Category Archives: San Francisco

Alcatraz Island

The Alcatraz Cruises Ferry
The Alcatraz Cruises Ferry

The Alcatraz Cruises Ferry is the only way to get to the island.  It is a private company under contract to the National Park Service.  The Hornblower hybrid ferry is a catamaran that operates on solar, wind and diesel power.

When planning your trip, keep in mind that the ferry service can sell out weeks in advance.

Alcatraz Island

1850 – President Millard Fillmore declares Alcatraz a military reservation.  Permanent troops begin occupancy in 1859.

1861 – Alcatraz is designated a military prison.

1933 – The army leaves Alcatraz, transferring prisoners to both Fort Leavenworth and Fort Jay, except for thirty-two who were transferred to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

1934 – 1963 – Alcatraz is operated as a prison for kidnappers, racketeers and those guilty of predatory crimes.  Robert Kennedy orders the prison closed to to deteriorating structures and the high cost of housing inmates.

1969 – 1971 – the now abandoned Alcatraz Island is occupied by eighty-nine Native Americans, calling themselves Indians of All Tribes.  This occupation was forcefully ended by government officials.

1972 – Alcatraz becomes a national recreation area.

1986 – Alcatraz Island is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Alcatraz Sign
United States Penitentiary at Alcatraz
A cell inside Alcatraz Prison
A cell inside Alcatraz Prison
Interior at Alcatraz Prison
Interior at Alcatraz Prison
Administration Building, Alcatraz Prison
Administration Building, Alcatraz Prison
Warning sign on your approach to Alcatraz
Warning on your approach to Alcatraz
San Francisco, as seen from Alcatraz Island
San Francisco, as seen from Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island current falls under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service.  There is no charge for admission.  Food service is not available.

San Francisco Signs

San Francisco has an enormous amount of signs, some operational, some not.  I’m not referring to the endless flat signs of modern stores, but historic signs.  Some are neon, some painted, many restored.  Signs where the business no longer exists, signs where the business seems to have been there forever.

John's Grill, San Francisco
John’s Grill, San Francisco

John’s Grill is located on Ellis Street in San Francisco.  Famous patrons include many heavyweight actors and politicians.  Operating since 1908, it was the setting for Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon”.

From John’s Grill website”

SAM SPADE’S LAMB CHOPS 36.95
Served with baked potato and sliced tomatoes

“Sam Spade went to John’s Grill, asked the waiter to hurry his order of chops, baked potato, sliced tomatoes… and was smoking a cigarette with his coffee when…”
– The Maltese Falcon

Club 65 San Francisco
Club 65 San Francisco

Now closed, it was a dive bar located on Taylor Street.

Julie's Supper Club
Julie’s Supper Club

Now closed, Julie’s Supper Club and Lounge was located on Folsom Street.  The link leads to the remnants of their abandoned website.

Original Joe's
Original Joe’s, Taylor Street, San Francisco

Original Joe’s has been in business since 1937.  This picture was taken on Taylor Street,  with a painted sign above and a neon hanging sign in front of the building.  I’m not sure if this exists now, but Original Joe’s is located on Union Street near Washington Square Park.

Marquard's Little Cigar Store
Marquard’s Little Cigar Store, San Francisco

The sign wraps around the corner of Powell & O’Farrell, but the little cigar store is no more.  The building dates from 1907, and I quite like the New York Times logo.  Marguard’s went out of business in 2005.  The city declared the sign a landmark.

San Francisco Provident Loan Association
San Francisco Provident Loan Association

Still in business, this company began as the San Francisco Remedial Loan Association in 1912.  They are still in operation in the same building on Mission Street.

These and other photos of San Francisco were taken on a six day trip that I took back in 2010.  Some might be gone now, as the businesses have folded since I was there.  Others will be preserved into the future for their historic significance.

San Francisco Hotel Signs

San Francisco has done a wonderful job preserving heritage signs.

Many of the hotels shown below no longer take bookings, or are even hotels.  At least one is an active hostel, and many now fall under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.

Columbia Hotel San Francisco
Columbia Hotel
San Francisco

The Columbia Hotel now operates as the Orange Village Hostel.  Short term and long term stays are available.

Ambassador Hotel San Francisco
Ambassador Hotel
San Francisco

The Ambassador Hotel was built in 1911, on the location of the Tivoli Opera House which was destroyed in the 1908 earthquake and fire.  It was used as an informal aids hospice during the 1980’s and was renovated in 2003.  It is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and is currently part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.

Hotel Potter, San Francisco
Hotel Potter, San Francisco

The Hotel Potter, on Mission Street, also part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.

Hotel Senator, San Francisco
Hotel Senator, San Francisco

Part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource, a well maintained building with a beautiful original sign.  The exterior fire escape is a nice touch.

Seneca Hotel, San Francisco
Seneca Hotel, San Francisco
Hartland Hotel, San Francisco
Hartland Hotel, San Francisco

All except one of these hotels is available to the public for booking.  These are used by homeless resource agencies in the city of San Francisco.  The hotels are referred to as SRO’s – single room occupancy.  The signs, most of which have been restored, are called blade signs.

Much like Vancouver, Canada, the city has done a great job of preserving the heritage of their signage, both in neon form and painted.  Here in Toronto, there’s not much to find in the old sign department.  Sam the Record Man’s sign was to be preserved and installed by Ryerson University, but they failed to live up to their agreement.

Last I heard the sign will be installed somewhere on a building overlooking Yonge/Dundas Square downtown, across from The Eaton Centre.