North Beach, San Francisco
This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2009)
|City and county||San Francisco|
|• Supervisor||Aaron Peskin|
|• Assemblymember||Matt Haney (D)|
|• State Senator||Scott Wiener (D)|
|• U. S. Rep.||Nancy Pelosi (D)|
|• Total||0.492 sq mi (1.27 km2)|
|Elevation||16 ft (5 m)|
|• Density||38,000/sq mi (15,000/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-8 (Pacific)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-7 (PDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1659245|
North Beach is a neighborhood in the northeast of San Francisco adjacent to Chinatown, the Financial District, and Russian Hill. The neighborhood is San Francisco's "Little Italy" and has historically been home to a large Italian American population, largely from Northern Italy. It still has many Italian restaurants, though many other ethnic groups currently live in the neighborhood. It was also the historic center of the beatnik subculture and has become one of San Francisco's main nightlife districts as well as a residential neighborhood populated by a mix of young urban professionals, families, and Chinese immigrants.
North Beach is bounded by the former Barbary Coast, now Jackson Square, the Financial District south of Broadway, Chinatown to the southwest of Columbus below Green Street, Russian Hill to the west, Telegraph Hill to the east and Fisherman's Wharf at Bay Street to the north.
Originally, the city's northeast shoreline extended only to what is today Taylor and Francisco streets. The area largely known today as North Beach was an actual beach, filled in with land fill around the late 19th century. Warehouses, fishing wharves, and docks were then built on the newly formed shoreline. Due to the proximity of the docks, the southern half of the neighborhood south of Broadway was home of the infamous Barbary Coast.
In 1880 Elizabeth Ashe and Alice Griffith founded what would become the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center to help fight illness, illiteracy and poor conditions in North Beach and lobbied hard for better recreation opportunities for neighborhood children. In 1907, the city formed its first playground commission with the idea of carving out space for recreation areas specifically for kids. The first playground commission picked two sites, including the North Beach Playground. The plan included an outdoor swimming pool, which was financed by diverting funds from a fire department cistern planned for Powell and Lombard, perhaps the first publicly-financed public pool in the city. In 1910, the North Beach playground and pool was constructed. The three youngest of the nine DiMaggio kids, Vince, Joe and Dom, grew up playing baseball there in the 1920s and became professional baseball players.
After the 1906 earthquake reconstruction, a large number of Italian immigrants created the Italian character of the neighborhood that still exists. Prominent Italian Americans that came from the neighborhood include baseball legend Joe DiMaggio who grew up in the neighborhood and briefly returned to live there with his wife Marilyn Monroe during the 1950s, as well as former San Francisco mayor and politician Joseph Alioto plus others from the prominent Alioto family.
North Beach was home to the first lesbian bar in San Francisco, Mona's 440 Club. Mona Sargeant and her husband Jimmie opened Mona's in 1936 in a North Beach basement as a small underground bar celebrating the end of Prohibition. Once Mona's gained enough popularity between the gay community and tourists, the club moved to a much larger location at 440 Broadway Street. The club remained Mona's 440 until the mid 1950s.
During the 1950s, many of the neighborhood's cafes and bars became the home and epicenter of the Beat Generation and gave rise to the San Francisco Renaissance. The term "beatnik" originated from the scene here and was coined in a derogatory fashion by famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. Many of that generation's most famous writers and personalities such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady lived in the neighborhood. Another poet from this generation, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founded the City Lights Bookstore that still exists today on the corner of Broadway and Columbus as an official historic landmark and serves as one of the main focal points of this generation.
During the 1960s a notable night spot was The Committee, an improvisational theatre group founded by alumni of The Second City in Chicago. The Committee opened April 10, 1963 at 622 Broadway in a 300-seat cabaret theater.
The Broadway area also created innovations for the strip club industry. The Condor Club, on the corner of Columbus and Broadway, was opened in 1964 as America's first topless bar, which it is again today. The Lusty Lady was the first striptease club to be structured as a worker cooperative, which meant that it was managed by the dancers who worked at that peep-show establishment. Broadway strip clubs owe their legacy to the Barbary Coast, which was located just one block south on Pacific Street during the late 19th century.
After World War II, and accelerated during the Korean War, the Italian American population has been moving out of the Little Italy sections of North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and Fisherman's Wharf due to suburbanization. Since the 1980s, and much like Manhattan's Little Italy, due to a decrease in emigration from Italy and gentrification, the neighborhood has seen its native Italian American population rapidly shrink. The neighborhood has since seen neighboring Chinatown expanding north into the neighborhood south of Broadway and along Stockton Street, causing a major demographic shift to a mix of mostly Chinese and young professional population, with few Italian Americans remaining.
In 2000 after some negotiations, the heirs of Joe DiMaggio's estate, two granddaughters and their four children, welcomed the renaming of North Beach playground as the Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground. In 2015, the first renovation of the playground in more than 50 years was completed.
Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane was living in North Beach in an apartment unit above Al's Attire at the corner of Grant Avenue and Vallejo Street at the time of his death in 2016, and was often a patron of nearby Caffe Trieste.
Attractions and characteristics
- The North Beach Festival street fair on Grant Avenue and Columbus Avenue usually held on Father's Day weekend in June is one of the city's largest. It is also considered one of the nation's oldest street fairs.
- The Italian Heritage Parade, formerly known as the Columbus Day Parade, is the United States' longest continuously run Italian heritage celebration. The route goes from Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, along Columbus Avenue, to Washington Square, in front of Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco. The event celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018.
Religious institutions and sites
- The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, the city's namesake, is located on Vallejo Street.
- Known as "The Italian Cathedral of the West", Saints Peter and Paul Church is located on the north side of Filbert Street in front of Washington Square. Joe DiMaggio married his first wife there, and came for photos after his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Saints Peter and Paul is considered a San Francisco landmark and an emblematic tie to the neighborhood's Italian American past.
Secular institutions and sites
- An alleyway between Columbus and Grant Avenues is named for Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, who once lived there and frequented the famous City Lights Bookstore on the corner of Columbus and Broadway as well as the numerous nearby bars and coffee shops.
- Broadway east of Columbus Avenue still serves as one of the city's main nightclub districts and offers restaurants, blues clubs, strip clubs, nightclubs, and jazz clubs.
- Frankie Crosetti (1910–2002), Major League Baseball shortstop
- Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999), Hall of Fame Major League Baseball center fielder
- Jeremy Fish (born 1974), illustrator and artist
- Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), poet and writer
- Jack Hirschman (1933–2021), poet and social activist
- Gabe Kapler (born 1975), Major League Baseball outfielder, manager of the San Francisco Giants, and 2021 NL Manager of the Year
- Bob Kaufman (1925–1986), Beat poet and surrealist, jazz performance artist, and satirist
- B. Kliban (1935–1990), cartoonist
- Peter Macchiarini (1909–2001), Modernist jeweler and sculptor
- Marino Pieretti (1920–1981), MLB baseball player
- A. D. Winans (born 1936), poet, essayist, short story writer, and publisher
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The highly-anticipated opening of the new Joe DiMaggio Playground (651 Lombard St.) is coming up...
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