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Set Sail at the Road to Mandalay in West Portal

Public spaces change fast here in San Francisco, and for better or worse, it can be pretty crazy when you see what the City used to look like. Every week, we'll bring you Then & Now, a comparison of historic photos of the Bay Area with current views from the same perspective. Have a suggestion for a photo comparison that looks totally different (or shockingly the same)? Drop us a tip in the Curbed Inbox or leave a comment after the jump.

Quick note: See that vertical green bar in the middle of the then and now photos? You can move it horizontally to see the photos side by side.

[1941 Then photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY/ Now photo: Google Maps] We're going to go out on a limb and say this was one of the coolest bar fronts in San Francisco. The Road to Mandalay was a West Portal cocktail lounge that operated from 1940-1961. Designed to feel like a luxury liner salon, this is definitely 1940s kitsch at its peak.

West Portal was developed in the 1910s and 20s as a residential enclave once MUNI street car service tunneled through Twin Peaks tunnel. Up til that point, it had remained pretty rural, with some agricultural farming and part of Adolf Sutro's nature preserve. Development began at a time when the city was desperate for housing after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and new thoughts in city planning called for following the curves of the natural terrain instead of forcing strict street grids. Residential neighborhoods developed, with commercial and transit activity limited to West Portal Avenue. By the 1930s, much of the street was built up and looked largely as it still does today.


The Road to Mandalay cocktail lounge opened in 1941, built to look like the quarter deck of a contemporary deep sea vessel. Inside, the nautical theme continued, with ship wares decorating the place. The outside rocked iron rails and ladders, portholes through double doors, and even a uniformed steward to open the door for you. It stayed in business until 1961, at which point it was converted to Barbagelata Realty Company (that's John Barbagelata, who ran against, and lost to, George Moscone in the 1975 mayoral election). Today it continues to operate as a (different) real estate office.

· West Portal [Encyclopedia of San Francisco]
· 314 West Portal Avenue [Western Neighborhoods Project]
· Portal Into History / A photographic retrospective of small-town like West Portal [SF Gate]