Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed 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.
Chances are if you've ever blasted up Oak or Fell Street, you've raced past Frederick Douglass Plaza at the intersection of Pierce Street. The corners are marked by the brick plazas and planter box signage, but there's not much more information than that.
In 1968, San Francisco architect Beverly Willis (of Yerba Buena Gardens and SF Ballet fame) was hired by mega-developer Jeremy Ets-Hokin to design a low-income housing redevelopment for the block. The existing pre-1906 buildings were renovated with new exteriors and the plaza designed at the corners. Ets-Hokin ended up getting sued for $20M by his investors for not legally forming a limited partnership.
While there's no documentation on the plaza's name selection, Frederick Douglass was an early African-American abolitionist reformer who escaped slavery and went on to be a well-respected orator and writer.
· Ets-Hokin Sued For $20 Million [Oakland Tribune]
· Beverly Willis [Beverly Willis]
· Valentine's Shmalentine's – It's Frederick Douglass Day [Haighteration]