California Studies Association

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TOURS: San Francisco Museum and Historical Society Summer Programs


From the SF Museum and Historical Society Newsletter. See the website for more information here or click the banner above. Please find below monthly featured programs at the society as well as a full prgram of architectural and historical walking tours.–ed.

July Program: Sutro Baths and Museum and Playland-At-The-Beach
Tuesday, July 8, 2008 7:30 PM

Kanbar Hall
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California Street at Presidio Avenue

What fun it all was – those halcyon days when Playland and Sutro Baths were the mecca of entertainment for San Franciscans as they flocked to the western edge of the City to swim and enjoy the rides. Playland was three city blocks of fun and games, including roller coasters, a 64-horse carousel, a fun house dominated by the infamous Laffing Sal, and the famous Camera Obscura, now at the Cliff House. It was here that the unique San Francisco treat, the It’s It Ice Cream Sandwich, was first introduced. Playland closed in 1972 and a housing development now occupies the site along the Great Highway.

Nearby this historic beachfront, financier Adolph Sutro, populist San Francisco mayor from 1894 to 1896, opened his famous Baths in 1896. It was the world’s largest indoor swimming pool extravaganza with seven different fresh and salt water pools. He also created a museum and filled it with antiquities from his world travels.

Sutro Baths burned down in 1966 and the ruins are still visible today.

The site is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. John Martini, National Park Ranger and historian, and John Freeman, historian and Richmond District resident, will tell the story of both sites through words and pictures of the time the western edge of San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean was truly our Disneyland.

Please join us before the program for a 7:00 PM reception.

In conjunction with this month’s program, National Park Service Docent Tom Bratton will lead a tour of the Sutro Baths ruins on Saturday, July 12, at 2:00 P.M. Please see the walks section for details.

There will be no program in August.

September Program: The Celluloid Era: Early Filmmaking in San Francisco
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 7:30 PM

Kanbar Hall
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California Street at Presidio Avenue

Programs are free to current SFMHS members. A $5 donation is requested from non-members, which may be applied toward membership.

Stephen Salmons, founder of The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, will talk about the early years of filmmaking and show clips of the early films produced in the San Francisco Bay Area, when this area was one of the focal points of the fledgling industry.

Niles Canyon, on the outskirts of Fremont, was home to an established film company that boosted the early careers of Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler. One film company alone made 315 films in Niles Canyon between 1912 and 1916.

San Francisco, with its magnificent views, was also the site of numerous movies.

Salmons, along with Melissa Chittick, created the Silent Film Festival to educate the public about silent film as an art form, and a cultural and historical record of life in the early 20th century. This non-profit organization was founded in 1992 and points with pride to the growth of its annual festival.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs July 11 through 13 at the Castro Theater with a series of silent films accompanied by music. Festival tickets and a schedule can be found at

Historical and Architectural Walking Tours

SFMHS Walking Tours are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. Tours last an average of two hours and may involve some hills. Please be considerate of your fellow guests and leave pets and younger children at home.

Barbary Coast Trail Walks are held rain or shine.

Civic Center’s Grand Design
Saturday, July 5, 2 – 4:30 PM

The Early Film Industry and the Business of Government
with Monika Trobits

This walk starts in front of the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, appropriately enough since this area was once a host to a variety of movie palaces and the fledging days of the film industry. Long more than just a center for government-oriented business, Civic Center also offers a variety of architectural styles. Monika will talk about the City Beautiful movement and the various architects who applied it to Civic Center, the remnants of the movie theaters that once lined Market Street and the many city halls that San Francisco has had. The tour ends at Fox Plaza, former site of the Fox Theatre.

Sutro Baths
Saturday, July 12, 2 – 3:30 PM
with Tom Bratton

Meet at the Sutro Baths ruins, Point Lobos Avenue, just east of the Cliff House.

In conjunction with our monthly speakers’ series, National Park Service Docent Tom Bratton will lead a tour of Sutro Baths. Tom, whose father was engineer and general manager of the Sutro Baths from 1934 until 1956, knew almost every inch of the old building because he played there in his youth. He also worked during high school years as a locker boy at the baths, as well as DJ and skate renter at the ice rink.

The walk will cover uneven ground, so walkers are urged to wear appropriate shoes and dress in layers, since the weather could be cold and foggy or windy. Parking is available in the lot across the road from the baths site. Muni bus #18 stops right in front of the site.

Nob Hill Walking Tour
Saturday, July 19, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

A Hill with More History than Any Other
with Harlan Hirschfeld

Meet on the corner of California and Powell by the green cable car booth. Harlan will talk about the men who built the Iron Horse and show you their homes. Many other stories include those about Flood, Fair, Hearst and the cable cars. You will hear a Da Vinci Code trivia story, tour Grace Cathedral and see a copy of the doors that Michelangelo said, “are worthy enough to be the gates to paradise.” The tour ends with a walk through the Fairmont Hotel and stories of its colorful history. This flat walk is about two hours and ends about where it began.

