Tonight: The History of One Building in Bernal Heights

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Vicky Walker invites you to a meeting of the Bernal Heights History Project happening TONIGHT, Wednesday, July 20 at 7 pm at the lovely Bernal Library. Tonight’s episode will  look at the history of one building here in Bernal:

Patrick Silk lived in Bernal Heights for 15 years, more than a hundred years ago. His great-grandson will talk about how a family history project turned into a research project about the history of the building Patrick built, and how it has fared and changed over the next century.

This is also a show-and-tell get-together. Bring your photos, stories, and artifacts and we’ll talk! We have handouts on how to research your Bernal home, so come to the meeting if you’d like one of those. (And we’d love to hear your stories.)

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room; turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.

PHOTO: View West From Bernal Heights 1930s. Overlooking Noe Valley, with elevated railway. In lower right corner, 29th and Mission St. car barn, Lyceum Theatre. Fairmount School at center-left.  Image courtesy OpenSFHistory

Cole Hardware Hopes to Return to Mission Street

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At this point, it happens almost daily: I’m doing the Life Thing, trying to keep everything working, and inevitably there’s some small item required. Like a replacement key. Or a picture hangar. Or a rubber grommet thingy that goes between this thingy and that thingy. And inevitably I have a habitual thought: “Oh, I’ll just go get that at Cole Hardware.”

Except, that’s not possible anymore.* Sigh.*

In the wake of the June 18 Cole Hardware Fire,  a great many Bernalese have wondered if our neighborhood hardware store will one day return to our fabulous stretch of Mission Street. Last week, our friends at Hoodline interviewed Cole Hardware owner Rick Karp to learn more about the history of the business and the future of Cole Hardware in La Lengua:

On June 18th, the night of the fire, Karp gathered with his Mission store employees in the Safeway parking lot to discuss finding them new jobs. “We wanted to make sure that everyone continued to work, and we emailed them that night to tell them where they would be working the next day.” Sure enough, the next day, all employees had jobs. With help from his son, Dave, and daughter, Adrianna, who both help run the business, Karp was able to quickly divvy the staff up to the other four other locations. “Everyone is now working and they seem to be very appreciative with their new digs,” he said. “They’re all disappointed that they are not working together anymore. That’s a tough thing for the staff to be broken up. They were a cohesive group, but everyone from the other stores has welcomed them with open arms.”

“We are lucky that nobody got hurt [in the Mission fire],” said Karp. “We try to look at the good side.” Karp is actively looking for another site to relocate the Mission Street store. He told us that he really wants to stay connected to the neighborhood and get back in as soon as possible, because the loss of the hardware store impacts people’s lives daily.

“We want to continue to keep serving our customers there and stay connected. In fact, the burnt-out building is coming down this week. This is San Francisco, so we will be lucky if it’s built in a year. It could be a couple years [to get the building back up to speed].”

Karp is seeking a new location in Mission/Bernal/Noe Valley area, but hasn’t yet found a suitable space. He is also looking citywide to open another store, and is currently considering a spot in North Beach and another in SoMa. “We are open to any opportunity, as well. When the Mission building is ultimately rebuilt, whether that is two years or three years from now, whatever it is, we would like to move back into our Mission Street location. We don’t want to abandon that neighborhood, by any means. In fact, we are working with some Bernal folks to do a pop-up store here and there.”

Cole Hardware has been around since 1961. It all began when founder David Karp purchased the business on Cole. In 1984, he and his son, Rick, expanded the business to the Mission.

There’s a lot more to the story of Cole Hardware and Rick Karp, so read the whole thing.

PHOTO: Former site of Cole Hardware, July 16, 2016, photographed by Neighbor Valerie

This Guy Remembers Growing Up on Mission Street During the 1940s

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Robert Tiedeman Jr., photographed on June 25, 2016

A few weeks ago, your Bernalwood editor wandered into the fabulous Secession Art and Design store on Mission Street near Valencia to say hello to Neighbor Eden Stein, Secession’s equally fabulous proprietor. As fate would have it, Bernalwood dropped in just as Mr. Robert Tiedeman Jr. was visiting as well.

Neighbor Eden introduced us, explaining that Robert is actually a Bernal neighbor emeritus, because he was born and raised on Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street, in an apartment above 3471 Mission .

