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Hidden Histories: Amoeba as Park Bowl

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Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed Contributor Alex Bevk highlights a San Francisco location with a secret past. Maybe it’s no longer there, maybe it’s been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in SF history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Amoeba record store on Haight Street used to be Park Bowl [Photo: Google Maps]

Most people are familiar with the local music megastore chain Amoeba, with outposts in Berkeley, LA, and here on Haight Street. But if you’ve ever taken a closer look at the sign on the Haight Street location, you’d notice that a sign on the tower says 'BOWLING.' That’s because up to 1996, the site operated as Park Bowl, one of the most popular (and last surviving) bowling alleys in San Francisco.

The United Railroads Haight Street Car Barn in 1946 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

Before it hawked records or bowling tournaments, the site held the storage barn for Market Street Railways cable cars. By 1915, it held United Railroads Haight Street cars. It was a happenin' area, with lots of saloons and restaurants, and even the Terminal Hotel located next door. It continued operating as a car barn for street cars until 1950, when the bowling alley was constructed.

Park Bowl c1976 [Photo: SF Planning]

The building itself was constructed in 1950 and opened as a bowling alley in 1952 under the name Park Bowl. It became a local favorite, especially in the 1980s and 90s when it held weekend Rock & Bowl - which blared music and played music videos on the score monitors. By 1996, the site was sold to Amoeba, who opened the record shop in the cavernous space. When the bowling alley closed, it was one of only three remaining in the city (the others being in Japantown and the Presidio). At bowling’s peak in 1976, there were more than 10 alleys in San Francisco or nearby. Today, with the addition of the new Mission Bowling Club and Lucky Strike Bowling, the tally is back up to 4 in San Francisco proper (the other two being the Presidio and Yerba Buena Bowling Center).

· Vintage photos of Park Bowl [Snapcity]
· End of Gutter Balls and Highballs [SF Gate]
· Will Pin Tradition Strike Out? [Free Lance Star via Google]

Amoeba Music

1855 Haight Street, , CA 94117 (415) 831-1200 Visit Website