Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed Contributor Alex Bevk highlights a Bay Area 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 Bay Area 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.
Lombard Street being graded in 1922 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]
Everyone is familiar with Lombard Street, the crooked tourist hotspot. But SF's second most crooked street was ironically constructed to make life easier for its residents. Initially laid as as a straight cobblestone street with a 27% grade, by the 1920s people living on the street wanted car access.
A landowner with stakes in half the lots is credited with suggesting a winding street plan. Because the lots weren't accessible by car, they had a lower property value, so the landowners turned to city engineer Clyde Healy to design the street. Initially the brick-paved curved road was two-way when it opened in 1922, but was made one-way in 1939. The neighboring landowners made an agreement that if they paid for the street, the residents would pay for the steps that lined the street and maintain the landscaping. The famous hydrangeas were added in the late 1950s and featured on a postcard in 1961, soon drawing the attention of tourists who wanted to drive down the street.
Lombard Street with its original plantings, 1933 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]
Despite being the most famous, Lombard is not the most crooked or steepest street in San Francisco. The steepest street is actually a tie, with both Filbert between Hyde and Leavenworth and 22nd between Church and Vicksburg having a 31.5° slope, while Vermont Avenue at 20th Street claims to be the most crooked.
· Lombard Street [City Guides]
· The Steeps of San Francisco [Data Pointed]