Robert explained that his parents purchased the entire building for $7500 in 1937 with a $250 downpayment. (That works out to about $125,000 in 2016 dollars, with $4200 down.) His dad ran a store on the ground floor, where Ankor Borei is now located. The store was called Tiedeman Appliance, and here’s a photocopied photo of it:

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And here’s what it looks like today, in Google Street View:

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To capture more of the history lesson, Bernalwood deployed our mobile video recording system and interviewed Robert Tiedeman about his memories of La Lengua during the 1940s:

He also shared this story written down by his mother, describing what it was like for a new merchant setting up shop on Mission Street during the late 1930s:

Welcome and Congratulations — NOT

We had just completed our move to our new building on Mission Street. This consisted of a store building and two six room flats; it cost $7,350, $250 down which we borrowed from my sister and her husband. Times were so tough (it was the end of 1937) that the real estate agent took his commission from the seller on the installment plan. We had two boys; George had turned four in November and Kent would be one in February 1938.

The store had once been a bakery, and the windows in the back of the Window alcove were many-paned and ugly. They would have to go, we decrded. Bob and I were standing in the store, glad we were there, but also pretty scared as to how we were going to fare. We were the San Francisco Regina Agents, so got busmess through that listing in the phone book, but what other business would we get and how would the neighborhood be for customers?

As I stood in front of the store, I saw the accordion music teacher from across the street and his brother in the barbershop next door start across the street in our direction. “Gee, Bob,” I said, “I’ll bet they are coming over to wish us well and make us feel welcome in the neighborhood.”

The Antoninis approached our building and came into the store. They started to talk, first one, then the other. “Well, of course, you should know, this side of Mission Street gets no business; our side is much better for business.” “Yes, we get the morning sun ‘ and people like to walk down our side of the street.” The elder brother shook his head dolefully, “You’ll never make it over here on the wrong side of the street.”

“No, never,” his brother echoed, and back across to the good side of Mission Street they went.

Bob said, “You and your ideas . . . some congratulations.”

Years later, the accordion music teacher moved to our side of Mission. I wanted to remind him that it was the poor side of Mission, but we had become friends, so I just made him feel welcome.

PHOTOS: Robert Tiedeman Jr., photographed by Bernalwood

This Day in Bernal History: Remembering the St. Anthony’s Church Fire of 1975

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Speaking of big, sad fires… on this day 41 years ago, a treasured Bernal Heights icon went up in flames. St Anthony’s Church at 3215 Army Street — Cesar Chavez at Folsom, in contemporary parlance — caught fire and burned on June 30, 1975.

Today the San Francisco Chronicle posted a remembrance:

Here’s the story from Chronicle reporter Kevin Wallace:

“Bumbling poor-box robbers may have started it by spilling an altar candle they were using to illuminate their industry.

“In any case, old St. Anthony’s Church, at 3215 Army Street, began burning at 2:50 a.m. yesterday.

“First it was just an eerie glow that attracted the attention of some passing youngsters. They turned up their car radio to deafening volume to rouse the neighborhood with a rock concert alarm, and hollered to the nine priests in the adjacent rectory.

“And right away it was a historic 4-alarm neighborhood event.

“Flames broke into the night sky all down the building’s spine. Above the altar, the blazing transept collapsed. The nave clock stopped at 3:12, a message to posterity.

“The once all-German neighborhood … assembled in hastily selected wardrobes to admire 162 firemen swarming off 47 engines with miles of coiled hoses. The hoses soon flooded Army from Shotwell to Folsom Street and eastward to Harrison, ankle-deep.

Bernalwood has written about the St. Anthony’s fire before, but to reprise; Here’s how St. Anthony’s looked from street level in 1965:

StAnthonys.1965

And here’s the real heartbreaker; check out this spectacular view of the church interior, as seen in 1958:

StAnthony'sChurch.1958

IMAGE: Top, Front Page, via San Francisco Chronicle

Tonight: A Case Study in Bernal Home History Research

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The fabulous Bernal Heights History Project will hold their monthly meeting and ad hoc presentation at the Bernal Library, TONIGHT, Wednesday, June 15, at 7 pm. Vicky Walker tells us what’s on the agenda:

“Researching Your House: A Bernal Heights Case Study”

Neighbor Eve  will present a step-by-step guide to how to research your house. Along the way, she’ll share some things she learned about her own home and the people who’ve lived there from 1873 to the present day

The meeting on Wednesday, June 15 starts at 7 p.m. sharp. in the downstairs meeting room of the Bernal Heights Library (500 Cortland Avenue). When you arrive, turn left at the bottom of the stairs.

