30 Days of San Francisco Art Cards
(Card set is available from Chronicle Books.)
30: Thursday, November 22, 2012
Postcard photo: View of Telegraph Hill topped by Coit Tower with a tower of the Bay Bridge in the distant background to either side of the Tower, probably taken from Lombard Street on Russian Hill.
Text: Telegraph Hill was named after the semaphore mounted at its peak in the mid-1800’s. The semaphore telegraphed to City residents the cargo carried by ships approaching the Golden Gate. Today it is known for its feral parrots and for Coit Tower, funded in 1929 by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, honorary member of Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5, one of the City’s firehouses.
Did not add that I originally chose this card based on the connection of Thanksgiving and Coit Tower as a representation of giving thanks to the firefighters for their contributions to SF, especially in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake. (With most houses built of wood rather than brick, they were quite susceptible to fire. Brick is not practical in an earthquake zone.) However, after researching Coit Tower, I decided that while Coit Tower was funded by firefighter fan Lillie Hitchcock Coit, she did so in the form of a bequest to beautify the City. The City decided on Coit Tower and other beautification projects, and honored Coit by naming the tower after her – rather than directly honoring the firefighters. Coit was a very colorful and eccentric character – a little wealth in San Francisco made a lot of behavior acceptable including dressing as a man in order to gamble in male-only establishments. Also did not add that there is considerable debate over whether to make it illegal to feed the wild parrots. Also did not add that Telegraph Hill is one of the original Seven Hills of SF.
29: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Postcard photo: Photo taken from the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge looking up at the South Tower. Wisps of fog partially obscure the top.
Text: Before the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, people traveling from the North Bay to SF took the ferry. Cal grad Irving F. Morrow was responsible for the Bridge’s look and for its “international orange” color. Amadeo Gianini’s Bank of America provided the money. There are approximately 1,200,000 rivets on the bridge and 80,000 miles of wire in its main cables.
Did not add that ironically, then and now most of the Bay Area population outside of SF lives south (accessing SF overland) or east (accessing SF via the Bay Bridge, completed one year before the GG Bridge) of SF. (Per the 2010 census, San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area, followed by SF and Oakland, and is 5.6 times larger than #4 Santa Rosa, the only North Bay city in the top ten.) Gianini’s financial support was via the purchase of the first issue of bonds. He said that the $6 million purchase would help the local economy. His commitment to working class people and to California through the 1906 earthquake and the Great Depression stands in stark contrast to the current profile of Bank of America (headquartered in Charlotte, NC after the acquisition of the SF-based BofA by Charlotte-based NationsBank). Also did not add that the Bridge is the most popular site in the world for committing suicide. Recently debate over prevention measures has been reignited by some teen suicides. Those against suicide barriers cite concerns regarding maintenance of the bridge’s structural integrity, the cost of the barriers, and the damage to the bridge’s aesthetics (not a trivial concern given the importance of tourism to the local and state economy). Critics also opine that those seeking to commit suicide will simply find a more convenient location.
28: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Postcard photo: View of the commercial fishing boats (the real deal) docked off of Fisherman’s Wharf with two people in a rowboat in the lower right foreground.
Text: These are commercial fishing boats – though they catch crab and other crustaceans as well as fish. The original fishermen were Italian and Portuguese immigrants. They sung operas to keep from running into each other in the fog. The funny little top hat roof behind the right-hand row of boats is the top of the campanile (housing a carillon), part of the Seaman’s Memorial Chapel.
Did not add that development efforts in the City are sometimes at odds with the naturally less than picture-perfect look of the commercial fishing operations. Personally I think that the money would be better spent excising the worst of the tourist gimmicks and uncovering more of the areas rich history. For example, how many tourists (or locals) have found the excellent museum on the second floor of the Boudin Bakery complex at the end of the main Fisherman’s Wharf parking lot?
Reference: Fisherman’s Wharf site.
27: Monday, November 19, 2012
Postcard photo: View of the Financial District taken from Coit Tower with the Transamerica Pyramid to left-center, the Bank of America Center (at 555 California) to the right, and 345 California Center to the left. (650 California is the biggest to the far right, and 275 Battery (Embarcadero West) is the staggered, scalloped topped roof to the immediate left of 345 California Center.)
Text: The 48-floor Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest building in SF, is in the left-center of the photo. Your Grandpa Marshall and I worked in the 17th tallest building in SF, and Great Aunt Jan and Great Uncle Steve worked in the 8th tallest. In the 1990’s height was restricted to keep sunlight on the streets, but now two new 80-floor ‘supertalls’ are under construction.
