Let’s Go Shopping at Baireuthers Market on Precita Avenue in 1949


Recently, Scott Frisner shared a photo with the San Francisco Remembered group on Facebook. It was taken on the western end of Precita Avenue just off Mission in the 1940s. Scott writes:

My late father-in-law, Orlando Colosimo, on the left, and his brother Don at their recently purchased market in 1949. They kept the original name, Baireuthers Market and from what I can find, it was located at 29 Precita near Bernal Heights. Anyone remember it?

Baireuther’s Market opened in the early 1900s, and it was operated as a butcher shop by John N. Baireuther, who lived nearby for a time at 179 Precita. Here’s a detail from a 1908 San Francisco Directory:


Orlando and Don Colosimo took over the store some 30+ years later.

This a wonderfully vivid photo of them, and it contains some great details of mid-century packaged food. For example, when we zoom and enhance the image, we can see the meticulously curated selection of artisanal cheeses perched between Orlando and Don:


The selection of Gerber baby foods at bottom right was equally twee, with wholesome goodness freshly canned in tasty flavors such as green beans, peas, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, and vegetables and liver. Yum!


In the refrigerated case we find cartons of Borden’s milk on the left, featuring the smiling bovine visage of Elsie the Cow:


On the right, just between Orlando and Don’s hips, we see a few tubes of Ballard Oven-Ready Biscuits, ready to bake in your very own home. If you had a copy of Ladies Home Journal in your sitting room back then, this 1949 advertisement might have sent you running to Baireuthers Market to get some biscuits to make “the Ballard workless way”:


Today, Baireuthers Market is no more, and the space it used to occupy has been converted to all-residential use. Yet the facade at 29 Precita hasn’t changed much from the Baireuthers days, and it still looks like a neighborhood market from the outside:

So even now, it’s not hard to imagine walking inside to say hello to Orlando and Don, pick up a few groceries, and talk about the weather a little bit before you rushed home to bake those Ballard Biscuits, which would be ready to eat just nine minutes later.

Bernal History Gets the Celebrity Treatment in The SF Chronicle



In case you missed it, there was a fun article in the fashionable Home and Garden section of last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle celebrating Bernal Heights, and the local tribe of enthusiasts from the Bernal Heights History Project who bring our neighborhood’s past into the present.

Chronicle writer Charlene Prince Birkleland begins by introducing us to Neighbor Michael Nolan, the spiritual guru of the Elsie Street Glee Club:

Michael Nolan’s home on a rolling block in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights is filled with the past. Black-and-white photos from his youth hang on the walls and family keepsakes sit on shelves, but they’re mixed in with neighborhood artifacts, like railroad tools from the late 1800s found buried in Nolan’s backyard.

A passionate genealogist and the convenor of his family reunions, Nolan is now focused on building a different kind of family tree: the genealogy of his house.

Nolan, 73, is one of many Bernal Heights residents hooked on recording the history of their homes and the neighborhood. Some homeowners might conduct this type of research during a renovation, to replicate the design features original to the property. But these self-made historians want to connect the present with the past, when neighbors were close friends and felt a strong sense of community.

“We’re pretty tight on this block,” said Nolan, who helps organize annual block parties and regular potluck dinners. “We try to support one another in times of celebration and need. It’s not easy to do. … People lead very busy lives. We do what we can on this little piece of earth.”

Bernal Heights lies between highways 101 and 280 near San Francisco’s Mission District. More than 24,000 residents live in this colorful community filled with coffee shops, restaurants and views from every hilltop. The area contained few homes until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when many were drawn to build on its stable bedrock. Now a dozen earthquake shacks, which were used as temporary housing after the 1906 quake, sit near modern, contemporary homes interspersed with updated Victorians and smaller, old cottages built in the late 1800s.

Later in the piece, we meet Neighbor Vicky Walker, high priestess of the Bernal Heights History Project, who was thrilled to learn that her home came with a spookiness pre-installed:

Walker lives on Ellsworth Street just a few blocks from Nolan […] and she’s equally immersed in learning about her home. Walker has traced the name of every owner of the Ellsworth Street residence, which was built in 1927. Her first bit of data came in 2003 on the day she moved into the home. Her husband, Wade Walker, was unloading the moving van when a neighbor came by and shared an unexpected gruesome detail: The property was the site of a 1976 husband-wife murder-suicide.

Vicky Walker was fascinated. “I’m kind of a gore hound, and I’m interested in ghosts and crimes and stuff,” she says. She later visited the library where she researched The San Francisco Chronicle archives and located stories about the crime. She learned that the wife, Lovera “Jodie” Satava, was fond of cats, just like Walker. “I’d be talking out loud to Jodie and saying, ‘I hope you like the cats.’ It’s like having ghosts you can talk to.”

