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Please direct any research inquiries you may have
to the San Francisco History Center at the Main Public Library.
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2015 meeting dates

January 27
February 24
March 31
April 28
May 26
June 30
July 28
August 25
September 22
October 27
November 24
December no meeting


The Annual John's Grill "Big One" Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Luncheon 


Friday, April 17

1:30 pm 

Wear a period costume and be the guest of Lee Houskeeper and John's Grill

John's Grill
63 Ellis (between Stockton and Powell)

The 45-member George Washington High School Marching Band will perform outside the restaurant. Also out front of John's Grill will be members of the SFPD Mounted Patrol and actual historical firefighting equipment that saved San Francisco in 1906, including SFFD Engine 22 1893 LaFrance, a steam pumper, and a turn-of-the-20th-century converted horsedrawn ladder truck with modern fire engines, as well as the much-beloved and now retired coffee wagon, which served free Bloody Marys at Lotta's Fountain commemoration for decades.

At this year's lunch, SFFD Chief Joanne Hayes-White will pronounce Ron Ross our 2015 Honorary Survivor, for his 42 years of tireless efforts on behalf of the annual Lotta's Fountain/Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire commemoration, and for keeping our city's past alive through the work of the San Francisco History Association, of which he is president.

RSVP to Lee Houskeeper

415-777-4700, newsservice@aol.com  



1906 Earthquake & Fire Remembrance  

The countdown to 5:12 a.m.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

4:30 AM

Schedule of Events:

4:30 am: Commemoration of The San Francisco Great Earthquake & Fire at Lotta’s Fountain (Geary, Market & Kearny Streets)

4:45 am: Master of Ceremonies Welcome Remarks
5:00 am: Survivor memorial parade arrives at Lotta’s Fountain
5:00 am  Mayor, Fire Chief, Police Chief introduced. Mayor hangs wreath.
5:11 am: Announce countdown (start countdown just before 5:12)
5:12 am: Sirens
5:13 am: Minute of silence
5:14 am: Sing San Francisco
5:15 am: Announcement/Invitation to 20th and Church Golden Hydrant Painting

5:30 am: 20th and Church Golden Fire Hydrant Painting **SPONSORED BY THE SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY ASSOCIATION**   

6:30 am: Annual Survivor Bloody Mary Breakfast at Lefty O’Doul’s (333 Geary Street) (cost of breakfast approx. $20)


AUTO - plenty of parking downtown near Lotta's Fountain at 4:30 am; parking available near Golden Hydrant - search may take just a moment or a few minutes; parking available in paid lots near Lefty O'Douls

BART & MUNI - visit 511.org to plan your trip; trains may be running from your starting point or may require the all nighter bus service;  all trains will be running after the event

Illuminating the Jewel City

Spectacular Lighting at the PPIE

Tuesday, April 28 

guest speaker: Laura Ackley

Laura Ackley will take us on a nighttime tour of the beautiful 1915 World’s Fair. We will explore how illuminating engineer Walter D’Arcy Ryan implemented ground-breaking lighting effects like the Great Scintillator and the Electric Kaleidoscope in the face of tremendous skepticism. Learn about the more than 100,000 
large, cut-glass Novagems that adorned the Tower of Jewels, how the San Francisco fog facilitated “The Devil’s Fan” and “Fighting Serpents and Octopus,” and how Ryan’s advances permanently affected how architecture is lit. Laura Ackley wrote San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The book will be available for sale and autographing.

Visit the meetings page for more details.


The Fight to Save SF's Cable Cars


Tuesday, May 26

guest speaker: Mike Phipps

Cable cars are a premier symbol of the City-by-the-Bay, known and loved throughout the world. But, as it is to believe, they were almost relegated to the scrap heap barely 60 years ago by the city where the system was born. Michael Phipps will give a presentation on the battle to save San Francisco’s famed cable car system during the 1940s and 1950s. He will share a treasure trove of historical photographs, ephemera, and stories. He will detail how a small group of San Franciscans kept the fabled hill-climbers running, and how that battle reverberated around the world, and ultimately resulted in permanent protection for the little cars of another era. Mike Phipps is a fourth-generation San Franciscan and director at the Cable Car Museum. He co-wrote a complete history of the cable cars, Watermusic in the Track: A History of San Francisco Cable Cars 

Visit the meetings page for more details.


Special SFHA Walking Tour


The tour will be rescheduled in June. 


In 2013, SFHA gave Emperor Norton I (aka Joseph Amster) a research grant to help him develop “Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine,” a lively, informative, and entertaining walking tour of historic San Francisco. The Emperor has invited SFHA members to take his tour:  

Sunday, April 12 

3 pm


This special tour is FREE, but strictly limited to 30 SFHA members. If you are interested, you must register to save a spot. Contact Lorri Ungaretti atlorri@sanfranciscohistory.org.


You’ll learn the fascinating stories behind: 

Emperor Norton, the man and the myths

Union Square

The St. Francis Hotel

Maiden Lane

Lotta’s Fountain

The 1906 earthquake and fire

Bummer & Lazarus

The Palace Hotel 

Jackson Square

The Barbary Coast

Portsmouth Square

. . . and much more!

The tour lasts approximately 2.75 hours and is two miles long. If you can’t make it on April 12, Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine departs Thursdays and Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. from Union Square. The regular cost is $20 and reservations are requested. 

To learn more, visit http://www.emperornortontour.com


Created in SF: The City's Gifts to Gastronomy


Tuesday, June 30 

guest speaker: Joseph Amster

Cioppino, the It’s-It, Green Goddess dressing, Chicken Tetrazzini, the Fortune Cookie, and Rice-A-Roni: San Francisco has a delicious culinary history, and many popular dishes were created here. Did you ever wonder where the martini, Abba-Zaba candy bar, or Crab Louie came from? Writer, historian, and tour guide Joseph Amster will share these and many other culinary history stories.

Joseph once worked at San Francisco’s legendary Salmagundi Restaurant as the soup cook, making 1,500 gallons of soup a day from scratch. Later, he catered, taught cooking classes, and wrote about food for various magazines. He is writing a book titled Created in California: The Golden State’s Gifts to Gastronomy.

Visit the meetings page for more details.




The Emporium 



Tuesday, July 28 

guest speaker: Anne Evers Hitz


Visit the meetings page for more details.




100th Anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition




February 20, 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), the World’s Fair celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal and showcasing San Francisco—its recovery from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire and its world trade potential. Throughout 2015, the PPIE100, a citywide consortium of cultural, civic, and historical organizations, will conduct centennial programs to commemorate the PPIE’s historical significance and to reflect on its legacy.


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