Did not add that the PG&E building hosts a nesting pair of peregrine falcons. Also did not add that while urban density is much more sustainable than suburban sprawl, really tall buildings that block light and create their own micro-climate are problematic – especially in an earthquake-prone location such as SF.
26: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Postcard photo: The tent peaks of the Cirque du Soleil’s Big Top swirled like giant Hershey’s Kisses in the blue and gold shades of the Cal Bears (UC Berkeley).
Text: The Pickle Family Circus, which started in SF in 1974, inspired Cirque du Soleil, a Montreal-based entertainment company. SF is usually the first stop for Cirque’s new road shows. Its ‘big top’ (main tent – ‘grand chapiteau’ in French) is always blue and gold – the colors of UC Berkeley, your father’s alma mater, located across the Bay.
Did not add that I’d choose to photograph a local SF entertainment icon such as Beach Blanket Babylon, the Grateful Dead, or Robin Williams instead of a group not identified and not from SF.
25: Saturday, November 17, 2012
Postcard photo: A shot of the Ocean Beach shoreline with folks (some with their dogs) enjoying the sand and water. A surfer in the lower center is walking out to the water with a surfboard under his/her arm.
Text: Unlike the Bay-facing Crissy Field Beach, Ocean Beach faces the Pacific Ocean. Consequently fog is more prevalent, the water is colder, the waves are much bigger, and there is a strong undertow. World-champion surfers “tube the gnarly waves” and tourists and locals admire the shoreline’s rugged beauty and are soothed by the water’s hypnotic rhythms.
Did not add that Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Beach Chalet, Playland-by-the-Sea, and the Musee Mecanique are or were all located along Ocean Beach. Did not add that the undertow (rip current) has caused fatalities and near-fatalities, and that Great White Sharks occasionally pass by in the offshore waters. (11 species of sharks live in the Bay.)
24: Friday, November 16, 2012
Postcard photo: View from Twin Peaks of the City lit up at night with the golden river of Market Street running up the center.
Text: When your father and I were kids, after visiting Grandpa Marshall’s parents (Dandeets and Grandpa Don to me) we’d be tucked into the back of the station wagon for the drive home over the Bay Bridge. We’d crest the hill two blocks up 17th Street, hover for a moment admiring the golden river of Market Street, and then make a descent better than any roller coaster ride.
Did not add that Grandpa Marshall grew up just below Twin Peaks, where this photo was taken.
23: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Postcard photo: View from Grant Avenue (to the side of Old Saint Mary’s) in Chinatown looking south across the intersection with California Street. Visible in the photo is the tiered pagoda roof of the Sing Fat Building, the top of the Cathay House Restaurant’s “Welcome to Chinatown” sign on the side of the Sing Chong Building (at the southwest corner of the intersection), and three red lanterns (hanging over the street).
Text: This photo was taken at one entrance to Chinatown. The two buildings with the tiered, red, pagoda roofs are the Sing Chong and Sing Fat Buildings. (The Sing Fat Building is topped with a yellow bell shape.) They were designed by T. Patterson Ross, a Scotsman, in the rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake. This is the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.
Did not add that Emperor Norton I collapsed (and soon after died) steps away from this spot in January 1880. Also did not mention the Tong wars, opium dens, or Chinese segregation.
22: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Postcard photo: A windsurfer in SF Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands in the background.
Text: The dependably strong winds and protection from the ocean waves (on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge) make the SF Bay a good place for wind and kitesurfing. The windsurfer in this photo may have started at Crissy Field Beach. Even though the sun is out and the air is warm, the water is quite cold: most SF Bay windsurfers wear full wetsuits.
Reference: Wikipedia article on San Francisco Bay Recreation.
21: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Postcard photo: “Tony Bennett’s Heart in San Francisco” in Union Square at Christmas. The ~5′ tall heart has a photo image of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands – possibly taken from Twin Peaks given the angle and the buildings visible below in the foreground.
Text: The large heart is the SF variant of an international public art event that started in Zurich with cows. (SF chose hearts based on the iconic song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, first recorded by Tony Bennett in 1962.) The location is Union Square, now home to high-end chain retailers but once the site of Union Army rallies during the U.S. Civil War.
Did not add that I have photos of cows, bears, and other fiberglass art statues in various cities. Also did not add that Tony Bennett most recently publicly sung the song as part of the celebrations on 2012 October 31 honoring the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. And did not add that Tony Bennett is a New Yorker (though he fits right in with local Italian-Americans including native son Joe DiMaggio and Baltimore-born Nancy Pelosi). And did not add my connection to SF General and that SF General ran “Hearts in San Francisco” as an annual fundraiser.
