Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Eureka Valley's history documented for potential district


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Susan Detwiler has been active in documenting the history of the Eureka Valley neighborhood. To a room of over 30 locals, she recently presented details that could shape the development of a local historical district.

This has resulted in the Eureka Valley Historic Context Statement, which includes information on historic and cultural resources, and information needed to make informed planning decisions, prioritize preservation goals, evaluate potential historic resources, and provide a narrative of the community's history.

The historic context statement will undergo a community review period, and more surveys are needed to determine the possibilities of any historic districts, said Detwiler.

"A grant from the Historic Preservation Fund Committee funded the project," Detwiler said at the September 27 meeting of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association. She has been overseeing the historic context statement since its inception.

"It's a very abstract thing," she added. "What do we already have that we want to see preserved? What do we want considered when we build new things?"

The grant had a not-to-exceed limit of $59,000, according to Jonathan Lau, project manager at the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. With input from the HPFC and consultation from the city planning department's preservation unit, OEWD provides grants for preservation-related work in San Francisco, he explained.

Compiled by architecture historian Elaine B. Stiles in May, the boundaries of the project were based on historical context.

"The study area that we used is based mostly on the outline of Eureka Homestead Association of 1864," said Detwiler.

The 1864 Eureka Homestead Association tract was the namesake of the neighborhood.

"Mission Dolores Neighborhood Survey and Market and Octavia Area Plan Historic Resource Survey were taken into consideration. There were parts of Rancho San Miguel included, also," she said.

Owned by Jose de Jesus Noe, Rancho San Miguel covered one-sixth of San Francisco from 1846 to 1852, encompassing the present-day Noe Valley, the Castro, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, and St. Francis Wood.

The historic context statement encompasses all or a portion of 29 city blocks roughly bounded by 16th, Market, and 17th streets on the north, Sanchez and Church streets on the east, 20th and 21st streets on the south, and Douglass Street on the west.

The statement documents the patterns of development and physical fabric of the district from pre-European settlement through the mid-1970s.

"Through field work, Stiles identifies context in neighborhoods, developments beginning with Native American and then Mexicans, Europeans, early land uses, agriculture and industry," Detwiler said, adding that the introduction of transportation made a "big difference in residential, civic and religious development."

In the late 19th century, "Eureka Valley went from a rural fringe area of agricultural and industrial production to one of the city's burgeoning streetcar suburbs," she said.

"There used to be a saloon right down the street from me, too," she said, laughing. "And speaking of drinking, brewing and bottling were very common – 552 Noe Street is associated with Kirby and Phoenix Brewery."

Opened in 1904, Phoenix Brewery closed two years later in 1906. According to U.S. historical brewery website, any short-lived, pre-Prohibition brewery item or collectible is likely to be valuable and desirable to collectors. lists San Francisco as having 83 breweries.

The statement will help guide the survey and create a framework for evaluating the significance of properties in this unique neighborhood.

Creating a historic district "has rigorous standards," said Detwiler.

"This was a very lively neighborhood with a rich history and some buildings are still around," she added, noting earthquake shacks on 300 Cumberland Street, the Twin Peaks tunnel, and the infrastructure of staircases.

"Social and political life of Eureka Valley centered around churches, improvement projects, clubs, and bars," she said. "Where Zapata's Taqueria used to be on Collingwood Street was [their] de facto City Hall. There's where all the dances and meetings took place."

Once the historic context statement is adopted by the planning commission, it would then go to the California Office of Historic Preservation.


The full Eureka Valley Historic Context Statement is available file://localhost/at http/ Detwiler can be contacted at


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