San Francisco History

City's Suburbs

The City's Suburbs.

The improvement in business which has been agreeably present for the past few months manifests itself nowhere so readily as in the suburbs of the city. When times are good the wage-earner can look around for a lot on which to build a home he can call his own. For years there has been no such activity in the line of home-building as there is at present. It has been frequently remarked in the weekly real estate column on this paper how large is the number of building contracts let and how small is the average cost of the buildings contracted for. It is the small houses, the small stores, the two-story flats that are multiplying with the greatest rapidity, and this means that surplus wages are being invested, that the suburbs are being covered with homes, and that the outlying districts are being peopled. In Richmond, in the West Mission, in the Potrero, in Ocean View, there is the greatest activity. The costly houses are for the most part confined to the Western Addition, as the expensive business blocks are to the downtown districts. If in these latter portions of the city the rush of building is not so marked as in the more remote districts, it is still safe to assume that prosperity is general, for when the masses, the employes, are prosperous and contented the employers must be finding business good. That this latter condition obtains is readily proved by the activity of the iron foundries, machine shops, ship and boat builders, as well as the speed with which the area swept by fire last June is being covered with new and substantial buildings.


A Beautiful Residence Section Which is Being Rapidly Improved.

Ashbury Heights, the name given in that part of the city lying south of the Panhandle of the Park and west of Baker street to First avenue is not backward in the procession of progress. The citizens and property-owners there are alive to the needs of their section and have recently organized the Ashbury Heights and Stanyan street Improvement Club, the officers of which are the following well-known tax-payers of that neighborhood: George A. Rankin, President; Fred J. Koster, Vice-President; A. J. Fritz, Secretary; William F. Lange, Treasurer. Executive Committee—George W. Hansbrough, R. T. Harding, A. J. Fritz, J. W. Westover and William Richardson.

The Market-street Railway Company, through violation of its franchises, has caused the citizens of Ashbury Heights a great deal of annoyance. The withdrawal of car service from the route formerly traveled by the Metropolitan Railway, known as the Carl-street line, and the practical abandonment of the Frederick-street line, left the residents without direct means of communication with the business and down-town districts.

On the withdrawal of the cars from the Masonic-avenue and Frederick-street route and the abandonment of the Carl-street line, the citizens of Ashbury Heights concluded that it was time to take the combine to task and a visit was paid to the officials of the corporation. There were three franchises on which no service was being given. The combine, however, still claimed the streets and maintained the tracks as a means of keeping away any rival company which might desire to secure the franchise.

The visit was not productive of results, so the angry citizens decided to band together to fight for their rights. Then the officers of the corporation concluded to yield a point and one car is now being run over the Carl-street line at half-hourly intervals.

The citizens of Ashbury Heights are determined that the company shall live up to its obligations and give a fifteen-minute service which the franchise calls for.

Despite the withdrawal of its car facilities Ashbury Heights is rapidly being built up. Within the past three months no less than forty new dwellings have been erected. Several large tracts have been subdivided into building sites. The old hall grounds, cut up into homestead lots a few months ago, is dotted with substantial homes. The completion of the Clarendon Heights reservoir giving the district adequate water facilities has done much to assist in the development of this district.


Property Owners Ask for the Establishment of Gardens.

Owners of property south of Golden Gate Park are alive to the needs of that section and have organized an association looking to its improvement. Charles W. Pope, President of the South Side Improvement Association, speaks of the present needs and future prospects of that section as follows:

"One of the things most necessary to be done in order to render this section available for residence purposes will be the establishment of street and sewer grades over the whole district, comprising some six hundred blocks. At present (excepting a few blocks in the vicinity of the Ninth avenue entrance to the Park) the district is difficult of access, and will continue on until the Board of Supervisors establish the grades. When this has been done the property-owners will have an opportunity of opening and grading streets, making accessible some of the grandest building sites on the peninsula. At a recent meeting of the association a committee was appointed to wait upon the Board of supervisors in support of a petition (which has already been presented) asking for the appropriation of $10,000 to $12,000, for which amount competent engineers are willing to perform the work of the satisfaction of the city authorities and property owners. This will include the establishment of both street and sewer grades, and in view of the fact that taxes in the neighborhood of $100,000 are paid annually on this property, and the sum of $1300 represent the total amount expended by the city on this district, the property-owners feel that their request ought to be granted.