20: Monday, November 12, 2012
Postcard photo: A natural brick and white building at the Presidio with a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and two palm trees in the right foreground
Text: Since US Federal workers get today off due to Veterans Day (observed on November 11th) falling on a Sunday, I felt that this photo of the Presidio was in order. Spain built it as a fort in 1776. It became part of the First Mexican Empire in 1821, and part of the US in 1848. 18 years ago the Presidio – including Crissy Field – became a National Park.
Did not add that the WWII order to intern Japanese-American citizens was signed at the Presidio. Also did not comment on the battle to keep this prime piece of real estate from getting put up for auction instead of coming under the Presidio Trust – Senator Feinstein had a role on the winning side of that battle.
19: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Postcard photo: Looking across Washington Square in North Beach at Saints Peter and Paul Church
Text: Saints Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square is the religious heart of North Beach, SF’s “Little Italy”. The church is known as “The Italian Cathedral of the West” and still offers one Sunday service in Italian – along with four in English and one in Chinese. (It’s the home church for the City’s Chinese-American Catholics.) Though few Italian-Americans still live in North Beach, a number of Italian restaurants, cafes, and bakeries remain.
Did not add that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had their wedding photos taken (in 1954) on the steps of the church, but could not be married in the church (they had a civil ceremony) since DiMaggio’s previous marriage to Dorothy Arnold performed in this church in 1939 was not annulled. (DiMaggio and Monroe each had one prior divorce. Their marriage lasted only nine months. Monroe married and divorced a third time; Di Maggio purportedly proposed to Monroe four days before her death in 1962, but never remarried.) Also did not add that the church was a big supporter of Prop 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative invalidating same-sex marriages. And did not write about the transition of the Barbary Coast portion of North Beach into strip clubs (most notably the Condor Club), music venues (including important live punk rock venues in the late ’70s and early ’80s), and comedy clubs; or about the congregation in the 1950s of the Beat Generation around City Lights Bookstore and the neighboring Vesuvio Cafe.
18: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Postcard photo: Palace of Fine Arts and its reflection in the abutting pond
Text: The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition. Famous architect Bernard Maybeck designed it to look like an ancient Greek or Roman ruin. The Exploratorium is housed in what was the art exhibit hall and the rotunda (the portion in the photo) houses weddings, picnics, and quinceaneras (a coming of age party on a girl’s 15th birthday).
Did not add that Bernard Maybeck also designed the Christian Science Church near UC Berkeley.
17: Friday, November 9, 2012
Postcard photo: View of the Bay Bridge and the City taken from the Bridge mid-point at Yerba Buena Island
Text: It’s Friday night and “the lights go down in the City, And the sun shines on the Bay” to quote the rock band Journey (which started in SF). This view of the Bay Bridge is from Yerba Buena Island, named for a local species of mint. (‘Yerba Buena’ is Spanish for ‘good herb’, and was the original name of SF.)
Did not add that during the Gold Rush the island was called Goat Island after the large quantity of goats quartered on the island.
16: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Postcard photo: Chinese Pavilion (aka Golden Gate Pavilion) at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park (with a palm tree to the back left of the Pavilion)
Text: The Golden Gate Pavilion is on Strawberry Hill (named after the wild strawberries which used to grow here), an island in the middle of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. The Pavilion was presented by Taipei, an SF sister city, in 1976. Much of the western part of SF can be seen from the top of the hill. The 110-foot man-made Huntington Falls cascades nearby.
Did not add that I assume that the formal name is “Golden Gate Pavilion” while the common name is “Chinese Pavilion” due to sensitivities over its Taiwanese provenance. San Francisco has 21 sister cities. Also did not add that the top of the hill contains a reservoir that supplies specialized fire hydrants in the City; the fires after the 1906 earthquake caused much more damage than the earthquake itself. Wood frame houses are much more common than brick houses in San Francisco.
15: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Postcard photo: Sailboats in the Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Text: The 2013 America’s Cup yacht races will be held in San Francisco. The boats will be 72 feet long with 11-person crews. Teams from Italy, South Korea, New Zealand, and Sweden will challenge the defending Golden Gate Yacht Club. The Swedish team is based in Alameda for the races. Teens will compete for the Youth America’s Cup in 45 foot boats.
Did not add that the money behind the defending team, Oracle Racing, comes from Larry Ellison’s Oracle fortunes; he relishes competition and flashy toys.
Reference: Wikipedia article on 2013 America’s Cup (and various articles in the Alameda Sun and Alameda Journal reporting on Artemis Racing, the Swedish team).