Mission Dolores
Saturday, July 19, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Father Serra, Graves and Vigilantes
with Lesley Walsh

Meet Lesley at 16th and Dolores Streets on the Mission steps. Learn about the history of Mission San Francisco de Asis (nicknamed Mission Dolores), completed in 1791. Hear descriptions of Indian and Missionary life on the desolate northern end of today’s Peninsula. We will visit the mission museum, the 20th century parish church next door, and the oldest remaining cemetery, with graves of Indians, Spanish, Mexicans and Gold Rush immigrants. Learn how 19th century settlers built the Mission District, and why the old Mission survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. The tour is approximately one to one and a half hours.

Barbary Coast Trail Walking Tour – Part 3
Saturday, August 16, 10:00 AM – 12 Noon

Hipsters, Paseani and Semaphore Hill
with Jeanne Beaudet

The area largely known today as North Beach was an actual beach, its shoreline at what is today Taylor and Francisco Streets. Filled in with soil years ago, it became home to Italian immigrants, and, in the 1950s, the free spirited Beats, all of whom left their imprint. Meet Daniel in front of two San Francisco icons on Columbus Avenue near Broadway-the Vesuvio Cafe and City Lights Bookstore — and explore the vibrant artistic and cultural traditions of North Beach. Visit Washington Square in the heart of North Beach, the nearby Italian bakery that still makes bread by hand, and at Coit Tower, visit the historic Depression-era murals that picture San Francisco’s tumultuous past.

Russian Hill Walking Tour
Saturday, August 23, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

A Hill Where They Looked Down on the Rest of the City
with Harlan Hirschfeld

Meet Harlan on the corner of Hyde and Filbert. Why is this area called Russian Hill? What did David Letterman do on the Hill? Hear about the Purple Cow and what kind of house is good for your sexual vigor. Learn about cloud scrapers and skyscrapers. See where Willis Polk lived, hear about the Mormon connection and much more. This two-hour walk has some hills and steps, and ends within two blocks from the starting point.

High On The Haight
Saturday, September 6, 2 – 4:30 PM

Upper Haight Transitions
with Monika Trobits

The Haight-Ashbury experienced a cycle of growth and rebirth during the 20th century and continues to offer a fascinating variety of Victorian-era architectural styles. Monika explains how this historic neighborhood originated and transitioned and will discuss how and why, by the 1960s, this area had become a mecca for the hippies and the counterculture. This tour begins in front of 231 Frederick Street (between Ashbury and Downey Streets), winds through the Haight-Ashbury, ending at Stanyan and Haight.

Barbary Coast Trail Walking Tour – Part 4
Saturday, September 20, 10:00 AM – 12 Noon

Stevedores, Feluccas, and Windjammers
with Jeanne Beaudet

Meet Jeanne at the intersection of The Embarcadero and Kearny Street on the bay side of The Embarcadero. This tour highlights San Francisco’s maritime history and explores the waterfront from the days of sail to the era of the longshoremen. Meet Jeanne at the intersection of The Embarcadero and Kearny Street on the bay side of The Embarcadero. Jeanne begins at the Great Seawall, San Francisco’s largest public works project, and follows the waterfront to Fisherman’s Wharf, past two WWII vessels and the Hyde Street Pier. The tour ends at the Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park.

Financial District Walking Tour
Saturday, September 27, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Big Money and Tall Towers
with Jerry Dodson

Meet former SFMHS President Jerry Dodson in front of the Ferry Building for a 2 1/2-hour tour of the Financial District that will give participants both an understanding of the architecture of the area and of the financial history of San Francisco. The tour includes a visit to the 16th floor of the Steuart Tower at One Market for one of the best views of the City and the waterfront. The tour ends at Market and Montgomery Streets.

Members-only Tours of the Old Mint

SFMHS members will have the unique opportunity to get a look inside the Old Mint. SFMHS staff will discuss the history of the building, the plans for the facility, and show you the progress we have made so far.

Tours will begin on the Mint Plaza on the northeast side of the Mint Building.

* Thursday, July 10, 2008, 12 Noon
* Saturday, August 9, 2008, 10 AM
* Thursday, September 11, 2008, 12 Noon
* Thursday, October 11, 2008, 10 AM

These tours are for current SFMHS members only (each may bring one guest) and are limited to 50 participants. To verify your membership status or reserve a space, send an email to, or call 415-537-1105 ext. 106.

Tour of Muir Woods
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Time to be announced

Join SFMHS on a tour of Muir Woods. Chartered buses will depart from the main parking lot in the Presidio, at Lincoln Boulevard and Montgomery Street, for a tour of Muir Woods with a stop in Sausalito on the return trip. Cost of the trip, including park entry, is $30 per person.

You may purchase tickets online here. Or, download a printable order form here.

Save The Date for Standing Ovations 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008

For years, the San Francisco Sound has permeated the national scene. It was in San Francisco that so many legendary bands got their start. Here, musicians, recording studios, and fans have fed a vibrant musical scene that included jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and bluegrass.

Legendary venues like the Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, and the Avalon Ballroom were home turf for so many musicians who went on to national acclaim. From the ’40s to the present, this City has produced an array of excellent, highly acclaimed musicians and entertainment.

The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society will salute their musical and creative talents with Standing Ovations 2008, Honoring San Francisco’s Musical Past, Present and Future on Saturday, November 15 at the Old Mint, an event that will fill this historic building with music, entertainment, fine wines, and fine food.

Further information about honorees and tickets will be available later this summer.


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