Draft released of facts to be stamped on Castro’s new sidewalks
Over the weekend, the Castro Community Benefit District released a draft summary of the 20 facts about the Castro area that are to be stamped on Castro’s sidewalks with the completion of the new streetscape improvements. The Castro facts were part of the original Streetscape Improvement Project plan and are being paid for by the CBD after a budget shortfall was revealed last year.
According to the draft summary, the goal of the pavement stamped facts is to “convey interesting pieces of information and milestones spanning the history of the neighborhood, from the original Native American inhabitants to the present-day.”
Each fact will be located near “leaning posts” along the East and West sides of Castro Street. The facts will be listed chronologically starting from Market Street on the West-side of Castro to 19th Street and looping back to Market Street up the East-side of Castro Street, forming a U shape.
The criteria for each fact is the following:
- Credible sources, original source documentation is ideal.
- Castro/Eureka Valley centered.
- Events/milestones in the neighborhood that had a local or national impact.
- Notes history of official City landmarks.
The first two criteria, credible sources and Castro-area focused, are mandatory while criteria three and four are optional.
The facts selected were researched by Nick Perry with the Department of Public Works (lead on the Streetscape Improvement Project) with help from the GLBT History Museum and other community members.
Here are the facts that will be going before board approval on May 8th:
- Before 1776
The native Yelamu people live nearby in the village of Chutchui, relocating each winter to the bayside village of Sitlintac. Eureka Valley is grassland and chaparral, with a creek flowing towards the bay along today’s 18th Street.
Spanish colonists name Eureka Valley’s creek “Arroyo de los Dolores” and establish Mission San Francisco (Mission Dolores) near its banks. The Mission system dismantles ancient Yelamu society. Disease disseminates the population.
Mexico grants former Mission lands to citizens, including José de Jesús Noé, the last Mexican Alcalde (Mayor) of Yerba Buena (San Francisco). Noe’s 4,444-acre Rancho San Miguel encompasses the area later known as Eureka Valley.
American settler John Horner purchases portion of Rancho San Miguel. Castro Street, named after a prominent Mexican-era Californio family, marks the western border of the nascent neighborhood known as “Horner’s Addition.”
Five room cottages on Castro Street rent for about $15 a month. Transit improvements, including the Castro Street cable car, spur settlement by working-class Irish, German, and Scandinavian families in the late 19th century.
Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church is established. Instead of Eureka Valley, for many decades residents refer to the neighborhood as “Most Holy Redeemer Parish.”
The Swedish American Hall opens at 2174 Market Street. Upper Market Street in Eureka Valley comes to be known for its concentration of social clubs, churches, and businesses serving the neighborhood’s large Scandinavian community.
Thousands attend the first-known festival on Castro Street to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. The San Francisco Chronicle declares the celebration “a riot of hilarity and merrymaking.” The tunnel opens in 1918.
The Nasser brothers open the Castro Theatre, the first movie palace designed by prominent architect Timothy Pflueger. Janet Gaynor, an early usherette at the theatre, goes on to win first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929.
Castro Street becomes nationally known as the setting of Mama’s Bank Account, a novel by local Norwegian-American author Kathryn Forbes. It inspires popular adaptations including the 1948 film, I Remember Mama.
Lesbian couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon move into their first home together in San Francisco on Castro Street. They help establish the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization.
The Missouri Mule opens as the 1st bar in Eureka Valley’s nascent gay enclave, which comes to be known as the Castro. In 1972 Twin Peaks becomes the 1st U.S. gay bar with glass windows, a symbol of the community’s increased pride.
Castro resident, merchant, and activist Harvey Milk, known as the “Mayor of Castro Street,” is elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and becomes one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country.
Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated. As news of their death spreads, tens of thousands of mourners spontaneously gather on Castro Street and form a candlelight march to City Hall.
The assassin of Supervisor Milk and Mayor Moscone, Dan White, is cleared of murder. Outrage in the gay community spurs the “White Night” riots at City Hall and a retaliatory police ransacking of the Elephant Walk Bar at 500 Castro Street.
Bobbi Campbell, RN, posts first notice about “gay cancer” on Star Pharmacy window at 498 Castro Street. Later identified as AIDS, the pandemic devastates the Castro. Campbell becomes a leading activist in the fight against the disease.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a queer activist and charity group founded in 1979, organize one of the 1st AIDS-related charity events – a dog show on Castro Street. Castro resident and disco star Sylvester judges the show.
Cleve Jones organizes the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at 2362 Market Street. Throughout the 1980s, numerous organizations take root in the Castro to fight for awareness, treatment, and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
After nearly 16,000 San Franciscans, including many Castro residents, die from AIDS-related complications, the Bay Area Reporter’s milestone “No obits” headline marks the first time none were submitted since the 1980s.
National attention turns to Castro Street as thousands gather to celebrate the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages in California. The event marks a milestone in the Castro’s historic role as a center for LGBT rights.