14: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Postcard photo: Civic Hall with a big Victory Garden in front.
Text: (SF City Hall because it’s Election Day.) This photo shows the Victory Garden planted in the Summer of 2008 to show that food gardens can be beautiful. The crops harvested in September were donated to feed the poor. The first time that the City Hall lawn was replaced with a Victory Garden was in 1943 during WWII. What crops would you grow in a Victory Garden?
Did not add that the gilded City Hall dome is supposedly the 5th largest in the world, and Willie Brown insisted on the gilding (with US$400,000 worth of gold) during the restoration after damage caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Also did not add that Golden Gate Park was planted with Victory Gardens during WWII.
13: Monday, November 5, 2012
Postcard photo: F Market streetcar 1053 on The Embarcadero with 4 Embarcadero Center in the background.
Text: The historic streetcars along The Embarcadero started as an annual Trolley Fair. They were so popular they replaced modern buses in 1995. The cars were originally used in SF, Philadelphia, and Milan (Italy) but now each car is painted in the colors of a former streetcar city. Car 1053 on this card is painted in the colors of Brooklyn, New York.
Did not add that sometimes reviled Vaillancourt Fountain (featuring the statue “Quebec libre!” by Quebecois sculptor Armand Vaillancourt) is hidden by the trees behind the streetcar. [Allan Bernard] “Temko was instrumental in the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway and memorably described the 1971 Armand Vaillancourt Fountain on the Embarcadero as a thing “deposited by a concrete dog with square intestines.”” Also did not add that the F Market route was in part enabled as a temporary substitute for the cable cars during the major overhaul of the cable cars in the mid-80’s. The F Market route starts in the Castro, runs down Market Street, passes the Ferry Building and Pier 39, and ends at Fisherman’s Wharf.
12: Sunday, November 4, 2012
Postcard photo: Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park
Text: It’s Sunday so it’s time to bike, roller blade, and Lindy (swing dance) in Golden Gate Park since the main road (which passes the Conservatory of Flowers and heads up to Stow Lake) is closed to cars. The Conservatory is a big glass and wood greenhouse built in 1878. Some of the plants inside are more than 100 years old. The latest exhibit features a garden railway in a Gold Rush setting.
P.S. How can a greenhouse made of redwood can be white?
Did not add that Daylights Savings time ends today so our picnicking needs to end an hour earlier. The garden railway is G-gauge. That exhibit ends 2013 April 14.
Reference: Wikipedia article on the Conservatory of Flowers. SF Bicycle Coalition. Lindy in the Park. Boomtown: Barbary Coast at the Conservatory of Flowers. Golden Gate Park site.
11: Saturday, November 3, 2012
Postcard photo: Bicyclists on a sunny day on a wide path in front of former Army buildings at Crissy Field
Text: It’s Saturday so it’s a nice day for a bike ride at Crissy Field, part of the park around the Golden Gate Bridge. Originally the area was used as a fishery by the Ohlone people who left behind shell middens (mounds of shells). The Spanish arrived in 1776 and used the area to graze cows. And in 1846 the US Army took over and eventually built the airfield called Crissy Field.
Did not add that it was pretty typical for waves of European settlers to takeover land that was gently used by indigenous tribes (Native Americans) and to degrade that land through progressively harsher uses. Now all that Crissy Field has to contend with is hordes of revelers congregating for special events such as the annual July 4th concert and fireworks show.
Reference: Wikipedia article on Crissy Field
10: Friday, November 2, 2012
Postcard photo: Alcatraz
Text: I felt that an Alcatraz photo is appropriate for Dia de los Muertos – the day when Mexicans remember and pray for friends and family who have passed away. Alcatraz was a prison until 1963. Though the worst criminals were imprisoned here, none successfully escaped (alive). Today it is a park with evening “ghost tours”.
Did not add that Alcatraz was known as “The Rock”. Also did not add that Day of the Dead corresponds to All Souls’ Day.
9: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Postcard photo: Buddha statue in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
Text: I picked this card of the Buddha statue in the Japanese Tea Garden since today is All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween. The statue was cast in bronze in Japan in 1790 and given to the Garden in 1949 by what is now Gump’s, an SF retailer of luxury home furnishings. The gilded, wooden Buddha statue in the Gump’s store is the only item not for sale in the store.
