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Heritage 50: San Francisco’s Legacy Businesses


Threats to local institutions underscored the need to develop new strategies for protecting places with intangible cultural significance. “Legacy Bars and Restaurants,” Heritage’s a groundbreaking initiative from 2013 that invited users to experience the history of some of San Francisco’s most legendary eateries, watering holes, dives and haunts, was the first step in documenting the city’s vast commercial heritage and promoting businesses that did not necessarily qualify for formal historic designation. This program directly inspired the creation of the city’s now existing Legacy Business Registry program, administered by the Office of Small Business.

Recently, Heritage engaged filmmaker and native San Franciscan Joey Yee to create a special video segment on legacy businesses for our 2021 Soirée. Joey’s now popular videos “cut through the fog” to cover his favorite San Francisco things – big trees, bridges, city landmark show-downs, you name it. Here, Joey visits some of the city’s most beloved legacy spots — from Buena Vista Cafe to Green Apple Books and Beep’s Burgers — and shares Heritage’s history of advocating and protecting these special places.

Legacy businesses, like all small businesses in the city, have suffered greatly from the pandemic. While we continue to advocate and lobby for prioritization of aid and relief to these institutions holding the city’s intangible heritage, we encourage everyone to patronize them as the city recovers.

Heritage 50: City Designates Dogpatch Historic District


Designating Landmarks and Landmark Districts in San Francisco are an effective and proactive way of safeguarding important places from demolition, destruction, and displacement. On April 18, 2003, then Mayor Willie Brown signed an ordinance designating the Dogpatch Historic District, San Francisco’s 11th landmark district. It was the first city designation of a district since the Civic Center district in 1994, and extended Article 10 protections to 104 historic resources within an approximately nine block area bounded by Mariposa Street to the north, Minnesota Street to the west, Tubbs Street to the south and 3rd Street to the east (Article 10 of the Planning Code is the basic law governing historic preservation in the City and County of San Francisco.).

Map of Dogpatch Historic District

Map of the Dogpatch Historic District. A historic district is a collection of resources (buildings, structures, sites or objects) that are historically, architecturally and/or culturally significant. As an ensemble, resources in an historic district are worthy of protection because of what they collectively tell us about the past.

The period of significance for the Dogpatch Historic District dates from 1867, the opening of Long Bridge (connecting Potrero Point to the city) and the beginning of construction in the neighborhood, to 1945, the end of World War II. No other district of San Francisco or California was industrialized to the degree of Potrero Point during the last quarter of the 19th century, which includes the area that now comprises the Dogpatch. The shipyards and other maritime-related industries of Potrero Point required a steady supply of inexpensive immigrant labor in an area that was geographically cut off from the rest of the city. Local developers and landholders, including Santa Fe Land Improvement Company, responded to this need by constructing rows of inexpensive cottages and selling individual parcels to laborers and their families, allowing the neighborhood to develop as an informal company town.
View east from Potrero Hill to Union Iron Works and Irish Hill with 20th Street running along right side, circa 1890. (OpenSFHistory/wnp27.6387). Almost three-quarters of heads of households in Dogpatch worked for one of the district’s large employers: Union Iron Works/Bethlehem Steel, the Western Sugar Refinery, the California Wine Warehouse, Tubbs Cordage Company, and San Francisco Gas and Electric Company. It was a unique working class neighborhood of immigrants, first from Ireland, Scotland and England, but with successive waves of Italians, Scandinavians, Mexicans, Dust Bowl migrants and African Americans.

The core of Dogpatch has the oldest and most intact concentration of industrial workers’ housing in San Francisco, most of which were constructed between 1870 and 1930. It became the nucleus of the Potrero District that would evolve after the 1906 earthquake. Residences reflect architectural styles that were prevalent throughout the country, including Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Italianate, Eastlake and Classical Revival styles. The district has several clusters, and pairs of identical dwellings, including a group of thirteen identical Eastlake-style cottages based on the plans of San Francisco architect John Cotter Pelton, Jr.

A row of identical Pelton cottages on the 900-block of Minnesota Street, included as contributory buildings to the Historic District.

Grammar school at 1060 Tennessee Street, built in 1895 and named for Irving M. Scott, head of nearby Union Iron Works, served working class children of Dogpatch. It is the city’s oldest surviving public school building and City Landmark #138.

Recognition of the Dogpatch Historic District capped a five-year effort initiated by Christopher VerPlanck, a member of the Heritage staff at the time, working with residents of the neighborhood (including the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association)  who were committed to preserving the district’s historic qualities in the face of increasing development pressure. Together with Heritage staff, VerPlanck surveyed the entire neighborhood to identify potentially historic examples of Victorian and Edwardian-era workers’ housing, and researched the construction and operational history of the early industrial and maritime businesses in the Central Waterfront area, with the resulting documentation was used by the Planning Department to designate the Dogpatch Historic District. Future new construction and alterations to contributory structures will have to follow design guidelines specified in the ordinance to ensure compatibility with the district’s historic architectural character.

