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:
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:
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:
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