San Francisco Then and Now

Here are some shots from various places around San Francisco. The "Now" photos were taken in August, 2009.



Market and Powell St.

Market Powell

The usual difficulty when attempting to recreate Then and Now photos is that there are generally a bunch of trees in the way now that were not there before. For this shot, it was people. This is a huge line to get on this trolley, and there was a guy who was imitating Michael Jackson so I had to get the shot further to the left than I would have liked. The old photo is from the 1940s or 50s.

Take BART into San Francisco and get off at the Powell station. Up the stairs and there you are. The building to the right (used to be Woolworths) is the Flood building as seen in the next shot.


Flood Building

Flood Building
This is the Flood Building right across Market Street from the Trolley Car turnaround. The first shot is from the 1940s. The building looks just about exactly the same as it did 50 years ago. The rest of the city seems to have had no trees back then.


All that it requires to recreate this shot is to hike up Nob Hill and wait for Trolley Cars.

California and Powell 1950s   California and Powell 2009


It's always amazing how few trees were around San Francisco in the old days. We're so used to seeing them planted all around the neighborhoods but if you went back even 50 years you'd find very few of them. Go back 100 years as in this "Then" photo and you'll see none at all! Well, that might be part of a tree at far right on the "Then"...


CALL BUILDING - 3rd and Market

The old photo below is a classic. A gentleman with top hat is strolling along Market street next to three children (around 1905). For the new photo, we happened to meet a man named Enzo who was with a group, and they agreed to pose for the photo. Enzo, if you'd like to have the names of those who are in the photo, please email me at

Note: The Call Building is one of the few buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire in this area. Some time later, the top was removed and a new section was added to the top.

Call Bldg   Call Bldg


Here we go again with the "No trees in San Francisco in the old days" thing. This shot is taken on Castro St between 18th and 19th looking north. I couldn't get it in the "now" photo due to those trees, but I did find the building with the four bay windows on the right. Castro St. is a street full of shops with great names. For example, the closest sign in the "Now" photo on the right is called "Hand Job". A bar around the corner was called "Moby Dick". Great stuff! I think I enjoyed shooting this photo in the Castro District more than any of the others. A great atmosphere. The then photo is probably late 1800s.

Castro St   Castro

Castro Hand Job

More places ought to have the sense of humor and fun that the Castro District has. Across the street from Hand Job is a place that had maniquins wearing boy scout uniforms and see through underpants.



Arnold Genth most likely took the photo of people standing and staring at the ominous fire making it's way towards them. It's hard to picture the horror of that scene standing at the same spot Genthe stood in today.

Clay Grant   Clay Grant



If you take a stroll up Montgomery today and have a gander up Post Street, you'd have no idea that it looked like it did 103 years ago. Instead you might think "Wow, they closed down the Gap (building on right)".

                        MOntgomery   Post



Dolores Park actually had TREES in the old days! I wonder if people came from miles around to look at them. This was probably the most difficult shot of all to reproduce in San Francisco (aside from the Two Hat photo at the Cliff House). Traffic whizzing by, nothing to line the old shot up with. If you stood more to the right (where I belive the original was taken from) the park is obliterated by the confounded trees!

Dolores Park   Dolores Park




This was a fun photo to reproduce mostly because all the buildings, signs, lamp posts etc, look very close to how they looked over 50 years ago making it easy to line up the tops of buildings just as the photographer did back then.



I like people with character. My photo-taking partner, Marlene, pointed out the Chinese gentleman smoking in the doorway and I started snapping photos. In the second one, the guy is looking at me with something stronger than disdain. Perfect.






Lotta's Fountain was donated to the city by the entertainer Lotta Crabtree in 1875. It is at the connecting point of Geary and Kearney at Market St. The interesting thing is that most people, maybe you included, have never seen it in our San Francisco journeys. I never did. Survivors of the 1906 fire/earthquake, if there are any left, meet here every year at 5:12 a.m. on April 18th. This is due, it is said, to the many people who, after the quake, said "Let's meet at Lotta's Fountain". At least they knew where it was. The old photo was taken in 1904. What's this? No trees back then? Shocking!

Lotta's Fountain   Lotta's Fountain


This photo is non-reproducable of course. Portsmouth Square is too full of stuff to be able to stand back and get a shot like was done in the original. But there is a place where, looking between two buildings, you can get part of Telegraph Hill into the background.

  Portsmouth New


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