Then And Now: What Became of Those “Working Class Houses” on Hampshire Street?

Bernal Hill, San Francisco

Last week Bernalwood introduced you to Dave Glass, a wonderful San Francisco photographer who has amassed a continuous body of work that dates back to the 1960s.

Now it’s time for another installment of the Dave Glass Bernal Heights Then-And-Now Comparison Show. This week, we again travel back to 1982, to take a look at the corner of Hampshire and Peralta, on Bernal’s north side, where Dave photographed what he calls “working class housing.”

So what does it look like now? Dave says that today “these are expensive little homes with modern upgrades and city views.” Judging from this photo I took on December 24, 2010, it sure seems that he’s right:

Peralta at Hampshire (2010)

Photos: 1982, Dave Glass. 2010, Telstar Logistics

Then and Now: The Subtle-Yet-Significant Evolution of Peralta at Rutledge, 1982 vs. 2010

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Dave Glass (aka Dizzy Atmosphere on Flickr) is a San Francisco photographer who has been at the game since the 1960s. His work is excellent, and he probably has more great photos tucked away in his film archives than many of us will ever amass on our hard drives.

Dave spent some time wandering around Bernal Heights over the years, and he recently contributed a few of his older photos to our Flickr Bernalwood group. (HINT! HINT!)

The image above was taken in 1982, and it shows the intersection of Peralta and Rutledge on Bernal’s east slope. It says a lot about how Bernal has evolved over the years from a rougher-at-the-edges working class neighborhood to the quirky-at-the-edges middle class ‘hood we know today.

There’s no better way to demonstrate this than to revisit the scene of Dave’s 1982 photo, to show how it looks today. So allow me to present the corner of Peralta at Rutledge, as it looked on the afternoon of December 24, 2010.

Peralta at Rutledge (2010)

What a difference one Honda can make.

Photos: 1982, Dave Glass. 2010, Telstar Logistics

Space-Time Rupture Reveals San Jose Boulevard In 1929

Bernal Cut Bridges

Bernal Cut Dig
Through the miracle of Photoshop, Bernal resident Craig Butz has created a series of images that superimpose historic photographs over contemporary shots.

These depict the Bernal Cut — a major infrastructure project completed back in the days when we still attempted major infrastructure projects. The Bernal Cut lowered the grade of the southwest corner of Bernal Hill to make way for the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad — effectively opening up the Peninsula to routine transit. The cut was first carved out in the 1860s, but in 1929 it was widened to make room for an automotive roadbed — and today’s San Jose Speedway Boulevard.

The 1929 project is what Craig shows us here, via his spooky time portal that combines then-and-now photos in a single view. In an email to me, Craig explained how he does it:

Creating the montages requires finding the exact spot the original photo was taken, observing how tiny details line up in the scene, and ideally getting the camera within a few feet of where the old camera was situated. Then it’s photoshop layers and masking. The biggest thing I’ve noticed in taking these shots is how many more trees there are today. Several photos I wanted to recreate were impossible because the current view is just a lot of branches and leaves.

Images: Craigiest

Ribeltad Vorden: Bernal’s Most Notorious Spelling Mistake

Arrow Indicates Possible Bullet Hole

Arrow indicates possible bullet hole from earlier shenanigans at Precita and Folsom

In 1996 when Brady and I moved to an apartment on the 3200 block of Folsom street just up from Precita Park, my brother-in-law immediately said we were right across the street from an old hang-out from his biker days.  I heard him call it was, “The Ripple Tap.”  As an armchair historian, I did all I could to determine anything about this bar which sat at the location of today’s Caffe Cozzolino. (TIP: order the pesto chicken pizza to pick up.)

My search was fruitless. I searched the Internet, old phone books, and city directories, I asked every old-timer I could find, and I came up with nothing about The Ripple Tap.  All I knew was that my brother-in-law and sister and their motorcycle-enthusiast friends used to start their evenings there back in the day, and that many shenanigans ensued.

