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.
McTeague's Saloon at 1297 Polk Street [Photo: McTeague's]
This week's Hidden Histories comes in the form of question from a Curbed reader:
What about Frank Norris Street and the McTeagues bar on Polk Street? I'm sure the two are related since there is a large tooth on the outside of the bar!Frank Norris was a turn-of-the-century novelist who wrote about California while living in San Francisco. His 1899 notable work McTreague tells the story of dentist and his slow, inevitable descent into greed and madness. The main character in McTeague is a dull-witted dentist from a poor miner's family who opened a dentist shop in San Francisco, only to become obsessed with money and violence. McTrague's own "dental parlor" is one street-facing room of a tenement boarding house over a branch post office at the corner of Polk and California streets. His greatest dream is to have "a huge gilded tooth, a molar with enormous prongs, something gorgeous and attractive ... projecting from that corner window."
The corner is now mostly modern buildings, but in 2008 McTeague's Saloon opened at 1237 Polk Street. Inspired by the novel, the bar has a giant gold tooth hanging above its door. An alley-way between Polk and Larkin, in between Pine and Bush streets, is named Frank Norris Street in honor of the author.