Did not add that (roughly speaking) Buddha is to Buddhism as Jesus Christ is to Christianity, and All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday (i.e. Buddha isn’t one of the saints to which homage is paid on All Saints’ Day). Did not mention that the Garden was conceived and put in place in 1895 by Makoto Hagiwara. His family continued to live in and maintain the Garden until they were relocated to an internment camp in 1942. (Until the internment in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, many of the florists and fruit growers in Northern California were Japanese American. The Rosie the Riveter Homefront Museum in Richmond, CA has a series of photos of abruptly vacated greenhouses falling apart.)
8: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Postcard photo: Steiner Street Victorians with the City skyline in the background
Text: Trick-or-treaters calling on the Painted Ladies of Steiner Street? Good pickings considering that the houses are worth $3 – 4 million. During WWI and WWII many of the Victorians were painted gray with surplus Navy ship paint and many were stripped of their gingerbread trim for easier maintenance. What colors would you paint a Victorian?
Reference: Wikipedia article on Painted ladies.
7: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Postcard photo: Farmers’ Market in front of the Ferry Building – big bunches of five kinds of grapes are in the foreground and three kinds of eggplant are visible in the lower right-center
Text: An ugly double-decker freeway used to cross above whate is now the site of the thrice weekly Farmers’ Market in front of the SF Ferry Building (opened in 1898). The freeway was torn down after it was damaged in 1989 by the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake. My Tuesday and Saturday produce shopping excursions to the Alameda West End Farmers’ Market look like this scene. The Alameda – SF ferry stops at the water side of the Ferry Building.
Did not add that some factions wanted to rebuild the Embarcadero Freeway – what a travesty that would have been.
6: Monday, October 29, 2012
Postcard photo: Cable cars on the Powell-Hyde line (Line 60) passing at the crest of a hill overlooking the waterfront near Ghirardelli Square; Alcatraz is in the background
Text: The San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile National Monument in the world. After the 1906 earthquake, streetcars replaced cable cars on all but the steepest hills. In the late ’40s cheaper buses threatened until the City took full ownership of a scaled down system. Today the cable cars are used mostly by tourists.
Did not add that the investors who benefited from cable cars included Michael Stein (oldest brother of Gertrude Stein) and Leland Stanford. In the early 1980s then-Mayor (now Senator) Dianne Feinstein led the $60 million fundraising effort to completely overhaul the system. The turntables to turn the single-ended cars around at the line terminuses are man-powered. As of August 2011 there have been only two female gripmen: it takes a lot of upper-body strength to operate the grip lever (which grips the cable in the slot in the street under the cable car) and the brake lever (which pushes pads out against the sides of the slot). The Cable Car Museum (and powerhouse) is a great place for the mechanically curious to visit.
Reference: Wikipedia article on the San Francisco cable car system; SF Civic Center neighborhood blog post on how the Stein family funded their salons in Paris in the early 1900’s.
5: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Postcard photo: Mission Dolores
Text: As part of Spain’s colonization of the Pacific Coast, members of the Franciscan Order built a series of missions out of thick adobe brick. In the missions the indigenous (native) people were converted to Catholicism, educated, and taught European farming methods. Mission Dolores (La Mission de Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis) is the oldest surviving structure (built by European settlers) in San Francisco.
Did not add that the Fathers often mistreated the natives and that there remains considerable controversy of the record of Father Junipero Serra and other missionary leaders. Also did not mention that the name Mission Dolores is from the nearby creek named Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (“Our Lady of Sorrows Creek”).
4: Saturday, October 27, 2012
Postcard photo: Contemporary Jewish Museum
Text: Wrote about the unusual architecture of the new part of the building: a tilted black cube with one edge below ground and another wedged into the side of the original building, a converted brick power station. Did not add that this cube should not be confused with the ‘Blue Cube‘ in Santa Clara at Moffett Field.
Reference: Wikipedia article
3: Friday, October 26, 2012
Postcard photo: Fish at the California Academy of Sciences
Text: Wrote about the tradition of eating fish on Fridays. Did not add that when Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in order to marry Anne Boleyn, fish became the “popish flesh” and its consumption plummeted amongst Anglicans. Edward IV, Henry’s son, reinstated fast days (on which consumption of warmblooded animals is not allowed) to support English fisheries. The reference article goes on to note that fasting rules led to the invention of the Filet-O-Fish, and that the Pope’s relaxation of fasting rules in the 1960s led to a sharp decline in fish prices.
Reference: Transcript of 2012 April 12 episode of the NPR show The Salt titled “Lust, Lies And Empire: The Fishy Tale Behind Eating Fish On Fridays”
2: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Postcard photo: North end of the Golden Gate Bridge with Hawk Hill to the left and Fort Baker to the right
1: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Postcard photo: Willie Mays statue in front of AT&T Park, home of the SF Giants