Incomplete paint job is both awkward and incomplete. Above are before-and-after shots of two piano company adverts on the side of 1020 Market Street. Built in 1908, the building recently underwent it’s third graffiti/ghost sign abatement paint job, completely obscuring the C.G. Horn Pianos sign. However, this most recent (and most opaque) paint job frames the Pianos for Rent sign in a really lovely way. If you’re going to paint a third of a building in garish brick orange you might as well kern it to the ghost sign.
Also, I’m very curious about those triangular windows – they don’t exactly match the time period and/or architecture of this building.
Polk by Geary by Van Ness by Cedar
Eventually this will become medical offices; part of a greater hospital complex for the Polk Gulch/Cathedral Hill neighborhood. For unlike other parts of the Tenderloin, there’s a purposefulness behind this stretch of seven blighted storefronts. The buildings wait, dreaming of wrecking balls and the grandiose plans of developers. Patient, quiet dreams obscured behind layers of plywood and the drab, mismatched tones of graffiti abatement paint.
Which is exactly why I love this doomed little block.
As shot from Minna
While I hate to see old buildings go, part of me loves the jack-o-lantern smile of blocks in transition; especially when they lead to new ghost sign reveals. For instance, shown above is a picture I took in November 2011 of the Albain Hotel at 948 Mission Street.
The building dates from 1907 and has two clearly visible signs, one for a small rooming hotel and the other for a safe manufacturer.
Furnished Rooms ___ ____ $2.00 Up
Last month I was fortunate enough take a special tour of Grace Cathedral’s catwalks. I’m absolutely terrified of heights but as this tour isn’t normally offered to the public I had to accept. WOW… Designed in 1928 and completed in 1964, the cathedral was built in the French Gothic style which means it’s all about grandiose heights and soaring columns and cloud-brushing spires. I managed to complete the tour with no fewer than two minor panic attacks which is actually impressive, all things considered. Despite shooting with a broken flash and a finicky light meter I managed to capture a few highlights from the tour.
I love this sign.
It’s decay and it’s color contrast and it’s geometry and it’s everything.
But looking at it closely; doesn’t that octagonal frame seem awfully fancy for a one hour photo shop? And the two arched frames to either side; those were definitely custom, right? So where did they come from?
In general, I’m not a fan of stencil art. I find it aesthetically beautiful but technically and conceptually dull. However, I’m not so snobbish that I can’t fall in love with random examples of the genre. A great example of a stencil piece I LOVE is this site specific installation on 16th Street between Hubbell and 7th. The mirroring of the tile work, the purposeful framing, the reclaiming of disused space – I tip my hat to whomever made this piece. Despite it’s roughness it’s quite clever – I’m a sucker for clever.
Looking at it, I wanted to know more about the tile work it mirrored. Was it part of a now-demolished building? Was it someone else’s playful intervention in the space? What exactly did that now-demolished building look like? Was it someplace important or interesting or beautiful? So off to the internet I went. And then suddenly – map hole.
I noticed this last week – an incongruous bit of brickwork from a construction site on Hyde Street. I meant to come back and take a photo but never did; until I saw this article on SF Gate. Turns out this minor street-side landscaping project exposed hundred year-old brickwork from San Francisco’s pre-earthquake City Hall. Huge, elaborate, expensive, and fatally flawed – the building took close to twenty five years to build and would collapse in mere seconds. By 1909 the ruins were gone, by 1915 the current City Hall had been constructed two blocks away, and by 1933 the Federal Building was constructed atop the old location.
Makes me wonder what other secrets are hidden beneath the pavement…
After a spur of the moment trip to Burning Man I’ve restarted my photographic explorations of the city. Seems my prophesy in Temporary Ghost Advertising Zone was correct – they did replace the billboard and cover up the old Coca Cola sign underneath. See you again in five to seven years old friend.
1018 Mission Street
1018 Mission Street at Sixth Street; a five story SRO dating to 1911 and currently operating under the name Kean Hotel. Clear Channel recently removed a vandalized, weathered, and unused billboard from the building’s western wall temporarily revealing the long-hidden Coca Cola sign underneath. Will this sign remain visible for long? I’m guessing not. The billboard re/deinstallers never removed their scaffolding/platforms so I assume they intend to return and finish the job – and by “finish” I mean install a bigger and better billboard. Either that or they really, really wants someone to climb onto it and tag over the ghost sign.
This is actually one of two Coca Cola ghost signs on 1018 Mission Street. The other sign can be seen on the eastern wall facing towards 6th street. Both appear to be of a similar vintage. And what is that vintage? Well, they both feature the iconic “contour bottle” which was adopted in 1916 so they’re definitely no older than that (remember, the building is from 1911). However, it seems that until the mid-30′s a significant portion of Coca Cola’s advertising involved their soda served in a glass with the contour bottle gaining visual dominance somewhere in the late 30′s to late 40′s. So, if I had to make a vague, grasping, quasi-educated guess, I would put these ghost signs at the late 30′s through the late 40′s. Any Coca Cola experts care to further pinpoint the date?
1018 Mission before removal of the billboards. Photo circa December 2011.
The other weekend I went to Sunday Streets in the Bayview district. I have a soft spot for the Bayview; probably because it reminds me of my own neighborhood in Oakland. There’s a symmetry between the two – in the sagging Victorians and the underused industrial spaces, in the treeless sidewalks and the pitted streets and the patina of socio-economic neglect. There’s also a certain quiet stoicism to both neighborhoods. A feeling that the streets are patiently biding their time; waiting, disinterestedly, for their potential futures to manifest.
Or not. Underprivileged and overexploited light industrial/mixed use neighborhoods will always exist. The name may change but there will always be a “Bayveiw”.
I came away from Sunday Streets having found two random spots that spoke to me. Generally I don’t photograph people and I don’t photograph Big Important Buildings. I’m drawn instead to small details and tiny tensions and stories that trail off without…………… Both these sites fit that criteria; although in my opinion the photographs themselves fall a bit short artistically. Continue reading