"As soon as the grades are established it is the intention to grade and macadamize J street its entire length, to the point of connection with the ocean boulevard, and to grade and plant to grass the blocks on either side, to prevent the drifting of the sand. As soon as this is done the San Francisco and San Mateo Railroad Company stands pledged to extend its line out J street to the ocean and thence down Forty eighth avenue to the Ocean House. The Metropolitan Railroad Company had a franchise on this avenue, which, I believe, has lapsed, and C. F. Crocker having informed me that the Market-street company has no intention of building any more extensions in that direction, it is the purpose of our association to assist in the full extent of its influence in securing a franchise on that line for the San Mateo company. We realize that this two-mile run down the ocean front will not only be a convenience, but a pleasure to thousands of people, besides rendering accessible the line of property along the boulevard. There is no doubt that the franchise will in the future be among the most valuable in the city and county. Another great improvement of which we are no well assured is the completion of the ocean boulevard. This will be a boon to the driving public and to the thousands of people who are riding bicycles, as it opens an all round drive through the Park, down the beach and back again by the Ocean House road. The great highway (or boulevard) is 200 feet wide, and according to the statute is bounded on the west by high-water mark. The driveway which is now to be completed is forty feet wide on its eastern edge. This will be watered and kept in condition the same as the Park roads, under the supervision of M. McLaren, the Superintendent of Golden Gate Park. This forty-foot road will be sufficient for our present needs, but  the boulevard of the future will be a far different affair. If San Francisco had half the enterprise and pluck of Chicago the boulevard would by this time have been built its entire length, three miles from the Cliff to the Ocean House road, 200 feet in width, with a bituminized roadway, a double row of trees and grass down the center, the sea wall of stone or cement, capped by a breastwork of marble or work of marble or granite. This would indeed be a thing of beauty and a joy forever for San Francisco, and who knows but what the princely generosity of a Sutro or some other of our citizens of ample wealth may yet make it possible.

"The acceptance by the committee of the magnificent site for the Affliated Colleges, so generously donated by Mayor Sutro, will have an important bearing on the development of that part of the South Side lying between Stanyan street and Seventh avenue. The erection of the college buildings will be immediately followed by the building of the Sutro Library, which will stand for generations as a monument to the memory of that grand old man, who has for so many years devoted so much time and money to the collection of the vast number of volumes which constitutes his beneficent gift to the people of San Francisco.

"This improvement will, of course, be followed by others, and the narrow gap between the Park and Mount Parnassus will soon be put in shape and built upon, and the question of railroad transportation, which is not agitating the people in that part of the city, will be settled. There are but three streets between the Park and the mount by which cars can reach the open country beyond. Of these the Market-street Railway Company has already possession of two, on one of which it has discontinued running its cars during the day time, although its franchise requires them to be run under a headway of fifteen minutes. If this matter were carried into the courts there could be but one result—namely, the forfeiture of the entire franchise of the Metropolitan road. There is, however, a quicker and a better way to settle this matter, and that is for the the Board of Supervisors to grant the franchise on J street for which Mr. Joost has applied. This will take the cars in front of and past the colleges and library buildings to Ninth avenue, and thence to the new race track. The people are unanimously in favor of granting this franchise, and most certainly there will be no position to it, unless it comes from Southern Pacific sources, and as this company (according to the evidence presented to the Railroad Commission) never attempts to control legislation, of course Mr. Joost will get his franchise without any trouble."

The pioneer residence on the south side of Golden Gate Park fronting the ocean beach has been built by Jacob Hoyman for William Gercke.

The Gercke dwelling is a modern two-story, eight-room structure. It fronts on Forty-eighth avenue. The erection of this building is but the first indication of what this section will be in the near future. The view is unsurpassed and the climate mild. The enterprise of Mr. Gercke, the pioneer settler, will be followed by other property-owners, who will be encouraged by his confidence in the future of that section.


A New Line in That District—Busy Mechanics Making Machinery.

Harbor View is well up in the procession of improvements. In a few weeks more a line of electric cars will be in operation almost to the gates of the Fulton Iron Works and to the door of the baths. It will be an extension of the Union-street line, and track-laying will commence as soon as the graders who are leveling off the Fair property fill up Baker street to the official grade. That part of the work is now nearly completed, and the residents of the district expect the advent of the electric cars before the winter rains commence.

The steam railway on Baker street that connects with the Union-street cars will soon be a thing of the past. Baker street will be leveled up to the grade of the Fair property, and while that work is going on the line will be abandoned. It is thought that cable tracks will be laid and the Union-street Railway will run cars direct to Harbor View.