San Francisco has designated three additional Article 10 Historic Districts since the Dogpatch Historic District: The Duboce Park Landmark District (July 2013), the Clyde and Crooks Warehouse Historic District (November 2018), and the Market Street Masonry District (June 2019).


Dogpatch Historic District Ordinance and information.

“Dogpatch Survey Nears Completion,” Heritage News, Jan/Feb 2000, page 8.

“City Designates Dogpatch District,” Heritage News, May/June 2003, Vol.XXXI, page 4.

Lincoln Park Landmarking Moves Forward


Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on the Land Use and Transportation Committee (Dean Preston, top left; Aaron Peskin, bottom left; Myrna Melgar, bottom middle) with Supervisor Connie Chan (top right) and Gordon Mar (bottom right).

We are pleased that yesterday, the Board of Supervisor’s Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously voted to initiate landmark designation for Lincoln Park, formerly known as City Cemetery. We thank Supervisor Connie Chan for sponsoring this initiation, the San Francisco Planning Department staff, local researchers, and organizations such as APIAHiP, Angel Island Immigration Station, Western Neighborhoods Project, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Chinatown Community Development Center, and the dozens of individuals who wrote and called in (in English and Chinese) to voice their support for this designation.

Contrary to concerns expressed by some who use the Lincoln Park Golf Course, landmark designation should not affect the maintenance or golfing in any way.

Outside of the two remaining physical structures in the park, the Kong Chow funerary monument and Ladies’ Seaman’s Friend Society monument, nothing commemorates the estimated 20,000 individuals still buried beneath Lincoln Park. Landmarking is the first step in recognizing City Cemetery, where diverse communities of immigrants who built San Francisco still lie.

The Kong Chow funerary monument in Lincoln Park. Photo by John Martini.

In public comments, Mary Ann Ahtye, great-great-granddaughter of Yee Ah Tye, talked about the land her ancestor originally purchased for burials in the Chinese community: “This land is sacred, hallowed ground, as no one knows how many Chinese and other members of ethnic communities are buried here.” Robert Wong, from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association echoed this sentiment: “[Lincoln Park] is Chinese American heritage here in America…this was the beginning of Chinese Americans.”

The most significant piece of Lincoln Park are the thousands of bodies still remaining underground.

In closing out the agenda item, Supervisor Connie Chan reinforced the importance of commemorating the significant history of Lincoln Park and City Cemetery: “We need to know where we’ve been to know where we’re going.”

On the heels of this positive recommendation from Land Use, the Board of Supervisors will vote today (July 27) on initiating landmark designation. The Planning Department will have 180 days after Mayor London Breed approves initiation to prepare the landmark nomination for review by the Historic Preservation Commission. Heritage has offered to assist Planning with research and writing of the nomination as it moves along the process.


Heritage 50: Desiree Aranda on Landmarking the Great Cloud of Witnesses


Exterior of Ingleside Presbyterian Church.
The Great Cloud of Witnesses inside Ingleside Presbyterian Church.

San Francisco Heritage is celebrating its 50th anniversary all through 2021. Each week we will share a short chapter of our history.

Desiree Aranda

For our #Heritage50 lookbacks, we are connecting with former staff and asking them to share their thoughts on favorite projects during their time at Heritage. This week, we hear from Desiree Aranda (formerly Desiree Smith), Heritage’s Preservation Project Manager from 2011-2016 and current Co-Chair of Latinos in Heritage Conservation (LHC).

Through the Landmark Fund, in 2016 Heritage designated the Ingleside United Presbyterian Church (1345 Ocean Avenue) and its spectacular interior collage, The Great Cloud of Witnesses, as San Francisco city landmarks. Reverend Roland Gordon started work on the sprawling mural collage in 1980 when he tacked an image of Muhammad Ali to the gymnasium wall in an effort to inspire African American youth, who made up much of his congregation. The collage has expanded over time into most rooms and hallways of the church, incorporating images of African American leaders, heroes, and artists that Rev. Gordon collected and/or donated by visitors and community members. The result is an unparalleled visual documentation of over three decades of African American history.

Desiree shared her experience working with Heritage on the landmarking effort:

I have such fond memories working on the landmark designation of Ingleside Presbyterian Church and its interior mural collage, Great Cloud of Witnesses by Reverend Roland Gordon. I still remember the first time I walked into the church’s gymnasium and looked up at the massive, awe-inspiring mural collage created of newspaper clippings and other ephemera that honor the experiences and contributions of African Americans from around the world. I still have never seen anything like it and I think it is a real treasure in the city that hopefully more people will learn about now that it is a city landmark.

Reverend Roland Gordon stands beside the Great Cloud of Witnesses.

Today, Desiree continues her efforts focusing on preservation advocacy in culturally diverse and underrepresented communities. In 2014, she co-founded Latinos in Heritage Conservation (LHC), a leading organization for the preservation of Latina/o places, stories, and cultural heritage in the United States. In Summer 2021 LHC will launch the Abuelas Project, a multi-year preservation initiative to collect, curate, and amplify stories about places that matter to Latinx communities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Keep up to date on LHC’s work by subscribing to La Herencia, their quarterly e-newsletter: https://www.latinoheritage.us/newsletter