A View of Bernal Hill (with Muni Trolley Bus) in 1942


Ooh! Here’s a cool gem of a photo that comes to us via Bernal Neighbor Emeritus David Gallagher of OpenSF History and the Western Neighborhoods Project.

Behold Bernal Hill, as it looked in 1942.

The location is South Van Ness near Army (Cesar Chavez) Street, and the bus is parked roughly on the spot where our scenic AutoZone store now stands.

A few nifty details to note in the photo…

  • This is how Bernal Hill looked for much of its history: Barren and bald. The Sutrito Tower microwave antenna was erected in the 1960s, and the trees around it were planted in the 1970s.
  • In this photo, Army was still a regular San Francisco Street. It had  not yet been widened to serve as an artery for traffic headed to the East Bay via the Southern Crossing Bridge.
  • The bus is one of San Francisco’s very first electric-powered trolley coaches.  Close inspection shows it was No. 506,  built by the St. Louis Car Company in December 1939, but not delivered until mid-1941. The sign on the bus says it was operating on the R -Line, Muni’s first electric trolley coach route,  launched in September 1941. Happily, San Francisco has preserved and restored a vintage bus just like this; here’s a recent full-color photo of Trolley Bus 509.
  • If we zoom and enhance the right side of the image, we see the Signal Gasoline sign on the northwest corner of the Army/South Van Ness intersection:
    26thsvness1942-copy-2That location is still a gas station, of course, so now we know that it’s been serving that role for at least 75 years.
  • Across Army Street, we see a squat, one-story house and a four-story, multiunit residential building. Both are still there, and both look more or less the same today:svnarmy2007
  • Extra Credit: You Bernalwood Editor can even see a portion of my house in the 1942 photo! This is the earliest image of my house that I’ve yet found.

Notice any other cool details? Tell us about them in the comments.

For whatever reason, history and providence have given us several photos of this area of Bernal in the early 1940s.  Check out Bernalwood’s previous stories on the view from Army and Folsom in 1942, and the view from Folsom at Precita Park in 1943.

Also, don’t miss all of the time-travelicious photos of Bernal available in the OpenSFHistory Bernal Heights collection.

PHOTO: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory

3 thoughts on “A View of Bernal Hill (with Muni Trolley Bus) in 1942

  1. Looks like everyone in that 3 story building behind Cesar Chavez (the yellow one with the exposed back staircase) got a big new master bedroom since 1942.

  2. The Muni now designates its streetcars and cable cars with letters and all the other vehicles with numbers. But it used to be that the Muni designated all its lines with letters and the Market Street Railway company designated its with numbers. This is why the Muni had a trolley bus designated as “R”. After the Muni absorbed the money-losing MSRy, they kept most of the line numbers and added new numbers as streetcar tracks were torn up and replaced by trolley buses or diesel buses. (The F Stockton became the 30 Stockton, the H Potrero became the 47 Potrero and later 47 Van Ness, the B Geary became the 38 Geary, etc.)

  3. You are correct that it is a St. Louis Car Co. trolley coach. I actually have a connection to coach # 509, the one the MUNI has cosmetically restored. A long time friend, the late Jerry Graham, a former MUNI employee who lived in Atherton, Calif., had saved # 509 years ago, when it was retired. It was in his back yard. Jerry had offered to ‘give’ me # 509 on a “come and get it” basis. But sadly, I wasn’t in a financial position to have it shipped back here to New Jersey. But now, I’m glad it’s where the people of San Francisco can see and enjoy it. Hopefully the MUNI will make it operable again and that Bernal Hill scene could be re-enacted.

    I have a collection of historic transit vehicles. Many years ago, I gave the MUNI four of my vintage Seattle trolley coaches. One of them, a 1940 Twin Coach, still survives in San Francisco today. It was painted and lettered in the Market Street Railway colors. The other three were sadly left outside, in an unprotected area and heavily vandalized, to the point where they had to be cut up and scrapped.

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