The machine shops of the Fulton Iron Works are working to their full capacity. Much important work is under construction. The most noteworthy is a complete mining plant for the Golden Cross Milling and Mining Company, whose mines are on the edge of the Colorado desert, in the southeastern part of California. . .In another part of the shop is a lot of complicated machinery for the dynamite guns that are being mounted at the Presidio fortifications. . .On the ways of the Fulton Iron Works is a little twin crew streamer that is being built for the Parker Transportation Company . . .A mining plant is also being constructed for the Channel Bend Mining Company. . .Two big engines are being built to supply power for the Sutro Electric Railway. . .A large force of molders is kept busy making castings of bends, elbows and pipes for the Spring Valley Water Company. . .[and a] big compound water power air-compressor for the North Star mine at Grass Valley . . .


Two Suburban Sections Which Are Now Being Rapidly Developed.

At the last meeting of the Fairmount Improvement Club the property-owners of that district received encouraging reports of the success which is attending the efforts of the various committees appointed to look after work which is to be carried on in the vicinity.

Croton avenue is to be graded and sewered and the committee also reported that the sewering and grading of Chenery street from Randall street to the Castro-street addition would also be commenced in a few days.

Baldwin & Hammond, the agents of the Castro-street addition, report that all the streets in that district are to be sewered and graded. It is also the intention of the owners of the land to subdivide it into 25-foot lots. A number of cottages are also to be built in various portions of the tract and sold on the installment plan.

The property-owners have indorsed the application for the San Mateo Electric road for a franchise to build an extension from its main line on Chenery street through the Sunnyside tract to the new race track. The Market-street Railway has secured a similar privilege from the city and will extend its Mission-street line by way of Sunnyside to the race track.

The Fairmount people are hopeful of inducing the Street Light Committee to light the region south of Thirtieth street by electricity. There is yet a total absence of lights and the citizens favor electricity.

A section which has had a remarkable growth is Sunnyside, the name given to that portion of the city lying west of San Jose road and south of the Fairmount tract. Three years ago there were less than a dozen houses in that part of the city, the streets were not graded and sewers were unknown.

The extension of the San Mateo Electric road gave the district its first start. The location of the power and car houses in the neighborhood also helped to bring a larger number of people to the vicinity. There are now several hundred houses in the district, the streets have been improved and Sunnyside is one of most prosperous of the outlying suburbs.

The city officials have been slow to open their eyes to the growth of the city in this direction, and the citizens of Sunnyside are compelled to ask for improvements which should have been granted without the asking. Protection from fire is one of the most urgent necessities of the district. There are absolutely no means for fighting fire there at present. The nearest engine company is located a mile and a half away. The citizens are still compelled to form bucket brigades whenever there is a fire. There is also a demand for alarm boxes. The nearest box is located on the Mission road, about a mile from Sunnyside. Three signal boxes are at least needed.

Another matter which is of considerable interest is the question of securing better school facilities. The children are now compelled to travel to the Fairmount School, a mile and a half away. In winter the trip is especially disagreeable, owing to the bad condition of the roads.

Better street-car accommodations are also needed. The San Mateo electric cars now pass through the district, but the service is not what it should be. Trips are made every twenty minutes, except during the busy hours, when quarter-hourly trips are made. There is a promise of better service, however.


Alamo and Lafayette Square Are Soon to Be Beautified.

Property-owners in the Western Addition have not been idle in doing their share to develop the city.

Many new buildings of a costly and substantial character have been erected within the past few months, and everywhere a spirit of activity is to be observed.

In that portion of the Western Addition lying north of Clay street and west of Fillmore, known as Pacific Heights, there are quite a number of costly residences being built. The land in this section is held at much higher figures than in most other portions of the city, and the improvements are as a consequence much more expensive. Many of the new residences will be surrounded by handsomely laid out grounds. The westerly boundary of Pacific Heights will soon be brought into closer communication with other portions of the city. The Sutter-street Railway will extend the Pacific-avenue street-cable line from Devisadero street west to Walnut street. The intention is also to construct the line still further west, so that the company will have a Park terminus.

