Western Neighborhoods Project is dedicated to the history of San Francisco's Richmond, Sunset, OMI and West of Twin Peaks districts.   read more ...

Streetwise: Then and (Closer to) Now in the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
May 2024

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
With more than 50,000 photos currently online for public viewing, OpenSFHistory and the WNP photo archives frequently have the very same scene — but often captured on film many years apart. Here are a few of the more notable images that show just how things have changed over time.

View to the southeast of 28th Avenue and Ortega Street, May 6, 1936 - Photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.

View to the northwest of 28th Avenue and Ortega Street, 1990s - Photo by Jennifer Cheek, Richmond Review Newspaper Collection / Courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review.
The intersection of 28th Avenue and Ortega Street is one of the best representations of exactly how the Sunset District changed after the mid-1930s. In the first photo, taken in 1936, the area shown is all sand and a few plants. Most of the homes in the second image (taken in 1990) were built in the 1940s and 1950s, with many shrubs and trees added to the neighborhood landscape over the years.

View northwest across the intersection of Geary and Arguello to the Larkins Building, May 3, 1912 - Photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.

View northwest across the intersection of Geary and Arguello to the Larkins Building, November 2001.
The Geary Street Park & Ocean Railroad built a brick car barn at 3700 Geary on the northwest corner of Geary and Arguello Boulevard in 1898, replacing an old powerhouse at the site. One later tenant, the Larkins Carriage Company, placed their name over the entrance, and the building is still referred to by that name today, 100+ years later. Over the past 126 years, numerous different businesses have called that corner location "home":

1898—Geary Street Park & Ocean Railroad

1912—Municipal Railway

1916—Sperry Flour Bakery Warehouse

1919—Larkins Carriage Company

1928—Parking Garage

1947—T.F. Ormond Dodge & Plymouth

1955—Brown Buick

1961—Spencer Buick

1972—Nelson Buick

1980—Herrera Buick-Opel

1982—Herrera Buick

2001—Office Max

2018—Office Depot

2020—Office Depot/Satellite Health Care

Read more about this location.


Coliseum Theatre at Clement Street and 9th Avenue, 1920 - The Architect and Engineer Magazine, January 1921.

Former Coliseum Theatre at Clement Street and 9th Avenue, 2002 - Photo by Richard Brandi / Courtesy of Richard Brandi.
The Coliseum Theater opened to great fanfare in 1918 and anchored the corner of 9th Avenue and Clement Street until the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, when it closed. In the early 2000s, it was refurbished to include 14 condominiums and ground floor retail space. Read more about the Coliseum.

Southwest corner of 19th Avenue and Irving Street, 1934 - Photo by Horace Chaffee / Courtesy of Michael Farfan.

Southwest corner of 19th Avenue and Irving Street, 1990s - Richmond Review Newspaper Collection / Courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review.
The two-story building at the southwest corner of 19th Avenue and Irving Street was part of the Irving Street commercial corridor, with apartments located above ground-floor retail businesses, as shown here in 1934. After a long history of selling food and alcohol, the site became a branch of First Republic Bank in 1990. The bank failed in 2023 and the location was shut down later that year after being taken over by Chase.

Monsignor Collins directs a steam shovel for the groundbreaking of the new St. Cecilia's Church, May 31, 1954 - Courtesy of Jo Anne Quinn.

St. Cecilia's Catholic Church, December 2005 - WNP Collection.
St. Cecilia Church, originally on Taraval Street at the time of its founding in 1917, relocated to 17th Avenue between Ulloa and Vicente Streets in 1928. As the neighborhood continued to grow, particularly in the post-World War II years, the 17th Avenue church building was often standing-room only on Sunday mornings. In 1952, Archbishop John Mitty gave his approval for construction of a new and larger church on the sandlot and paved parking area that the parish owned at 17th and Vicente. A fundraising drive began and ground was broken on May 31, 1954. Pastor Monsignor Harold E. Collins emulated San Francisco Mayor "Sunny Jim" Rolph (who regularly took the controls of Muni streetcars at opening day events for new lines), by riding in and operating the steam shovel, shown here at the groundbreaking ceremony. The new structure was completed and dedicated just two years later in May 1956, with vastly increased seating for 1,200 people (plus several hundred more in a "Lower Church"). Want to know more about the history of St. Cecilia? You can buy Frank Dunnigan's book in the WNP online shop.

View easterly across the current intersection of 19th Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard showing construction work on Junipero Serra extension, August 23, 1929 - Photo by Horace Chaffee, SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector.

View east across Junipero Serra Boulevard near 19th Avenue, showing Temple United Methodist Church, 1953 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
In 1929, the intersection of 19th Avenue and Junipero Serra Boulevard was the site of a large residential structure and a billboard aimed at motorists. Since the 1950s, Temple United Methodist Church has operated from the site at 65 Beverly Street. More recently, they have shared space with the OMI Senior Center, operated by Catholic Charities.

22nd & Taraval Market, 1938 - Pacific News, December 1, 1938.

Walgreens at 22nd Avenue and Taraval Street, October 2006 - WNP Collection.
The 22nd & Taraval Market opened as a full-service grocery store and meat market in 1938. The market closed after 50 years of operation and eventually became a popular Walgreen’s location in the 1990s. Read more about the market’s opening.

View northeast across Balboa from 38th Avenue, 1956 - Photo by John Harder / Courtesy of a Private Collector.

View northeast across Balboa from 38th Avenue, July 1968 - Jack Tillmany Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
One of the most photographed areas of Balboa Street has been the 3600 block, home to the Balboa Theatre since 1926. Shown here in 1956 and 1968, it remains a vital neighborhood anchor today.

Coronet Theater on Geary near Arguello, 1968 - Courtesy of Jack Tillmany.

Coronet Theater on Geary near Arguello, 2002 - Photo by Richard Brandi / Courtesy of Richard Brandi.
The Coronet Theatre opened in November 1949 and operated until March 2005 (shown here in 1968 and 2002). It was subsequently replaced with a multi-story senior housing facility. Note the adjacent sign in the 1968 image, reading: “THEATRE PARKING ONLY $1.00.” Read more about the Coronet, with exterior and interior photos, and see the building that replaced the Coronet.

Cedro & Ocean, just inside the Ingleside Terrace gate, circa 1915 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.

Cedro & Ocean, just inside the Ingleside Terrace gate, June 1956 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Construction was underway in this 1915 photo of the Ingleside Terraces development near Ocean Avenue and Cedro, with the small sign at right advertising the number of an available lot. Fifty-one years later, in 1956, the trees in the background have been removed for construction of Aptos Junior High School (now Aptos Middle School) in 1931. The decorative metal arches at the entrances to Ingleside Terraces were removed as part of scrap metal drives in the World War II era.

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