Looking At Your Street In A Different Light

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Glen Park Bridge, May 20th, 1908. (Click for full screen Street View)

Have you ever lived in one place your entire life, and suddenly discover something really new and awesome about it? This is what happened when browsing around my hometown of San Francisco on Historypin. I found this old photograph, pinned by The San Francisco Municipal Transport Archives (SFMTA), of a street in the Glen Park neighborhood that I grew up around.  To me, this street usually means freshly-baked pies from the local bakery, tasty sizzling rice soup from the old Chinese establishment, and burritos from the taqueria. Yes, all food. Some of the best memories are culinary ones, right?

But this was not the street as I knew it; this photo was taken on May 20th, 1908, only two years after the great earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco in 1906. The main feature of the photo are the visible train tracks, something I had no idea existed in this area. Around San Francisco there are few ghostly remnants of this once-popular mode of transportation, particularly around the piers, but it was great to see evidence of this history within a small San Francisco neighborhood.

Diamond Street at Chenery as it looks today.

Though the demand for new streetcars remained high after the 1906 earthquake, it was also an opportunity for the railway’s owners, the San Francisco and San Mateo Railway and United Railroads of San Francisco, to get rid of lines that were mostly unused. One such line was the one in the 1908 photo. This section was particularly dangerous; the steep hill of Chenery Street, located around the corner from where the tracks disappear on the right, was the scene of several runaway cars in the decade leading up to 1906. On the line’s opening day in 1892, 21 people were seriously injured when a car broke loose, and in the following years railcar brakes on this hill frequently failed and killed a number of passengers. It is no wonder that the railway’s owners decided to replace the line soon after the earthquake!

I was so inspired by SFMTA’s photo that I went out and found a great shot from The San Francisco History Center of the same railway and street from a different angle:

Glen Park Trolley on trestle crossing Islais Creek, c. 1890s. From the San Francisco History Center.
Street View: Glen Park trestle, 1890's. (Click for larger view)

The view above is from the current Glen Park Bart Station, a stop on the Bay Area Rapid Transit System that has long since replaced train-travel around San Francisco and beyond. SFMTA’s photo reveals just how much transportation has changed around the city and in my neighborhood, and will give me something to reflect upon when I run bleary-eyed for my train at Glen Park to the center of town.

This is a happy piece of local history that browsing Historypin has helped me to discover. If you have stumbled-upon something new about your neighborhood on Historypin, share it with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+!