boulevard carried traffic as US 101. Also clearly visible is the micro-hood centered along Adam and Eve Streets, all of which was plowed under when the freeway was built.
To the north, along Precita Park, we see the tracks of the 36 Folsom streetcar line, which terminated at the park:
There’s no playground at the east end of Precita Park, but it looks like the neighborhood kids created an impromptu baseball/stickball diamond in the center of the park, just west of the walkway that cuts through from Harrison Street:
A little farther west, on Tiffany near the junction of Valencia and Mission, there was a streetcar shed, with “San Francisco” painted on the roof, and an arrow pointing north. (A navigational aid for aviators, perhaps?):
The late 1930s were a particularly interesting time up on Bernal Hill. There were two homes on the hill, Nos. 26 and 39 Prentiss Street, and both were occupied until the 1960s:
At the time when this photo was taken, Bernal Heights Boulevard was less than three years old. Bernal’s circular road-to-nowhere had been carved out of the hillside in 1935, as a WPA project. But construction of the roadway triggered a landslide in February, 1936, on the north slope of the hill just east of today’s Folsom gate. As you can see above, the debris from the slide was still present in 1938. Here’s a ground-level perspective on the landslide from 1936, courtesy of the SFPL:
In the southeast, we see the overgrown site that would become the Alemany Farmer’s Market during the 1940s:
Compare with 2011, which also includes the 101/280 “Spaghetti Bowl”:
Just west of the Bernal summit, Elsie Street was still an unpaved dirt path:
Meanwhile, east of Alabama Street, the area of today’s Ripley, Peralta, and Franconia streets was still just plain… dirt:
Okay, so now how do you explore Bernal Heights in 1938 on your own? You can either download individual photo tiles (tedious), or you can use the Google Earth-enabled Web interface (much easier) to cover more terrain more quickly.
Have fun, procrastinate wisely, and please do share any other discoveries you might make about what Bernal Heights was like back in 1938.
PHOTOS: via the David Rumsey Map Collection