The owners of property in the vicinity of Alamo square have been doing considerable toward extending the city westward. A dozen new dwellings of a pretentious and costly character are in course of completion. The citizens of that portion of the Western Addition are spending considerable money in anticipation of the improvements which the city is about to make in Alamo square. The park is a pretty piece of property, and is located on a knoll from which a beautiful view of the entire city may be obtained. The square comprises four blocks, and is bounded by Steiner, Scott, Fulton and Hayes streets. The Supervisors have agreed to complete the improvement of the park this fall. The land was graded and a stone coping built around it nearly three years ago. Owing to the depleted City Treasury the work was not completed. The Alamo-sqaure Improvement Club, which has the matter in charge, has had plans prepared at its own expense, and the Supervisors have agreed to have the work done according to the wishes of the property-owners. E. M. Root is the Chairman of the club, with M. J. Mertens Secretary. Its membership comprises some of the most influential and wealthy citizens of San Francisco.

The opening of the new cross-town electric lines by the Market-street Railway during the past six months has been the means of making two of the streets in the Western Addition centers for retail business. Both Fillmore and Devisadero streets now show considerable life. Property which a short time ago was considered only for residence purposes is now being improved or offered for business purposes. Storekeepers and residents along the line of Devisadero street are agitating for the lighting of that thoroughfare with electricity instead of gas. There is considerable talk of having arc lights placed at each crossing. Both Devisadero and Fillmore streets have been paved with bituminous rock.

The owners of the property in the neighborhood of Lafayette square have been asking for years for an appropriation to reclaim that barren waste. Their request is about to be granted. The Superintendent of Streets has been asked to prepare plans for its reclamation, and within a few months the land will be under cultivation.


Many Street Improvements Are Being Planned—New Buildings Being Erected.

The citizens of Eureka Valley, as the section west of Valencia street and south of Fourteenth is known, are agitating for better streets. The Supervisors have been asked to assist in this work, and have passed an order for the improvement of Corbett road. This thoroughfare is the main outlet from the Mission to the Park and ocean. It is to be widened six feet and paved from Douglass and Seventeenth streets to Ashbury street. The improvement of the streets in Eureka Valley has been delayed, owing to the litigation as to the ownership of a portion of Corbett road, the citizens not being anxious to begin the improvement of these streets until the question of ownership of one of the main arteries was decided. Now the troubles over the rights-of-way have been settled and the work of improvement, which has been held in abeyance, will be pushed forward rapidly.

An effort will also be made to pave Market street from the junction of Valencia and Haight streets to Seventeenth street. A petition will be sent to the Supervisors asking that bids be called for the bituminizing of the street. Some time ago a like request was made. A protest, however, stopped the work for six months. This period will expire within the next ten days, and the people are determined to secure the paving of the street. A request is also to be made for the paving of Seventeenth street form Church to Douglass street. Eighteenth street will also be one of the thoroughfares which will be bituminized.

A modern schoolhouse has recently been built in Eureka Valley at the corner of Nineteenth and Collingwood streets. It is called the Douglass School and is quite an imposing structure.

Better transportation facilities are also wanted. The Market-street Railway Company now gives an eight-minute service on its Castro-street cable line, while the cars of the San Mateo electric road runs on Eighteenth street to the Park and business districts at intervals of ten minutes. The patrons of the companies think that a five-minute service should be given.

There are quite a number of new dwellings being erected on Diamond street, Caselli avenue, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and other streets, and many owners are talking of following the example of their progressive neighbors.


An Increase in Population and Many Improvements in Both Districts.

"The Potrero is not what is used to be," said Engineer Thomas Murphy of Engine Company No. 16 as he sat on the edge of the sidewalk in front of the engine-house door and watched a gang of workmen tearing down a big hill of solid rock a block or two away. "A few years ago, when I was first stationed here, I knew every person in the Potrero. I could tell how many children there were in every family and knew the names of every one of them, even down to the baby. Now it is changed. The Potrero has put on city airs and I don't know whether I am acquainted with my next door neighbor or not. Houses have been built so fast that I have given up trying to keep track of them. There is a roar of machinery all day long and mixed with it is the sound of the carpenter's hammer and the buzz of the Trolley car.

"The Potrero is getting to be a metropolitan place and the Fire Commissioners are recognizing it. They have prepared plans to remodel our headquarters and make it a modern engine-house."

Many of the high and steep hills of the Potrero that a few years ago were almost insurmountable have been carted away and dumped into ravines through which streets have been opened and graded. Handsome rseidences now stand on land that a short while ago was almost worthless. The trolley railways have brought many people to the Potrero to live because they could buy property to better advantage and build a home for themselves, while many of those who were employed in the Potrero but lived in the city took advantage of the improvements that were being made or contemplated and secured lots on which they are now building small, but comfortable homes.