Read the whole article right here.

PHOTO: Above, Vicky Walker and Michael Nolan at Pinhole Coffee last February, via Michael Nolan. Below, Holly Park Meat Market at 231 Cortland Ave, current site of Pinhole Coffee, date unknown. 

Then and Now: 111 Years of History on Virginia at Mission


If you’re planning to attend the fashionable Bernal Heights history show-and-tell tonight, you’ll likely hear mention of the SFMTA Photography Department & Archive. That’s the wonderful, searchable online photography collection that documents various infrastructure and public works projects in San Francisco dating back to the earliest years of the 20th century. It’s a gold mine.

The photo above is a sample from the SFMTA archive, and it’s a gem. It’s a view of Virginia Avenue at Mission, looking west, as it looked on June 8, 1904. To help you get oriented, today, this is the view looking toward the Bernal Safeway. The old Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack would be on the left, and the Pizza Hut-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of is on the right.

But in this photo, all that was still a century away. In this photo, we can clearly see the spires of St. Paul’s church off in the background, along with the pre-Sutro Tower nakedness of Twin Peaks:


Let’s take a closer look at those fantastic advertising billboards on the fence:


Zoom and enhance:

1904billboards copy

J. Noonan Furniture! Overalls! Amazing!

And check out the kid laborer working at the corner of the building on a left! And his ladyfriend admirer:

mission.Virginia.1904 copy

Just three years after the SFMTA’s 1904 photo was taken, development came to the parcel behind the billboard fence… in the form of the Lyceum Theater:


Bernalwood wrote about the Lyceum in 2013:

The photo above was taken in the 1920s, and a brief history of the 1400-seat Lyceum lives on at the Cinema Treasures website:

The Lyceum Theatre opened in mid-1907, with vaudeville and motion pictures. By the late-1920’s it was featuring Vitaphone Talking Pictures, and remained a popular low priced, late run house for patrons of the outer Mission district for the next twenty-five years.

Like so many other secondary houses, it was one of the first to feel the impact of television in the early-1950’s, and, after several closings and re-openings, became the temporary home of the San Francisco Revival Center [church], before they moved to the former State/Del Mar (q.v.) which they then made their permanent home.

The Lyceum was torn down and replaced by our Taoist Safeway in the 1960s(?). And ever since, Bernal residents have been waiting on long, long checkout lines there. Here’s the view from the very same spot today:


Notice how much parallelism there is between then and now. We can still see the spires of St. Paul’s church. Twin Peaks are still there, of course, having now sprouted a Sutro Tower. Fortuitously, they were even doing some work on the street last weekend — although that laborer kid has now been replaced by a tracked mini-excavator. After 111 years, this is what progress looks like.

PHOTOS: Top, Virginia at Mission, June 1904 via SFMTA Photography Archive. 2015 photo by Telstar Logistics

Wednesday: Bernal Heights History Show and Tell


Your time-sleuthing neighbors from the Bernal Heights History Project are having an open-mic night for history geeks at the Bernal library tomorrow night, and you should geek-out with them:

Our regular monthly show-and-tell meeting is on Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m., downstairs in the Bernal library meeting room. Bring your photos and stories to share.

We’re hoping to have a mini-slideshow of our latest finds, including details on the artist who painted the mural at the Cherokee bar (now The Lucky Horseshoe) and some more Bernal Mystery Project pictures via the SFMTA Photography Department and Archive. If you have pics you’d like us to include and talk about, email them to us at info@bernalhistoryproject.org.

PHOTO: Folsom at Precita, 1943, via SFMTA

Flashback: Easter in Holly Park, 1959


Just in time for this Sunday’s Rogue Easter Egg Hunt in Holly Park, Neighbor Allison shares a lovely slice of family history that took place in the very same spot:

My husband and I just recently bought a home in Bernal (Elsie St.) after living 11 years in the Haight. We absolutely love it here… the people, the sense of community, the weather, and the great restaurants are just some of the things that make us happy to now call Bernal Heights our home.

While my husband and I are new to the hood, the hood isn’t new to me. In fact, some of my life’s happiest memories were made right here in Bernal. My grandparents owned their home on Holly Park Circle for nearly 60 years. My grandmother (Mercedes) was from El Salvador and my grandfather (Donald) was a San Francisco native who served in the Navy and worked as a house painter, a taxi driver and finally a longshoreman. My great aunt (Rosita), also from El Salvador, lived on Coleridge for nearly as many years.

