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.
The United Irish Cultural Center in the Outer Sunset is a place for Irish emigrants and locals alike to meet and socialize. Built in 1975, it is a culmination of many predecessor organizations to preserve and promote Irish culture in SF. One of the most notable was the Knights of the Red Branch, a place known and loved for its dances, music, and wild nights that brought folks from all over Ireland together in their new home.
Irish immigration boomed in the mid-19th century in the US, with hundreds of thousands coming to California during the Gold Rush. By the late 1800s, almost 1/3 of the San Francisco's population was of Irish descent. At the time, many Irish lived in SOMA.
After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, a temporary Irish community center was located at 1133 Mission Street. Known as the Knights of the Red Branch, it was replaced by a permanent hall finished in 1909. The new hall was designed by local architects Frank T. Shea and John O. Lofquist in the Norman Irish style. The center was frequented by recently immigrated and SF-born Irish, with roots all over Ireland. According to stories, the KRB was three or four stories tall with a bar on each of the floors. Apparently the center never filed for a liquor license and managed to remain open during Prohibition. Over the years it was a place for regular folks, firemen and police, even the Mayor and Supervisors to meet. One SF resident wrote a collection of stories from over 94 interviews of people who used to frequent the KRB.
In the 1970s, the Irish community raised funds and contributed labor to build a new cultural center that could serve as a facility for all of the clubs and organizations representing all of the Counties of Ireland to meet and socialize. The United Irish Cultural Center opened out by the SF Zoo in 1975, and the old KRB Hall burned down in 2007.
· IRISH San Francisco [Found SF]
· Knights of the Red Branch [SF Genealogy]
· O'Brien Illuminates San Francisco Irish [Sunset Beacon]
· United Irish Cultural Center [UIIC]
· Firefighters battle persistent blaze on Mission Street [Fog City Journal]