Then about 5 years ago, while working with Vicky Walker of the Bernal History Project, I discovered a wonderful history written by longtime Bernal Resident Jerry Schimmel who shed some light on this elusive story:

Around 1968 when Peter Cancilla (of Cancilla’s Market) acquired the property across the way at 300 Precita Avenue, among the odds and ends he acquired was a medium-sized cloth or banner bearing an applique version of the Colombia national arms.

The amusing thing was its completely garbled motto, apparently perpetrated by a Japanese seamstress. The normal spelling of the Colombian Spanish motto is Libertad y Orden (Liberty and Order) which somehow became Ribeltad Vorden… the bungled phrase inspired the name of his new watering hole.

Ribeltad Vorden banner

The original banner of the Ribeltad Vorden Doyle McGowan now has the framed cloth on his apartment wall after tracking it down through a circuitous trail of ownerships. Courtesy of Jerry Schimmel/Bernal History Project

Thus all became clear, sort of. Jerry’s account of life at the Ribeltad jibed exactly with my sister’s stories, right down to the shenanigans. And now we know the real name of the place, sort of.

Read Jerry Schimmel’s full story of the Ribeltad Vorden at the Bernal History Project

Breaking News, 1969: A House Explodes in Bernal Heights

The remains of 1540 York after the explosion in 1969

The remains of 1540 York after a gas explosion in 1969

KPIX Eyewitness News report from October 23rd 1969 by Ben Williams in San Francisco featuring the explosion of a residential house, caused by a gas leak. Includes interviews with witnesses, the fire service and views of property wreckage.

Sad to say, we can’t embed the video with the raw footage, but you can watch it here.

Local TV news coverage of this mundane 1969 disaster in Bernal Heights comes to us today by way of the excellent San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive,  hosted by San Francisco State. This segment is a story about a bad day in the neighborhood, but one which has since been largely forgotten.

The house in the story was on the on 1500 block of York, just up from Cesar Chavez (Army) Street. On October 23rd 1969, it blew up. An occupant  —  they were “a Spanish family,” a neighbor says — was taken away unconscious.

The neighbor is freaked out.

The neighbor was visibly rattled by the experience. But a street-savvy fire chief restored order, matter-of-factly, because a house blowing up due to a gas leak is just one of those things he deals with sometimes in the city. How bad was the damage? “At least $30,000,” he estimates.

1969 Fire Captain discusses York Street House Explosion

The SFFD battalion chief discusses the explosion

The location of the blast, at 1540 York, is now occupied by a two unit apartment building built in 1985. The neighborhood has moved on.

The new home at 1540 York

Yet that’s also the reason why you should check the original video footage from that day in 1969.

Then explore more of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive. But clicking the link may lead to hours of viewing locally produced video from the collections of KQED, KPIX, KRON, KTVU as well as topics such as the San Francisco State Students Strike and the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz. Addictive stuff.

Then and Now: Bernal Hill As Seen from Army/Chesar Chavez

Then and Now: South Van Ness at Army Street, 1953

I stumbled across the photo above a few years ago. It shows the corner of South Van Ness Avenue at Army (Cesar Chavez) as it looked in 1953, shortly after the completion of the now-infamous widening that turned Army into a major east-west thoroughfare.

Since I just happened to be just a few blocks from that very spot when I first saw the 1953 photo, I wandered over to see how the scene changed after all these years. Behold, the same view, as it looked on August 12, 2008:

Then and Now: South Van Ness at Cesar Chavez (Army), 2008

In a way, the most impressive thing is how *little* has changed, overall. Gas used to cost 25 cents a gallon, but in 2008 it sold for $4.17. (It’s cheaper now, unfortunately.) Notice that the microwave tower that sits atop Bernal today was just a little sproutling in 1953. It took a long time for it to grow so big and tall and beautiful.

Otherwise,  Bernal Hill look very much as it  did 50 years ago. My favorite detail is the Golden Gate Cleaners, visible at center left. The shop is still there, and with the same neon signage. Like a bug in amber.

The 1953 photo came from the Cushman Collection at Indiana University, which, for reasons unknown, maintains an excellent online collection of vintage color photographs of San Francisco. PROCRASTINATION WARNING: Do not click this link to the Cushman Collection website unless you have at least an hour to burn in blissful Technicolor historic reverie. You have been warned.