As always, the meeting is free and open to all.

PHOTO: Pages from the 1905 Sanborn property map, showing portions of Bernal Heights

A Brief History of Holly Park’s Creation, Rise, Decline, and Fabulous Rejuvenation

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This is a special post by contributor David Young, courtesy of our friends at Hoodline.

Nestled on the southern slope of Bernal Heights, just behind the hill’s more famous peak, Holly Park one of the least well-known parks in San Francisco. Yet with a history that dates back over 150 years, Holly Park is also one of the oldest parks in the city. Thankfully, lots of effort by determined neighbors and local nonprofits have combined to ensure that Holly Park doesn’t show its age. Today it remains a prime destination for dog walkers, young families, and in-the-know San Franciscans.

Holly Park was established in 1862, when silver magnate James Graham Fair purchased the 7.5-acre parcel for $375,000 and deeded it to the city. At the time, the area around it, called Bernal Rancho, was almost entirely undeveloped, so residents had little access to the new public land. That was the case until 1894, when the Holly Park Improvement Club convinced the city to build Holly Park Avenue (now known as Holly Park Circle). The street gave the rapidly expanding neighborhood a park they could finally call their own.

It took until 1926 for the unremarkable collection of small trees and shrubs on Holly Park to be replaced by proper landscaping. Basketball and tennis courts were added, along with a playground and the park’s now-towering eucalyptus trees. That was a triumph, but it was also was the last major improvement the park received for decades. Despite consistent popularity,  large sections of the park fell into disarray over the decades. By 1991, citing hazardous conditions, Rec and Park fenced in the playground.

Fortunately, that sad state of affairs did not last long. In the early 2000s, Bernal neighbor Eugenie Marek enjoyed taking early morning walks around the neighborhood. Circling Holly Park, she regularly noted the poor state of the park’s facilities. In March, 2000 voters had allocated $110 million  for open-space improvements, so Neighbor Eugenie organized Friends of Holly Park and developed a proposal to upgrade the park grounds. The proposal collected over 200 signatures and was passed by the city in 2002. Two years later, renovations were completed and the park was once again reopened.

Today, Holly Park is a regular destination for locals. A short, five-minute walk from the commercial strip of Cortland Ave., Holly Park is a great place to enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay from a unique southern vantage point. It’s even better with children: In 2006, the Chronicle rated the playground Holly Park one of the best in San Francisco. There’s a lot to love, including the baseball diamond, a tennis court, a basketball court, picnic and BBQ areas, and an upgraded playground.

Holly Park is located at Holly Park Circle, south of Cortland Ave. The park is is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The picnic tables and barbecue pits can be booked through the SF Rec and Park website.

IMAGES: Top, detail from Whitaker & Kelley: Map of Bernal Heights, June 1889. Below, 2016 photo of Holly Park baseball diamond, by David Young.

For Sale: Genuine 1906 Earthquake Shack on Bocana, at a Very 2016 Price

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Metaphor Alert! A former earthquake shack that was relocated to 164 Bocana Street after the Great Earthquake of 1906 was recently listed for sale, with an oh-so 2016 asking price of  $779,000.  For those keeping score at home, CurbedSF calculates that’s a 1.5 million percent increase from it’s original post-1906 price of $50.

CurbedSF adds:

The city dates it to 1909, although that may be just the year it was moved to its present location. Most earthquake shacks were built in the months immediately after the 1906 quake and migrated from their original locations in park refugee camps after tenants paid off their rent-to-own leases.

However it got here, this one-bedroom number a block from Bernal Heights park is about as cute as it gets, with its shingled facade, cathedral ceiling, stained glass windows, gas fireplace disguised as wood stove, and frosted glass on interior doors.

There are lots more photos of 164 Bocana inside and out over at CurbedSF.

PHOTO by Zephyr via CurbedSF