Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at the first public reading
of "Howl" at 3119 Fillmore St.

It all happened on Fillmore Street

After the Earthquake

When the Earthquake and Fire of 1906 destroyed most of San Francisco, the Fillmore was untouched and for several months afterwards served as the commercial and political center of the city.

One of the groups displaced by the 1906 Fire, San Francisco's large Japanese-American community, made its new home in the Fillmore. Ninety years later, it's still here, in spite of the illegal mass internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

Lincoln Beachey, the aviation pioneer and best known celebrity in America before World War I, used to ride his bicycle down the Fillmore Hill as a child and died at the foot of it when his plane crashed into the Bay during a demonstration flight at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915.

When "Boss" Ruef, the mayor, the chief of police, and the 18 members of the board of supervisors were arrested on political corruption charges in 1907, Ruef was jailed in a private home on Fillmore Street. It was there, at the request of his dying mother, that he finally confessed to the details of one of the most incredible tales of municipal government corruption in American history (until the current administration that is.)

In 1924, film director Eric von Stroheim, released one of the great classics of the silent film era "Greed" which was shot on Fillmore Street.

In 1925, after spending 20 years in quiet practice in San Francisco, Japanese monk Nyogen Senzaki (1876-1958) opened an apartment-zendo on Bush Street in Japantown. This was the first regular instruction in Zen offered to western students. Senzaki and his Fillmore district zendo were a seminal force in the transmission of the practice of Zen Buddhism to the West.

As the city rebuilt and moved back downtown, Fillmore became San Francisco's recreation capital. Through Prohibition, the Depression, World War II, straight through to the rock 'n roll era of the 60's and 70's, the Fillmore was consistently one of the city's main entertainment centers.

Young people who had their lives formed on Fillmore Street include: violinists Yehudi Menduhin (1043 Steiner) and Issac Stern, poet Maya Angelou, and comedian Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd et. al. (born at 2614 Bush Steet)

After the War

During the 40's, 50's, and 60's the Fillmore was one of the world's leading jazz centers and the largest black neighborhood in the city. At its height the Fillmore was the third largest commercial district in San Francisco.

In the 60's and 70's, rock 'n roll ruled and three of the world's most famous rock venues, the Matrix (50K), the Fillmore (62K), and Winterland were located either on or very near Fillmore Street.

"The Last Waltz," a film by Martin Scorsese featuring the Band, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and Neil Young was filmed at Winterland the year before it was torn down. Jimi Hendrix recorded "Live at Winterland" in the former ice skating rink in October, 1968.

In addition to jazz and rock and roll, Fillmore Street also figures prominently in the history of American poetry. On October 13, 1955, at "6 Gallery" at 3119 Fillmore Street, Allen Ginsburg read, for the first time in public, his poem "Howl." Other poets reading that night included Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen. This event has since been called "the night of the birth of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance."

Lenny Bruce gave his final performance on Fillmore Street at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium.

Jim Jones' People's Temple, a huge force in San Francisco politics, was located on Geary Street, next to the Fillmore Auditorium.

"Redevelopment", a failed plan to turn the Fillmore into a high rent district, dealt the district a serious blow. Thanks to a group of creative retailers and restaurateurs, the Upper Fillmore, which was least touched by the wrecking ball, has become one of the city's best shopping districts, but the area south of Geary is still struggling to recover from the damage inflicted on it by the oddly named San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Here's the latest on the city's treatment of this community.

Towards the 21st Century

Pianist and amateur historian Peter Mintun, a Fillmore resident has documented some of the changes that have taken place in the district and produced a compendeum of the businesses that have come and gone over the years.

During the 80's and 90's, the Fillmore, was an incubator for several companies which played an important pioneering role in the development of practical uses of both multimedia technology and the Internet.

Web site by Ken McCarthy


© Amacord, 2001. All Rights Reserved.