Vintage '50s Photographs of the Mission

Aug 22, 2013 at 5am

These 1951 images of the Mission from the San Francisco Assessor's Office came to the Western Neighborhoods Project from a local historian who saved them from being discarded in the early 1980s.

The Assessor's Office periodically photographed buildings around the city for property tax purposes. The photos are documentary in nature and were taken without regard to the scenes on the street. As a result, in addition to showing the buildings, other things were recorded too, such as parked cars and people going about their daily lives. We think these make for an excellent view into what life was like on our streets over 60 years ago.

The Mission is well known, and for this story we collected images of things that have both stayed relatively the same and others that have altered. We think the photos represent a good mix of changes occurring in the neighborhood (the “Spanish Show Tonight” theater marquee and the "Red Beans and Tortillas" sign on 24th Street), while they also feature a way of life that is now gone, like numerous neighborhood grocery stores. You will find recognizable businesses and buildings and certain scenes you may be familiar with today.

Overall, we just love these pictures and think others will too.

The 4 x 5 negatives were digitized by the Western Neighborhoods Project and donated to the San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library, adding to its large collection of Assessor's negatives.

This gas station and the distinctive 1895 Victorian behind it are
still recognizable.

The distinctive neon sign at 19th and Guerrero is still there – though we don't see many people sitting on milk crates on the corner anymore.

This market on the corner of 19th Street was replaced by a six-unit apartment building in 1960, which has its own kind of charm. But you can't get Nehi beverages here anymore.

Once the back door of Ricci's Market (which is still just around the corner on 24th Street), now only one garage door remains in the blank wall.

The commercial space in this apartment building at 24th and Hampshire was vacant in the spring of 1951. These days it houses Tony's Market, where Pal's Takeaway got its start before moving to La Movida Wine Bar down the street

OK, it's not in the Mission, but you should recognize this joint as Bottom of the Hill. It looks like the lunch rush is over and shuffleboard doesn't seem to interest the cook.

Not sure if you actually made your own toast or not at this diner on Potrero. The building is still here as the heavily graffitied Potrero Market.

The Connecticut Yankee looks mostly the same as it did back in 1951, but Salvotti's carried the locally brewed Burgermeister beer. Also advertised, Samarkand Ice Cream.

It really didn't surprise us that the Double Play at 16th and Bryant looks no different today than it did 60 years ago. People are still waiting for the bus here. However, you can't get a haircut in the back room anymore.

This is an example of a 1951 "modernization" of a Victorian building. Stucco was seen as cleaner, stronger, and longer lasting. Oh well, at least they left some of the details. This is one place where the street-tree movement really helped out; bushy trees now line this block, helping to cover up this remodeling mistake. An aside: Those new oval windows were only recently removed in a 2011 remodel.

Large angled plate glass, neon striping, chromed double doors, and Acme Beer. What's not to love about the long-gone Por-Boy Drive-In, which stood on the southwest corner of South Van Ness Avenue at Adair Street.

The small market between Alabama and Florida Streets on 24th Street reflects the Mission District's growing Latino population after World War II, with tortillas and pink beans advertised in the windows. The building's tile work remains, with the rest of the facade acting as the canvas of an exuberant mural.

We may not have Pat's coffee shop, Save-On Yardage, or Golden Gate Linoleum on the southwest corner of Mission and 24th Streets, but they were all a fair trade for a BART station offering easy access to downtown and around the bay.

Today’s Brava Theater Center on the south side of 24th Street near York Street used to be the Roosevelt Theatre presenting both English- and Spanish-language films. The theater opened in 1926 and for many years operated as the York.

Still in great original condition today, this Italianate-style building, built in 1871 on the corner of Hampshire and 23rd Streets, was the neighborhood deli and grocer, with a tire repair shop in the back. In the days before supermarkets, the city had a mom-and-pop shop on almost every corner.

This story is part of The Bold Italic's Facing Change package. Read more about the series here.

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