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Before There Was a SoMa, There Was "South of the Slot"

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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.

"The Slot" separated current-day SoMa (left of the photo) from the more upscale Downtown, photo c.1905 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, and often identies and stereotypes are applied based on where people live (jus ask The Bold Italic). But this is nothing new - back around the turn of the 20th century, San Francisco was divided by "the Slot."

When public transit was still dominated by cable cars, The Slot was the iron track that went through the center of Market Street where the cables operated.

Cable Car lines c1893 [Photo: dannyman]

According to a short story from Jack London at the time, “North of the Slot were the theaters, hotels, and shopping district, the banks and the staid, respectable business houses. South of the Slot were the factories, slums, laundries, machine-shops, boiler works, and the abodes of the working class.” "South of The Slot" became a euphemism for the, shall we say, seedier parts of the area. It also became a class divider, as in "that guy's from the south of the slot." The 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed the area, burning through the wooden hotels, boarding houses, and flats. Over time, as the area was redeveloped, the nickname slowly disappeared.
· The Strength of the Strong: South of the Slot [Jack London Online Collection]
· How Cable Cars Work [Cable Car Museum]
· Moving to San Francisco [The Bold Italic]