Several hours of blissful photo-procrastination and time travel ensued, after which I persuaded Neighbor Vicky to tell us more about the collection and its creator. So here is Neighbor Vicky Walker’s guided tour of the fabulous Max Kirkeberg Historical Photograph Collection:
Geography Professor Emeritus Max Kirkeberg of SFSU should also be known as Neighbor Professor Max, because he has lived on Peralta for decades. He’s now officially retired, but he taught urban geography and led countless field trips and walking tours around San Francisco for SFSU and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, taking what he estimates as 60,000 photographs of various city neighborhoods since the early 1970s.
The Bernal History Project knew about Max because he shared many of his photographs with us over the years. But our more recent discovery that thousands of his pictures are available online for free was magical. So far, 2,770 of Max’s photos are available in the Max Kirkeberg collections as part of the DIVA archives at SFSU. There’s a whole section devoted to Bernal Heights South — and lots of the photos are in color, including a batch of earthquake cottages.
I called up Max to find out what other treasures he has. He says the online project began 9 years ago. He has 75 boxes of slides — around 60,000 photographs, he estimates — and SFSU wanted to use his pictures for DIVA, a pilot online archive project for other professors who might want to digitize their research collections.
Erin Olson of the DIVA digitization team says the project’s goal is to digitize analog collections like Max’s slides and, if necessary, help organize and catalog them, and make them available for the public to see. “Ultimately, with Max’s information, we hope that a full digitization of his collection will serve as a unique and important documentation of San Francisco’s vast geographical, architectural, and cultural history, as well as its development and progress,” she says.
Max has gone through 9 or 10 boxes so far and says he is finding photos he hasn’t seen in 20 years. He estimates that the 503 photos that are logged under South Bernal are maybe a quarter or a third of the Bernal Heights slides, which is one of his largest collections.
Other neighborhoods include the Castro and Ashbury Heights, with more to follow as the project progresses. The DIVA team are currently working on Eureka Valley, the Inner Mission, and the remainder of Bernal Heights, and will follow with other Mission-based sub-collections
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. “Lakas Sambayanan” (“People Power”), 1987
This was an anti-Ferdinand Marcos mural on the former Sun Valley Dairy building at 300 Alemany (at Crescent). Painted by Johanna Poethig (who recently did the “Story Cloud” mural on the back of the Bernal library), Vic Clemente, and Presco Tabios. Commissioned by the San Francisco Mural Resource Center, it commemorates the 1986 revolution in the Philippines. Facing south, it was allowed to fade before being painted over in 2006.
Close-up detail. Notice all of Imelda Marcos’s shoes at bottom center:
2. Iglesia Cristiana Mahanaim storefront Spanish-language church at 451 Cortland, 1973
The church was sandwiched between Arrow Pharmacy and the Cherokee (today’s Lucky Horseshoe). Before the church moved in, the building’s history included a grocery store, a five-and-dime, and, briefly, artists from the National Center for Experiments in Television. Bald Eagle Sporting Goods replaced the church in 1977.
3. Goat Hill Printing, 400 Cortland, in 1973
This building was a hardware store for years, run by the McCoys and then the Thorsens. After the printers closed, it was a clay art workshop. Progressive Grounds has been here since 1996.
4. 424 Cortland in 1973
Before the Wild Side West moved here from its Broadway location in 1976, the building was used as an office by architect Stephen Roake. The building was constructed around 1900, and housed a bakery run by the Gennheimers, the Hagemanns, and then the Perottos for its first thirty years.
5. Bank of America in 1973
Northwest corner of Cortland Avenue and Wool Street. The Bank of America branch opened here in 1927 as the Bank of Italy; it has historically been the only bank on the street.
6. Aerial view of Cortland etc. 1975
You get a good idea of the topography of Bernal in this one, as well as the development on the south side. Cortland Avenue runs down the middle of the photograph; the large buildings visible are Paul Revere School, the Bernal Library, and St. Kevin’s Church. Holly Park is in the lower right corner. Just visible beyond St. Kevin’s is the Emmanuel Lutheran Swedish Church building at Cortland and Folsom, which was then the Community Church Assembly of God.
7. 800 block of Cortland/Ellsworth, 1973
There’s been a lot of change on this stretch of Cortland. Frank Favaloro ran a fish market and bait shop at 801 Cortland from the mid-1950s until his death in 1961, after which Woodrow and Winifred Gaumond ran the store as Hilltop Fish Market. City records say 801 Cortland was vacant from 1967 to 1977 (but we would love to hear otherwise). Deese’s Records at 803 Cortland, run by Maude Deese, was only open for about a year.
You can see the white steeple of the Assembly of God church at Folsom and Cortland, while the second building on the right is the former Capri Theatre, which closed in 1969. Behind the church in the brown building is Apex Cleaners and Dyers at 1000 Cortland, which opened in the early 1950s. Cutting Edge Salon has been in this spot since 1999.
8. 800 block of Cortland at Ellsworth in 1995
Sometime in the 1970s, the Capri Theatre building became the Victory Fellowship Bilingual Foursquare Church. The Assembly Church of God at Folsom and Cortland had a major fire in 1979 and is now gone. On the left side, Hilltop Sea Food has been replaced by Pay Little Market, which is still there today.
9. Cortland at Wool, 1973
On the left, Arrow Pharmacy and the Cherokee (now Discount Club Liquors and the Lucky Horseshoe, respectively).
10. West on Cortland at Ellsworth, 1973
Notable for being one of the few photos of Cortland Avenue’s gas station, which was replaced with lawyers’ offices in the early 1980s. On the corner of Ellsworth and Cortland is a self-service laundromat that will be replaced by Martha and Brothers in 1999. The Shoe Clinic next door is now part of Tacos Los Altos.
11. Cortland and Ellsworth 1995
After Deese’s Records closed in 1973, 803 Cortland saw a lot of activity, including a thrift store run by Larry Banks; Apex Realty; and the King Tut restaurant and deli. The Barking Basset restaurant lasted from 1993 to 2000. Today it is Red Hill Station.
Not Cortland but still interesting:
1. Newman at Holly Park 1973:
2. Alemany public housing 1973:
3. Alemany public housing, looking a bit more bleak:
4. Banks and Tompkins 1973: Tree of Life Baptist Church:
Whew. Amazing. Thank you Neighbor Vicky, and super-thank you Neighbor Max!