Secret Histories Map of San Francisco

I made this Secret Histories Map of San Francisco for the San Francisco Arts Commission for an exhibition that ran last summer (2009). If you're in Los Angeles you can see it at the Japanese American National Museum till the 24th of January (2010). I got a bunch of emails about it from people who saw the Map there and wanted me to explain why I made it and what it's about.

Marci and I and a bunch of other friends were asked by the San Francisco Arts Commission to make work around the theme of "Trace Elements". The idea around "Trace Elements" or what I took from it was how people don't know about the history of things that they might pass by on the street, or how things got to where they were at and how things might have been forgotten (yeah, like Frodo and the Ring, only not). So I thought I'd make a Secret Map of San Francisco. Pretty much like anyone who's lived or lived near San Francisco there's little bits of history you learn about that can easily be placed on a map. Like walking pass Alamo Square you see folks taking photos of the "Full House" Houses, or if you're near Dolores Park you'll notice the golden fire hydrant that saved the San Francisco.

I've drawn out maps of the City for the past few years so when the idea came to me it was actually a pretty easy project cause I've already done it so many times before, just not to this scale (3 ft x 3 ft). This actually is my 4th version of drawing out a map of San Francisco. San Francisco is really easy to draw out in map-form cause it's only 7x7 miles, and although it has a few hills you can pretty much section it off by the freeway and a few of it's major streets: Market, Third Street, Mission Street, Geary Boulevard, Divasidero, and 19th Avenue.

This is a print I made of an illustrated map of San Francisco with my characters in it. There aren't very many real markers except a few of my favorite 7-11s and few SF landmarks. You might notice I just put the whole Mission District in a cloud. Yeah. I took the easy way out.

View San Francisco Secret Histories Map in a larger map
For this project I created and marked out a map using Google Maps. Originally so I could map out long gone cemeteries off of, but then to mark out new things as I was researching., by the way, as of this writing is now down (August 2009), but i used a lot of the guy's notes in my Google Map for the cemeteries (all the area that is colored in was land that used to be part of a cemetery) so his work and research still lives online. The rest of my researching wasn't really all that in depth; I got into a San Francisco History Podcast called Sparkletack and listened to all their episodes. I took notes and then went to my Google Map to mark things down and take notes. I did all my researching of things to draw from online and never went to a library. Google street view was really helpful, too, cause there are certain things that weren't photographed and I didn't really have time to trek around the City to take photos. The Google Map I created is pretty rich with detail, cause I also took the time to update everything with photographs I found online.

The map was my project for the Month of April. It took about five weeks to research, draw out, and paint. It's the most time I have ever put into a project, and that includes zines, and certain solo exhibitions. I've been meaning to scan it and then redraw it so I could have a print to sell or maybe make a zine out of it but I've just never got around to it. It's just a lot of work, and I have a few other projects I want to work on.

The weird bird is a phoenix, the symbol of San Francisco. They put the Phoenix on the city flag in 1900, cause the phoenix symbolized San Francisco rising up from the ashes of the Earthquakes and fires of the mid-19th century (San Francisco's been through about 4 or 5 major earthquakes). Then a few years later the Great Earthquake of 1906 happened and it was kind of a fucked up joke. The north half of Dolores Park used to be a Jewish cemetery. I had to use Google Street view to find the location of the Golden Fire Hydrant. Every year on the anniversary of the fire, all the survivors of the 1906 Earthquake gather there and the oldest survivor gets to paint it gold. I think they've thinned down a little, but it was a nice tradition for a while. If you want to know more then you should follow this link.

The Golden Fire Hydrant that Saved San Francisco. Every year the local fire department paints this gold on the anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake.

In this section you will also find Seals Stadium. The Seals (AAA baseball team) used to play where the Safeway complex on Potrero Hill now sits. Before the Giants moved out west, San Francisco had the Seals. Joe Dimaggio used to play for them and Lefty O'Doul used to manage them. I used to walk by this Safeway about 4 times a week for several years, so it's weird thinking that's where people went to go see a game.

The 49ers used to play at Kezar Stadium before they moved out to Candlestick in early 1970s. It always amazed me that they played there, but then I found out that new stadium that seats about 10,000 was built after they destroyed the old one that sat 50,000. Yeah. Sports. No one cares.

17 Reasons Why Sign. When I came to San Francisco the signed got shortened to "17 Reasons". It got taken down in the early 2000s and now a billboard sits there.

Of Note:
1. Lone Mountain Cemeteries- Pretty much where USF sits now is where there used to be the cemeteries of Lone Mountain. As San Francisco grew they passed city ordinances to remove the cemeteries. The bodies were dug up and re-interred in Colma and other parts of San Mateo County.

2. San Francisco Columbarium. The Columbarium still exists, but it doesn't look like that anymore. It used to be part of the Odd Fellow's Cemetery. It's now kind of enclosed, but you can still visit it. I used to take the 38 Geary and would notice it's dome and wonder what it was.

