Look Back to the Upper Fillmore

- by Peter Mintun
Draft of April 13, 1993

When I walk up and down Fillmore, California or Pine Street where I have lived since 1975 I often wonder "What was here before?" Was there always a donut shop on the corner? Was D & M Liquors really there since 1935 as their sign says? Is there anything original about Original Broemmel's Pharmacy ?
Fillmore St. looking south from Bush;
December 31,1935.
How it looked 29 years later...

Having a natural fascination with history, I decided to research this in the San Francisco Public Library at Larkin Street and McAllister. I had originally wanted to trace businesses up and down far stretches of Fillmore Street,but quickly learned that many blocks don't contain any vestige of their original buildings. This is especially obvious in the the "re-development" area between Geary and Sutter Streets. This photo shows this very block as it looked on the last day of the year 1935 (click on the photo to see the same shot in January 1964). Therefore, I could not find street numbers that corresponded from the past to the present. But I did make a list of over 225 addresses on Fillmore, California and one on Washington Street (Pauli's Café), which I cross-referenced by decade. I was amused to find dozens of business names that disappeared only a few years ago, and some businesses, such as dry cleaners, which have outlasted all types of other services.

For example, let's take the 1600 block of Fillmore between Geary and Post (now the entrance to the parking lot under the Kabuki Theatre); the following businesses existed there in 1953:

1600 - Big Glass Tavern
1601 - Owl Drug Co.
1606 - Bay Liquor Co.
1607 - Kaufman's Shoe Store
1608 - Thom McAnn
1612 - Hotel Annex
1616 - Alf D. Schas men's clothing
1618 - Milani Bros. fish & poultry
1623 - F. W. Woolworth
1624 - Fillmore Quality Market 1633 - National Dollar Store
1637 - Diller's Women's clothing
1641 - Marian Merchandise Co., women's clothing
1642 - Granville's Jewelers, Yamaguchi Optometrist
1644 - Deb's Department Store
1655 - Kirby Shoe Store (The terrazzo entrance remains there today)
1659 - Mode O'Day Frock Shop
1614 - Snowdrift Do-Nut Shop
1661 - The Time Shop
1669 - L & L Drug Co.
1690 - Victory Market, produce
1692 - Bert's Club Aloha Tavern
1694 - Honest John's Cigar Store
1698 - Gallenkamp's Shoe Store

Here's what places were in business on Fillmore Street, north of Post, in 1953:

1700 - Bank of America
1701 - Post-Fillmore Cigar & Liquor Store
1704 - Dave's Liquors
1705 - Murray Stationers
1709 - Hollywood Smart Hats
1714 - American Market
1715 - Louie's Haberdashery
1716 - American Market
1718 - Havana Club Liquors
1719 - Lerch's Hardware & Homeware
1724 - Fillmore Merchant & Improvement
1725 - Fillmore Loan Office
1726 - Michael's Liquors & Delicatessen
1728 - Chipper's Barber Shop
1729 - Singer Sewing Machine
1730 - Super Saver
1731 - SchimmeI's Fillmore Flower Shop
1734 - Fillmore Social Club
1738 - San Antonio Hotel
1739 - King Solomon Masonic Hall
1740 - Trader's Grocery
1745 - TempleTheatre
1752 - Marguerite Shop
1754 - Crystal Fruit Market
1757 - G. Gand Danish Pastries
1758 - Marchetti's Liquor Store
1761 - Popular Dry Goods
1763 - Richard's Cigar Co.

In the1980s, the entire east side of Fillmore Street north of Sutter was replaced by a huge apartment building (The Amelia) and store complex. Back in 1953, here's what was on the 1800 block:

1800 - Sutter-Fillmore Drug Co. (NE corner)
1801 - The Encore
1809 - Byington Electric Co.
1803 - Levin's Flower Shop
1812 - Fillmore Television Center
1818 - 3 Apartments
1819 - King's Hot Dogs
1821 - Success Publ. Co., T.W.
Washington Realty Co. branch office
1823 - Holland's Health Service
1824 - Sunlight Market
1832 - M & K Outlet Home Wear
1833 - Reinert & Riley Home Furnishings
1834 - Palm Hotel
1836 - Hotel Texas
1842 - Carrie's Barber Shop, Royal Paint & Wallpaper Co.
1843 - Palace Chop Suey Café
1846 - Carrie's Barber Shop #2
1850 - John's Liquors
1854 - Hedani Tokuji Optometrist
1862 - Lee's Uptown Grill
1899 - New Fillinore Service Station (Now Walgreen's Drug)

Note: The only two buildings that remain in the 1800 block today are numbers 1833 and 1843.

The structures on Fillmore Street north of Bush Street have not changed as severely as those on preceding blocks. Therefore, I have made a table that shows (left-to-rigbt) what the current businesses are, from Bush Street north to Jackson, and then what preceded it ten, twenty, thirty, forty and sixty years ago. "What about 1943?" the reader will ask. I was unable to locate a 1943 street directory in time for publication. Perhaps it will be printed in a future edition.

Take a stroll with this list some sunny afternoon and amaze yourself. (Note, these names are culled from city directories, a few obvious errors were corrected, but others certainly may surface.)

Some readers may be disappointed that I did not trace other streets, such as Pine, where neighbors have taken clothes to Pine Street Laundry since dinosaurs roamed the Western Addition. In the future, I will trace the roots of Divisadero businesses north of Geary, and other streets.

One little important tidbit I found was the first home of voice characterizationist Mel Blanc (1908-1989), the man who gave voices to Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Barney Rubble and hundreds more. When Mel Blanc was born (Melvin Jerome Blank) his family lived at 2614 Bush, in a building behind where the King of Falafel (sic) is today on the North West corner of Divisadero Street. His father, Frederick Blank ran a ladies apparel shop at 1904 Fillmore, currently Maruya Restaurant. As an adult Mel changed the spelling to Blanc.

Another surprise was the number of gas stations in the neighborhood. In the year 1953, six gas stations could be found on California Street between Fillmore and Broderick Streets!

The reader will probably notice how many dry cleaners have outlasted just about every other business on my chart: The FabriCare establishment at 1919 Fillmore has been a cleaning facility for over seventy years. (Before World War I it had been located on Valencia Street.) The cleaners known as "Esrik" at 2429 California Street (formerly "'The Favorite Laundry") is listed in a 1913 telephone directory: Eighty years of cleaning!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the San Francisco Public Library for their assistance.

Table Notes - If a corresponding street number could not be found on a storefront today, the entry is marked NSN (no such number). In many cases a business has expanded by leasing more than one sequential storefront, such as Brown Bag Office Supplies or Cavanaugh GaIlery.

*A note about 2200 Fillmore, NE corner of Sacramento Street: For more than twenty-five years, a restaurant called the Capitol Grill operated on this corner. The first liquor store listing on this site was in 1951, when H & K Liquors appeared around the corner at 2498 Sacramento Street. In 1955, the name D & M Liquors (named for Daniel and Morrie Teplin) first appeared at 2498 Sacramento Street. The Capitol Grill remained at 2200 Fillmore until 1960, when it was replaced by D & M Liquors.

About the author:

Peter Mintun is a fourth generation Californian who lives half the year in the Fillmore neighborhood. As a pianist he can be heard at Bemelmans Bar in New York's Carlyle Hotel.

If you have photos of the Fillmore from any era, we'd love to see them. We may even add them to our online Fillmore Museum. Contact us by e-mail or call (415) 776-1888

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