What the Bayshore Freeway Took from Bernalwood: Faith, Joy, Adam and Eve

While poking through some of my bookshelves last weekend, I stumbled across two old San Francisco street maps from the 1940s. As you might expect, most of the Bernal Heights street grid is much the same today as it was then, with one big exception: The Bayshore Freeway wasn’t built until the 1950s, so the eastern slope of Bernal looked rather different.

The construction of the freeway reshaped some aspects of the neighborhood in ways are still visible today; most ominously by turning Faith into a dead end street. (METAPHOR ALERT!!!)

Faith is Just a Dead End Street

But let’s take an even closer look… with a Burrito Justice-style overlay of a circa 1940 map and a contemporary Google map:

Look closer, and we see more detail. Impressively, Bernal’s streetscape survived the creation of the Bayshore Freeway with relatively little disruption or dislocation. Only two small streets disappeared entirely: Adam and Eve:

So while the physical damage to the neighborhood was relatively minor, the metaphysical damage was significant, considering that the freeway cut us off from Faith and Joy, while wiping out Adam and Eve so thoroughly that no trace remains. Talk about being cast from Eden…

13 thoughts on “What the Bayshore Freeway Took from Bernalwood: Faith, Joy, Adam and Eve

  1. Cosgrove Street, marked on the map there just south of Joy, is now no more than the parking lot of the Silver Crest Donut Shop / Bar / Restaurant. Metaphors there?

  2. My house was apparently moved from to its current location when the freeway was built, but I have no idea where it lived originally.

    • Are you in the yellow house on Holladay which is basically where Eve used to be? I was told that that house was moved from down the street at some point. (I live on the first block of Holladay, right above the disappeared streets in question.)

      • No, I’m actually all the way over on the west side of the hill, which is why I’m really not sure WHERE the house may have been moved from. I mean, it seems like moving it all the way over from the east or south side would have been really difficult, even in the 40s.

  3. getting rid of adam and eve has a downside, metaphorically? and you need named streets to have faith and joy? just think for a moment what our forefathers have done to native american remembrance

    • Yes. Because there no native american names left in our geography at all. None at all.

  4. Pingback: A Bird’s Eye View of Bernal Heights in 1938 | Bernalwood

  5. They also took Hope from Bernalwood. The old deed for my house on Mullen Ave. (above Holladay) mentions Shakespear Street, between Hope and Isabel Streets, which no longer exist. Does anyone know if there is a copy of Gift Map No. 3 online? I’ve read that Mullen Ave. used to be called Wolfe Ave., but I’ve never seen Shakespear (without an “e” at the end) on a map of San Francisco. I know there’s a Shakespeare Street near San Jose Ave, but I’m referring to the east slope of Bernal.

  6. Thank you so much!! It’s wonderful to finally view Gift Map No. 3 — the street name changes are confusing but fascinating. Looks like Hope Street is now Costa Street. That clears up a lot for me. I remember as a little girl walking with my father through the spooky tunnel on Faith Street, before they built the overpass pedestrian bridge. We were on our way to the now defunct Avenue Theatre on San Bruno Ave. to view silent film revivals on Friday nights. On warm summer nights, as we climbed up Costa Street, the fragrance of night-blooming jasmine filled the air. It was like a Garden of Eden in the good old days. Again, many thanks for your help!

    • You’re welcome, my pleasure. I’m a relative newcomer here (16 years on Tuesday), but I love to learn about the history here. Do you remember this part of the hill being known as Peralta Heights? Thanks for reading, neighbor Gilda.

  7. I also love to learn about the history of our neighborhood. Bernalwood is a great site for doing so. My father and his family moved from 20th Street to the last block of Mullen Ave. in 1935, when he was only seven years old. That’s the same year that Bernal Heights Blvd. was constructed by the WPA. He doesn’t remember the neighborhood being called Peralta Heights. Naturally, he has seen a lot of changes in the last 78 years. He had an idyllic childhood growing up in Bernal Heights during the Great Depression. He loved it here from the first moment he set foot on the place. You didn’t need a lot of money to live happily in those days. My dad and his brothers liked climbing on the big boulders of Brewster Street (the part formerly called Byron St.), before the hill was bulldozed to build tract homes. On the southeasterly corner of Mullen and Brewster, there once was a beautiful homestead owned by a very nice, friendly German family called the Kessels (not sure about the spelling). They had a well-tended lawn and a white picket fence. One could say they were living the American Dream. Then they got bought out by developers.

    Kids enjoyed cardboard sliding on the grassy slopes that once lined Mullen Ave. Before the Bayshore Feeway was built, children could roam without fear through the flatlands of Bayview. My dad observed pollywogs in the marshland on Army Street near Third and Evans. At the time he didn’t know it was called Islais Creek, from the Native American word for “wild cherries”. The circus would set its big top on the other side of Bayshore Blvd., near where Lowe’s Home Improvement is today. Sometimes there was midget car racing in the same area.

    My father used to go to school with Al Cernik, who later became singer Guy Mitchell. Al used to live in the cute red house with a weathervane on Montcalm and Macedonia. My uncle taught Al how to play the guitar. My little grandmother served him beans and tortillas here, before he went on to fame and fortune.

    My dad remembers seeing tiny meteor showers after sunset from atop the east slope of Bernal. The hillside was much higher then and closer to the stars. My father’s favorite movie houses were the Lyceum (now Safeway on Mission and 30th) and the New Mission. Admission was only ten cents or a quarter. He has fond memories of the Roosevelt Theater (later called The York) on 24th and York. After the matinee, the family would go to the Roosevelt Donut Shop on 24th and Harrison. FDR was revered for providing work for family members in the WPA and the CCC. My grandfather planted trees in Golden Gate Park, before he found work as a boilermaker for the Southern Pacific Rail Road.

    During WWII, the family kept chickens, rabbits and a goat. One time an anteater wandered into the yard — no one knows where it came from or where it went. The traffic was so sparse that the family often engaged in games of touch football on the street. There used to be a grocery store next to the top of the Faith Street stairs which was convenient. The bus system was better than it is today. I understand that after the war some of the local streetcar lines were deliberately removed to force citizens to buy cars. Until the late 1960’s, the household enjoyed regular visits from door to door salesmen, such as the milkman, the egg man, the vegetable man, the Fuller Brush man and an encyclopedia salesman (I still have several complete sets of books my dad bought for me). Sheets and linens were washed and pressed by Peerless Laundry, then delivered in brown paper packages, tied up with string. During this golden age the neighborhood was so safe that it wasn’t necessary to lock the front door.

    The 1970’s was a period of urban decay and rising crime. Stray dogs wandered the street in packs. Thanks to the leash laws, it’s rare to see a stray dog on the street these days.

    The end of Mullen Ave. was finally properly paved in the 1980’s, and that led to the housing boom. Now two of the highest priced homes in Bernal are on our block. Our street has never been more glamorous, but parking is a big problem. Eleven cars got ticketed recently for parking in the wrong direction, a rule that had never been enforced before. The fine is $58, so drivers beware…..

  8. Correction: I just discovered that the Roosevelt Theater and the donut shop weren’t named for FDR, but my father thought so at the time. When he was a kid, the donuts cost only 50 cents for a dozen, fresh out of the oven. The donut shop was across the street from the Roosevelt Theater — where Ricci’s Market is today (not on Harrison). Roosevelt was a Dutchman in the 1920’s who also used to own the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor.

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