3. Buena Vista Park- If you walk around the park you can see the broken tombstones were used as filler for cement. When they were exhuming bodies a lot of it was pretty haphazard. I marked off the former cemeteries in my map with bone borders, and if you're ever in that part of town you might notice some of the streets are laid out as if they were in a cemetery.

Another strange thing I noticed was how close Jim Jone's People's Temple was to the "Full House" House, but yeah. it really doesn't mean anything, it's just kind of weird.

I drew the ghosts coming in from the direction of Colma for all the spirits who might have been upset for their bodies to be removed from their original grave sites. Yerba Buena was San Francisco's original name, they changed it in 1847, which was two years before the Gold Rush. There's a funny story involving Benicia, and Yerba Buena changing it's name but yeah. This is already a pretty long post.

Before everything got sub-urbanized the western half of San Francisco used to be all sand and was referred to as the "Outside Lands". There are stories of people getting lost walking back from Ocean Beach at night and then getting consumed by giant sand dunes. They made Golden Gate Park to see if they could reclaim the land with grass and vegetation and when that was proven successful, people began moving west of Divisadero.

Of Note:
1. The Japanese Tea Garden is (possibly) where the fortune cookie was invented.

2. There's Bison in the Golden Gate Park. It's kind of sad.

3. Lincoln Golf Course near the Presidio and across the way from the Legion of Fine Arts, is on top of about 10,000-20,000 unmarked graves. Sometimes after the rain a casket or two might pop out. Once they found an open casket with a dude holding a tin box with his heart in it, and another dude buried with a third arm. If you want more stories like this go here.

4. I mapped out the general area of Carville. Carville was a place where people converted abandoned street cars into homes.

5. The abandoned Marine Hospital has about 900 bodies buried in unmarked graves.

6. Playland at the Beach. It's no longer there, but it's the birthplace of the It's-It, San Francisco's most famous ice cream treat (that no one knows about outside of San Francisco).

Of Note:
1. 201 Green Street is where Philo T. Farnsworth invented the television.

2. Russian Hill got it's name during the Gold Rush era, cause they found a bunch of Russian graves at the top of it. They were the graves of Russian Sailors who were interred there in 1848 cause they were of Eastern Orthodox faith and so no church wanted their bodies.

3. Crocker's Spite Fence is no longer around (Earthquake & Fire of 1906) but if you closely you can see pieces of the wall around Grace Cathedral.

4. The Second Street Cut through Rincon Hill. Before the Cable Car all the rich folks in the City lived on Rincon Hill. Then some dude decided to make it easier for horse drawn carriages to go down Second Street by petitioning to carve up the street. It didn't work out so well, cause it made it really easy for robbers to get the drop on people, and some houses fell off into the street. It turned one of the nicest street in San Francisco into a pit, and then the technology for the cable car was invented and rich moved up to Nob Hill.

5. Starr King- "The Orator who Saved the Nation".

6. Near UN Plaza, City Hall and the Main Library there used to be Yerba Buena Cemetery where about 5,000-9,000 bodies were supposed to be exhumed. Only 2,000 were accounted for. When they were constructing the new library they were still finding bodies. If you ever been there, you kind of get the feeling the place has some bad mojo.

7. My favorite 7-11 in San Francisco is on 711 Market Street. Oh, in the map is all the 7-11s in San Francisco.

The dead Tiger is for the incident at the San Francisco Zoo. Just to let you know, the San Francisco Zoo is probably the most depressing zoo I've been, too. But then there's the LA Zoo.

Other Notable Items:

Camera Obscura. $3 to get in.

The Cliff House before the fire.

Woodward Gardens was the first Amusement Park of San Francisco (1866-1891). It was located where the 101 exits onto Mission and 13th Street. You could like get your photo with a tiger. It was actually like an exploratory museum than a amusement park, cause they had gardens, art, an aquarium, and four museums (so like, uh, Golden Gate Park).

Call Building. This is the Call Building on fire during the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake. The Call Building is still around, they decided not to recap it, so it's not really that grand of a building anymore. Uh, When Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), lived in the City he used to work for the San Francisco Call. The Call got consumed by the Examiner in 1965.

After making this map it's kind of crazy to realize how much the City has burned and has then been rebuilt. Pretty much most of the streets have stayed the same, but a lot of really nice architecture has been lost. Like the Palace Hotel has burned and been rebuilt 3 times. The first time they rebuilt it they made it pretty grand, and the 2nd time around they made it pretty awesome, but not as awesome as the time before cause another earthquake was bound to happen. Also trying to locate photos of old buildings to locations was a little hard, like the City Hall, cause they decided to rebuild it in the same area around Civic Center but at a different location. San Francisco has only been around for 162 years (if you don't count the Ohlone and the Spanish), which isn't that long, but really rich with a lot of pretty awesome history.

Aug 2013 - Just a little update.
If you're in San Francisco you can see this map up close at the Exploratorium in their map exhibit.

Yes. I made two spelling mistakes. I misspelled Dolores Park and Cesar Chavez Blvd, which is the reason why I probably won't make of this image into a print anytime soon.