There will be more people coming towards the Potrero when the trolley line on Solano streets that is to connect with the Sixteenth-street line is running. That will mean more houses and more work for house-builders. Cars will be running on that line in a couple of weeks, but before the expected houses will be built Napa street and Minnesota street will be extended, through what are now hills of solid rock.

The rolling mills are working to almost their full capacity at present, and besides turning out a quantity of iron girders and steel beams for many of the buildings that are being erected in the city, they are filling a large order for spikes, bolts and fish-plates for the San Joaquin Valley, and the Corral Hollow railroads as well as trusses and the necessary iron work required in the construction of the bridges along the lines of both railways.

The Union Iron Works is the great hive of industry in the southern part of the city and at present, upwards of 1,200 men are employed there. A number of vessels are at the docks near the works, undergoing alterations and repairs, while several are in the ways, partially built. . .one that is now receiving the most attention at the hands of the workmen is the steel steamer intended to carry crude petroleum in bulk from the Los Angeles and Ventura wells to San Francisco. . .a number of barges [over 17]. . .are to be built entirely of steel. . .work is almost at a standstill on the battleship Oregon.  . .the steamer Corona is at the Union Iron Works. . .alongside the Corona is the steamer Acapulco. . .[and] the collier San Mateo . . . on the dry dock is the bark R. P. Rithet. . .A number of big engines and complicated machines are being constructed in the machine shops. . .

Ocean View is to have a sewer system. That is, if the residents of the district have anything to say in the matter, and a proposition is already on foot looking to the construction of a proper system. Nearly all of the residents in the district are working men who have saved some money and built homes for their families. Many who have just finished building these houses are not in a position to pay their shares for constructing a sewer system and they were rather opposed to the movement. Now the Spring Valley Water Company, in self-protection, has offered to meet the residents of the district more than half way. The natural drainage of Ocean View, Lake View and the new race track district, that lies about between the two places, is to be the basin drained by Lake Merced. Before these districts became so thickly populated there was little or no danger to the water stored in Lake Merced. As the number of houses increased as did the danger to the water supply of the Spring Valley Water Co., and it became necessary for the company to construct a sewer along the edge of the lake to collect all the surface drainage and carry it out into the ocean. That big ditch is nearly completed and although it has been pronounced an efficient barrier to any pollution of the water of the lake the company is not satisfied and believes that if a system of sewers is constructed in the two districts named and are so built that they will have their outlet into the big sewer  the company is just completing, all the drainage matter will then reach the ocean. The Spring Valley Water Company will benefit from the sewers as much as the residents in the two districts and they are willing to pay for it. The company owns over a thousand acres of land that will be drained by the sewer system and proposes that the payment of the cost of the sewer be based on an acreage levy. The water company will pay the same pro-rata on its thousand or more acres that a property holder will on his twenty-foot lot. The result will be that the company will pay the bulk of the cost of the sewer and though the proposition has not been thoroughly canvassed among the residents of the district, those who have discussed it are heartily in its favor.

A petition signed by nearly every resident in the district has been handed to the Spring Valley Water Company asking that water mains be laid in the streets and hydrants so placed that they will afford protection against fire. It is argued that a fire engine and a hose-reel will soon be stationed in the district and the fire company would be handicapped without water.

Chief Sullivan of the Fire Department recently visited Ocean View and said that protection against the fire was a necessity there and his recommendation to the Board of Supervisors has been backed up by Supervisor Hobbs with the result that an engine company is now looked upon as an assured fact. The city owns a lot about half way between Ocean View and Lake View, and it is thought that if an engine was stationed there it would be convenient to both places.

It is understood that the Market-street Railway Company will soon extend its Mission-street tracks as far as Ocean View. The cars now run out as far as the Five-Mile House and the Mission road has been graded and paved the full length of the track. Now it is proposed to bring the cars around to Ocean View, then out towards Lake Merced and in through Lake View and past the new race track, making a wide circuit through a very desirable section of residence property and eventually extending the line over as far as Golden Gate Park. Many people, with the prospect of additional transportation from the city to Ocean View are already looking for sites for homes and there is some activity in real estate along the Mission road and out where the proposed line will run.

Many new buildings are under construction and more are contemplated. George Thistleton is putting up a nine-room residence with all the latest appliances for convenience and comfort.

Max Grace is remodeling his handsome residence, and when completed it will be one of the finest in the district.

W. Forbes, who is at present living at 1131 Pine street, is building two pretty cottages and John Morrison and his family will soon be living in a handsome residence that is now receiving the finishing touches of the builders.

Source: San Francisco Examiner. 9 September 1895. 4.

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