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Farms, Fire and Forest:
Adolph Sutro and Development "West of Twin Peaks"

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Copyright © 2003 by Richard Brandi


1. Jean Kortum, The West Side of Twin Peaks, Unpublished manuscript 1994, pp.13-16

2. This is probably the road built by one of the early owners of the Rancho, Pioche, who built it in 1860 or shortly thereafter. This is a natural route winding its way between the hills and ravines. It had many names over the years: San Miguel Road, Mission Pass Road (Hittell 1888), Mission and Ocean Beach Macadamized Road (1872), Corbett-Portola, and Market-Portola. Market Street was finally extended southwest from 17th and Castro in the early 1920s in conjunction with building the east portal of the Twin Peaks tunnel on a curving line following the course of the earlier road. In the late 1950s Portola Drive, from Woodside to St. Francis circle, was widened and dozens of homes were moved to vacant lots. Some ended up in Daly City.

3. Hubbard says the Corbett road was built in 1860 by the Pioche estate and completed by Fitch who made it a toll road in 1872. (Hubbard, Anita Day, Cities within the City, Typescript of San Francisco Bulletin columns at the San Francisco History Archives, Main Library. August to November 1924, pp 63.) Hubbard interviewed old time residents for a series of articles. Hansen says the toll road was built circa 1866. (Gladys Hansen, San Francisco Almanac, 1995 pp. 380.)

4. "Mission and Ocean Beach Macadamized Road," Surveyed by Chas. T. Healey C.E. April 4, 1872; Dames and Moore, San Francisco Department of City Planning Environmental Evaluation Application, December 14, 1987; a landslide threatened former Police Chief Fred Lau's house in 1997, San Francisco Examiner, January 27, 1997, pp. A.

5. A second trail is visible on the USGS map starting at about 19th Street and Church which snaked along the northern slopes of Liberty Hill and Dolores Heights and joined at the intersection of about 24th Street, Elizabeth Streets and Grandview and Corbett (below elevated bridge carrying present day Market Street. This was also the located of the toll house. Kortum pp. 22.

6. Kortum pp 25, various City Directories.

7. Robert E. Stewart, Jr. and Mary Frances Stewart, Adolph Sutro, a Biography, (Howell-North, Berkeley, California, 1962) pp.171

8. Quoted in, The Hills of San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1959, pp 52.

9. Before the land was granted to Noe, it was part of the Mission de Dolores land holdings. According to Brother Cleary of Mission Dolores, there are no records bearing on what was grown or how the rancho was used in Mission times. It seems reasonable to infer that cattle and other animals may have been grazing on the eastern slopes of Twin Peaks.

Jose Noe was granted the original and much larger Rancho San Miguel by the Mexican government in 1845. Noe's rancho was four times the size of Sutro's running east to San Jose Avenue and south to Daly City (see map 2). Noe ran 2,000 head of cattle (Kortum pp.2 ) on his rancho and most likely grazed them on the eastern slopes closer to town and near his house at 22nd Street and Alvarado (Hansen pp. 370) where he grew crops near a "sweet spring" nearby. The rancho exchanged many hands over the years. The eastern part was developed in the 1860s and 1870s and became Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, Fairmont Heights, Glen Park and Sunnyside. (see Mae Silver, Rancho San Miguel, Ord Street Press, 2001. Pp 59-76)

10. Map contained in "Abstract of Title to Part of the Rancho De San Miguel Made August 9, 1880 at the Request of Messrs. Elliot J and Jos. H Moore by E.A. Rouleay," pg. 7, Bancroft Library, Sutro papers, CB 465 Box 34.

11. It's easy to see why he didn't have time to give much thought to the rancho: he was angling for an appointment as a U.S. Senator for Nevada in 1881, buying 250,000 books and pamphlets on his 1882-1884 world tour, building a railroad to the Cliff House in 1884-1886, another year-long trip abroad in 1889, serving as mayor of San Francisco from 1894-1895, etc.

12. Sutro's grandson built a house in 1930 in the Forest but it was demolished in 1974 to make way for the TV tower that bears Sutro's name, San Francisco Chronicle, April 11, 1974, pp. 3, "A Gingerbread Palace Crumbling."

13. California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol XXXII, March 1953, page 234-235.

14. CHSQ, ibid.

15. Hills of San Francisco, ibid, pp 52.

16. Bancroft Library, Sutro papers, CB-465 V 42 Carton 2.

17. Hubbard, ibid, pp 58.

18. Sutro Library, miscellaneous Sutro folders, and Bancroft Library, Sutro papers.

19. Kortum, ibid pp 74. Quote is from an interview Kortum had with Harold Wollenberg, on March 21, 1994. Harold Wollengerg was born June 1906, his father was Charles Wollenberg, Superintendent of the Alms House (Laguna Honda Hospital) from 1907-1943.

20. Bernice Scharlach, Adolph Sutro, in San Francisco Magazine, March 1981, photocopy, no page numbers, in Sutro files at History Room, San Francisco Public Library.