My mom (Sylvia) and her siblings grew up here, and in many respects so did I, along with my brothers and cousins. Grandma’s house was where we made our Christmas tamales. It was where we spent our summer, winter and Easter breaks… where we celebrated holidays, birthdays, and other important milestones. It was where we all came to truly understand the importance of family. When we sold my grandparents’ house in 2009, I never imagined that I would ever be back in the neighborhood that meant so much to me.

With Easter coming up, I thought I would share a photo of my mom (center) and her siblings on Easter Sunday 1959. The photo was taken on the steps of Holly Park at Highland across the street from their house. Another Easter friendly fact: Each of these smiley-faced kids received their first holy communion at St. Kevin’s on Cortland.


Tonight: Grand Opening for Bernal Historical Photo Show at Pinhole Coffee


Neighbor Michael Nolan, team captain of the Elsie Street Glee Club, brings some cool news about a new photo exhibit opening this evening at the fabulous Pinhole Coffee on Cortland:

Why Worry About the Future When You Can Wallow in the Past is my mantra for March.

Please join me for the Grand Opening of “Through a Cortland Avenue Looking Glass (1898-1941)” photo exhibit this Friday, March 20 from 5:30pm to 8pm at Pinhole Coffee, 231 Cortland Avenue, corner of Bonview (nee Buena Vista). It’s been a delight to work with the Bernal Heights History Project in selecting the historic photos, and with Mullen Brothers Imaging who donated their printing, mounting and installation services.

Just Added!: The World Premiere of “What Ruthie Hoarded” a 2005 video portrait of the interior of 231 Cortland made by neighbors Edward & Amy Huson that shows the former owner’s amazing collection of junk.

Editor’s Note: I’ve seen that What Ruthie Hoarded video, and it is truly jaw-dropping. Don’t miss it.

PHOTO: By neighbor Jack Pitts. From left: Tim Mullen with son Marnix, JoEllen Depakakibo, Pinhole owner, Vicky Walker of the Bernal History Project, and Mike Mullen.

KQED: Lama Family Feud Lies at Heart of Big Bocana Rent Increase


Veteran reporter Dan Brekke knows how to do the legwork required to crack a story open. These days he works for KQED, where he just published a remarkably detailed report on the Lama family dispute that lies at the heart of the now-infamous 355 Bocana rent-increase controversy.

Brekke’s reporting largely confirms rumors that have been rippling through Bernal Heights for the last few days, to the effect that as a result of the family feud, Bernal neighbor and 355 Bocana property owner Nadia Lama hoped to evict Neigbor Deb Follingstad, because Neighbor Nadia herself needs a place to live.

Brekke reports:

Superior Court filings show that Nina Gelfant and Gayle Worrell alleged they were forced from their one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 720-square-foot Cortland Avenue apartment [in 2013] after the Lamas raised the rent from $1,650 to $4,250 — 157 percent.

The suit argued that the rent increase was far above market rate and designed to get Gelfant and Worrell to leave so that Lamas could sell the property.

That sale, [tenant-rights lawyer Joe] Tobener suggested in a trial brief that outlined more than $1 million in potential damages, was triggered by a battle among Shukry Lama’s heirs over the property he’d left behind when he died in 2012.

“Chuck Lama’s heirs were fighting over their share of the inheritance which demanded selling properties or having the heirs occupy them as residences,” Tobener’s brief says.

That alleged squabble also appears to have played a role in Nadia Lama’s dramatic increase of Deb Follingstad’s rent.

In September 2013, she filed a probate petition in Superior Court seeking to compel her sister Claudia, the overseer of several family trusts set up by [deceased family patriarch] Chuck Lama, to account for the family’s assets. Assets named in the petition and exhibits include a small Cortland Avenue market, Chuck’s Store, the store’s liquor license, eight residential properties in San Francisco, one in Burlingame, and unspecified real estate in Chile.

The court proceeding resulted in an agreement last Dec. 31 in which the three Lama sisters and their three brothers, along with some of their children, agreed to close the family trusts and distribute their assets.

The property Nadia Lama was to receive includes a 2006 Toyota Avalon; $25,000 to pay the legal bills she’d incurred; a little more than $750,000 in cash due upon the sale of two of the family’s properties; and finally, the Bocana Street residence occupied by Deb Follingstad and the $7,500 to hire a lawyer to evict her.

The agreement also requires Nadia Lama to vacate her current home, a couple of doors up from Follingstad and still owned by her siblings, by the end of April. If she doesn’t, the document says, she’ll have to pay $4,000 a month rent to four of her siblings who will continue as owners; and if she does anything to interfere with their renting out the home she’s supposed to vacate, she’ll owe her siblings $10,000 in damages.

Kudos to Dan Brekke and KQED for the excellent work following the paper trail. Read Brekke’s full report on the KQED website, right here.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics