California Authors


Classic San Francisco

(From Ocean Beach to Mission Bay)

by Frank Dunnigan, History Press

Book Review by Craig MacDonald

The Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company Building became San Francisco's tallest structure, when it was completed in 1925. It remained the highest office tower in the city until 1964. (In the 1980s, I loved working in the 26-story icon.)

There's an unbelievable 1926 aerial photo, showing it spectacularly, standing out above the city & bay in Historian Frank Dunnigan's book. "At the time, many more Financial District skyscrapers, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, existed only in the minds of architects & engineers," the author writes.

The beauty at 140 New Montgomery Street has survived changing times. Today, the famed & renovated art deco masterpiece still houses workers from Yelp & other businesses.

Change—for good or bad—is a constant in San Francisco and everywhere. Readers will enjoy the local author's intimate, nostalgic & sociological look at one of the most famous & visited cities on Earth.

He looks at how the population changes (or doesn't—between 1930-40, it was flat); the effect of World War II on manufacturing, shipping & military efforts, causing a population boom; how the rise of the Internet impacted business; why some corporate headquarters left; and how BART (which started transporting people in 1972) & new high rise office buildings, condos (1980-90) actually brought some folks back.

The author takes you for a walk through different districts & cultures, even explaining the importance of Outdoor Dining (which popped up on sidewalks), Street Fairs and Movie Houses, that were huge hits before TV.

You'll peek at The Fox, a $5 million architectural extravaganza, with 4,650 seats, at 1350 Market St. Opening in 1929, it lasted until 1963, before plummeting ticket sales and rising land values led to bulldozers knocking down the gem.

"Fortunately, a lot of older buildings have been saved by designers, who adopt them to new uses," the author writes. He talks about education facilities (including the one my grandfather attended, The California School of Mechanical Arts); hospitals, banks, churches, hotels (like the still luxurious Palace) and the Tadich Grill (first opened in 1849 & is the oldest continuously run restaurant in the state).

For sport's fans, you'll love seeing & reading about Seals Stadium—home to the newly arrived San Francisco Giants in 1958. It eventually became a shopping center, where Office Depot thankfully & thoughtfully placed a "Blue X" in their store on the exact spot where home plate once stood."

Some of the other sporting spots examined are Kezar Stadium & Candlestick Park—location of the final public concert of The Beatles on Aug. 29, 1966. The Giants' new stadium, Pacific Bell Park, opened in 2000 & would win awards as the most beautiful baseball stadium. But its sponsorship name changed several times in less than 20 years—from PacBell to SBC, then AT&T and now Oracle.

The author pays tribute to "Memories of the Past," like the still popular Coit Tower (completed in 1933 as a tribute to volunteer firefighters); Maye's Oyser House, Lefty O'Douls, & the Emporium Department Store (that lasted 99 years). And, he shows future transportation plans for BART; the Golden State Warriors new Chase Center, and how neighborhoods are changing.

If you love San Francisco or love reading & witnessing (through photos) Urban Change, this book's for you.

(Editor's Note: The reviewer will always remember, as a young kid, staying up all night, peering out his aunt's Telegraph Hill apartment window, in amazement at the ships going under the Bay Bridge & the twinkling, magical lights of this City by the Bay.)

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