21. Gilliam, ibid, pp 84.

22. San Francisco Chronicle, October 9, 1899, pp 10.

23. Bancroft Library, Sutro papers, C-B 465, box 42, v3, page 43.

24. San Francisco Chronicle, October 9, 1899, pp 10.

25. Bancroft Library, Sutro papers, C-B 465, box 42, v3, page 46.

26. Kortum, ibid, pp 77.

27. San Francisco Call, March 19, 1909, pp. 5/1.

28. San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 1934, pp. 15 and Scharlach, ibid.

29. Hills of San Francisco, ibid, pp 53.

30. Harold Gilliam, The Natural History of San Francisco, 1966, pp 85.

31. "Progress Destroying Sutro Forest," San Francisco Call Bulletin, January 24, 1958, photocopy in San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

32. "The 58-acre open space reserve on the UCSF campus is gradually being altered as the eucalyptus reach the end of their normal life span and the density of vegetation on the hillside prevents the growth of new trees. Without action to restore the site, the dead and decaying trees increasingly will become a safety hazard to hikers and the site will continue to be overtaken by ivy, blackberry and other invasive species. The campus is studying several options for managing and restoring the site, ranging from maintenance and reforestation with eucalyptus to restoration with native California species," (October 2002 UCSF website).

34. Hutchings' California Magazine, Vol. III, June 1855, No 12, pp. 534.

35. Herman Burfiend, age 25, opened a potato ranch opposite the Alms House in 1860, and his family lived there for the next 50 years. Burfiend added a dairy in 1888 and sold milk to the Alms House. His sons George, Henry, and Dietrich worked on the farm and dairy while his daughter Annie worked as a cook at the Alms House in 1895. The Alms House furnished the dairy with water at $15 a month and, in turn, received payment in milk. Kortum ibid, pp. 25; various City Directories; Municipal Reports, 1894-1895, pg 787.

Other farmers were the Jennings brothers, Patrick and Peter, who "had a place on the hill, on the Sutro property." They first appeared in City Directories in 1870 as farmers living 1/2 mile from the Alms House. Ranching must have grown too hard as they aged. In 1892, at age 55, Peter was hired by Sutro to plant trees at $1.75/day. Kortum, ibid, pp 25.
"Pay Roll of the San Miguel Ranch, Tree Planting, March 4, 1892," Sutro Library. Misc, folders.

36. Dino Cinel, From Italy to San Francisco, (Stanford University Press, 1982), pp. 214

37. Deanna Paoli Gumina, The Italians of San Francisco 1850-1930, (The Center for Migration Studies of New York, 1978) pp. 99.

38. September 23, 1898 (page 79, C-B 465 Box 42 v.1 Bancroft Library) and Baldwin, ibid.

39. Gumina, pp.101.

40. Gumina, pp. 101-107. The Market moved after the 1906 earthquake and fire to Washington and Front Streets between Davis and Drumm. By the 1950s the produce market and related businesses covered 51 acres of prime real estate. It befell the same fate as the Paris marketplace, les Halles, about the same time and for the same reason, they were thought to be bottlenecks to traffic. The San Francisco Produce market was razed in early 1960s to build the Redevelopment Agency's Golden Gateway Project. A new produce exchange was built near Islais Creek in 1963. Peter Booth Wiley, National Trust Guide San Francisco, John Wiley and Sons, 2000, pp 84.

41. Kortum, ibid, pp 76.

42. Various City Directories.

43. The author's ancestors were members of the Colombo Market and they owned a vegetable farm in Visitation Valley from 1883-1929. The author's cousin, Ed Armanino, who was born on the ranch in 1910, related to the author in 1997 the difficulties of ranch life and how his uncles regretted returning to the ranch after serving in World War One.

44. Marsha Fontes, The History of West Portal, 1978, unpublished paper, an interview with Albert Fustini, nephew of John Merlo.

Merlo's ranch was next to a creek that cut a ravine along present day Wawona, behind the Ardenwood Christian Science into Sigmund Stern Grove and ending in Pine Lake. (Sanborn map 1913) This ravine was filled in with 250,000 cubic yards from excavating the Twin Peaks tunnel in 1914-1917. Sinkholes occasionally appear on Wawona according to a neighbor on the 200 block of Wawona, to the author September 2002.

45. Argonaut, March 7, 1898, pp. 2-3.

46. "In the Matter of the Estate of Adolph Sutro, Deceased" in Report of the Attorney General, undated, circa 1904, pp 10-11, in Sutro folder, History Room, San Francisco Public Library; San Francisco Call, June 25, 1909, pp 1.

47. San Francisco Call, May 6, 1898, pp. 14; July 28, 1898, pp. 12.

48. "Executrix of Will of Sutro and Report of Management of Estate", Feb 1, 1900 to Feb 10, 1904, pp 55, Bancroft Library, G-B Box 42, v.3.

49. Ibid.

50. September 23, 1898 (page 7, C-B 465 Box 42 v.1 Bancroft Library)

51. Wiley, ibid, pp. 381

52. The City's first planned neighborhood, South Park in 1855, was followed by Presidio Terrace in 1898 (on former vegetable gardens) by Baldwin and Howell who later developed Westwood Park. Mark Daniels laid out Sea Cliff in 1904. Wiley, ibid, pp 279.

53. Mark A. Wilson, "Mason-McDuffie and the Creation of St. Francis Wood", The Argonaut, Journal of the San Francisco Historical Society, Fall 1997.

54. "Address to the Board of Supervisors, January 17, 1895," pp 11, Sutro folder, History Room, San Francisco Public Library.

55. Sutro's name lives on in schools, ruins, mountains and even a TV tower, but the name of his ranch, "San Miguel", has all but disappeared. The UCSF student housing complex in Sutro Forest on Clarendon is named after it, and a two-block street in the Ocean View district, on the western edge of the old rancho, bears the name San Miguel. The street is near the site of the San Miguel Station, a stop on the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad (later Southern Pacific) that ran along the Interstate 280 and BART right-of-way.

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