Wednesday, May 9, 2007

FOOTPRINTS Campaign Underway!

This 1904 map (courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library) shows Third Street was once called Railroad Avenue.

Did you see the exhibit - Bayview's Historical Footprints - at our branch library?!

The Quesada Gardens Initiative is so very proud of our friends and collaborative partners at the Bayview Hunters Point History Preservation Project who have mounted an important exhibit showcasing some of the rapidly disappearing history of this amazing neighborhood. Congratulations Linda, Tom and Larry!

"Footprints" is not just the name of this important exhibit. It's also a collaboration of Bayview Hunters Point organizations determined to tell a balanced story about the neighborhood’s history and current strengths while empowering residents, especially young ones, to claim their place in this changing community.

You can find Footprints on this website by clicking on the FOOTPRINTS link under highlights to the right. But before you do, we want to share a little of the narrative to the library exhibit hoping it will entice you to see it in person!

The Early Years

Has the main drag that runs through the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood always been called “Third Street?” Older residents will know the answer to that question, and many will remember when Third was called “Railroad Avenue” and, before that, “Hunters Point Boulevard.”

It’s not just the name that has changed.

At the turn of the century, the road was little more than a broad wagon trail, clay or mud depending on the season. It was graded in 1917 in a surge of investment following the 1916 flood that crept up the road from Innes Avenue. Until being discontinued in the 1950’s, Southern Pacific rail cars steamed along a rugged waterfront that was still wild between clumps of one- and two-story wooden commercial building. The train ran from Townsend and King Streets, criss-crossing what is now Third and running passengers directly through the neighborhood.

Whatever you call it, Third Street has always been a major artery for San Francisco.

Until the mid-1900’s, the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood was critical to San Francisco as the City’s food-shed: its pastures were filled with livestock and family farms, residents almost always had a backyard garden (if not cows and chickens) to supply their own tables, and Chinese fishermen and others actively harvested the bay. The docks included a thriving open-air market that many residents still remember as the best place to buy shrimp. “Truck farms” used Third Street to transport the wealth of food to San Francisco’s wholesale market.

Light industry speckled the area, including a concentration of breweries servicing the still untamed City. Lucky Lager Brewery, one of the best known, was also the last brewery in the neighborhood to be torn down or go out-of-business. After the U.S. Civil War, the Hunters Point Drydocks began keeping trade afloat, and in 1916 built what was then the largest drydock in the world. The military, already ensconced in the Presidio, took notice and began negotiations to acquire the commercial facility.

As food and beer trucked north on Third, new residents traveled south to take up residence in the growing neighborhood. Working class immigrants - Chinese, Italian, Maltese, Irish and German – gravitated to the area because it was less expensive and reminded them of the rural areas they came from. The work was hard, but life was in many ways idyllic given the bay-front beauty of the land and the determination of the diverse populations to build a cohesive, peaceful community....