1905 video: San Fran streetcar ride

Market Street to the Ferry Building

One year later, April 18

Growing up in San Francisco, I took the streetcar down Market Street hundreds of times. I loved the hustle and bustle, the non-stop parade of worker bees, shoppers, tourists, loiterers, and always vehicles zipping in and out of traffic, enlessly rushing around in a hurry.

To see such a long stretch of uniterrupted footage of everyday life from a century ago in a place I know so well is a strange pleasure. The camera moves...(click "read more") steadily through a busy downtown of solid buildings, scrambling pedestrians, horse carriages, bicycles and autos towards the tower of the Ferry Building on the Bay.

Slowly rolling through the strangely familiar territory of my childhood gives me the chills. It's nostalgic in an odd way (since I was born many decades later). All are dead, the buildings gone the next year in the quake and fire of '06, and the vehicles and patterns of movement of the people only a distant echo.

That Ferry Building was the busiest passenger terminal on the West Coast, later it was obscured by freeways until the '89 quake, and now it houses precious upscale boutique eateries and a farmers market. Market Street and the Ferry Building survive, and vintage streetcars still travel this and other routes, thanks to city-booster types. San Francisco is lucky, and I was lucky to grow up there.

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At 2:32 PM, May 24, 2006, Anonymous Colleen said...

That is AMAZING. I've never seen anything like it and I grew up in the Bay Area. And I thought people drove like maniacs now! I bet there were a whole lot of traffic deaths. I felt pretty bad for the horses, though.

At 3:07 PM, May 24, 2006, Blogger Ozyman said...

I was surprised as well at the speeds of vehicles and pedestrians and the level of hustle. Maybe we haven't sped up as much as is thought.

I bet the accident rate was incredibly high, as it is today in places like this http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2519892298681325903

At 11:13 AM, December 04, 2008, Blogger Via said...

Autos were still very uncommon in 1905:

"a careful tracking of automobile traffic shows that almost all of the autos
seen circle around the camera/cable car many times (one ten times). This traffic
was apparently staged by the producer to give Market Street the appearance of a
prosperous modern boulevard with many automobiles. In fact, in 1905 the automobile
was still something of a novelty in S.F. ..."

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGZPYuqSBt4 -- a much less watchable version of this video, but it gives this info.

I've shown this video to many people, old and young, who grew up in S.F. and who know it well. It never fails to elicit happiness.


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