Category Archives: San Francisco City Guides

San Francisco History Expo 2011

SF Mint ca. 1900, courtesy the US National Archives

The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society (SFMHS) will be hosting the first San Francisco History Expo on Saturday, February 12 and Sunday, February 13 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00p.m. at the Old Mint on the northwest corner of 5th and Mission Streets. Admission is free; and over 20 local history organizations will have exhibits, including:

In addition to the exhibits, the Expo will also feature a variety of programs, including: live performances, screenings of historic films, a forum at which authors will read from their recently published histories of San Francisco, displays of art by Frank Alan Zimmerman and by the San Francisco Quilters Guild, and opportunities for visitors to record oral histories and digitize photographs to be posted on the FoundSF website. On Saturday at 2:00 p.m. there will be a Community History Panel featuring Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project, Peter Linenthal and Abby Johnston of the Potrero Hill Archives Project, and Vicky Walker of the Bernal Heights History Project. On Sunday at 2:00 p.m. there will be a presentation on the work of muralist Mona Caron; and at 3:00 p.m. Willy Lizárraga will give a presentation on the history of San Francisco Carnaval.

Kristin Morris, Associate Curator for the SFMHS, points to the SFMHS’s ongoing series of monthly programs in explaining the basis for this collaborative event. This series has provided an opportunity for the SFMHS to partner with variety of local historical organizations, inviting those partners to introduce their work to a larger audience. Now, the SFMHS has invited those same organizations to participate in the Expo in order to further extend their outreach. The SFMHS is providing free admission in the hopes of attracting as many visitors as possible – especially students. By including exhibits by local archival repositories such as the California Historical Society and the San Francisco History Center, the SFMHS also hopes to introduce visitors to venues where they can conduct their own historical research.

The SFMHS plans to continue ongoing renovations to the Old Mint building and to eventually convert that space into museum of  San Francisco history. Because the SFMHS has a limited collection of materials for exhibition, the new museum would involve a collaboration with some of the organizations who will be participating at the Expo. The permanent exhibition would include artifacts on loan from many of those organizations; and some of the organizations will also be invited to curate temporary exhibits.

For more information about the Expo, please call the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society at: (415) 537-1105, extension 100.


Filed under Bernal History Project, California Historical Society, San Francisco City Guides, San Francisco History Association, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, San Francisco Museum & Historical Society

The Palace Hotel: when history is part of your business model

Palace Hotel Garden Court, 2009 photo by Wally Gobetz

The Palace Hotel, situated on the corner of Market and New Montgomery Streets, will host programming now through December in celebration of the centennial of its 1909 re-opening following the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.  Central to this programming will be the invocation of the hotel’s history, which extends back to 1875.

The Palace Hotel was a project of William Ralston, who had made his fortune on the Comstock Silver Lode in Nevada and founded the Bank of California. Ralston had the ambition and resources to shape San Francisco. Scholars such as Barbara Berglund and Gray Brechin have discussed Ralston’s move to put San Francisco’s first world-class luxury hotel at Market and New Montgomery as a deliberate strategy to change the real estate market of 1870s San Francisco. By the time of the Palace’s opening in 1875, Ralston had recently died and the hotel was in the hands of fellow banker William Sharon. The Sharon family sold the hotel to Sharaton in 1954; it was later bought in 1974 by Kyo-ya Corporation (though Sharaton continues to manage the hotel). As reported by J.K. Dineen in the San Francisco Business Times, Kyo-ya is “controlled by Blackacre Capital Management, the real estate investment division of Cerberus Capital Management, a large privately held hedge fund run by financier Steve Feinberg.”

Carl Nolte reports in today’s San Francisco Chronicle that the management of the Palace conceeds that business is slow in the current economic climate. That the Palace has a history on which it can capitalize is suggested by the fact that no other hotel in San Francisco has a San Francisco City Guides walking tour or an Arcadia Press “Images of America” and “Postcards” book devoted exclusively to it. That the Palace management is ready to use that history to its business advantage is evidenced by the prominence given to images and accounts of that history on the hotel’s website, as well as the display cases on the ground floor of the hotel that exhibit artifacts from the hotel’s past.

Of the many ways San Franciscans use our history, pursuing profit is not the least of these.

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Filed under San Francisco City Guides