Noe Valley Voice April 2011


History Lesson

By Mazook 

FINALLY, SPRING HAS ARRIVED in Noe Valley. Ah, at last the March rains have passed. The Noe Valley Weather Bureau forecasts April will be sunny every day, with morning lows in the 50s and afternoon highs in the 70s. Time for me to go out on the back deck, pull out the barbecue, bring out the brŠts, the brewski, and/or the vino, put the Giants game on the radio for a Kruk-and-Kuip (or Miller-and-Fleming) pitch-by-pitch account, read this month’s Voice, and just chill.

For the first time in San Francisco baseball history, our Giants are returning as World Champions. (My first Giants game was in the spring of 1958 at Seals Stadium, against the Philadelphia Phillies.)

We longtime Bay Area baseball fans remember the heartbreak, in 1962, of the Giants losing their very first World Series (as a San Francisco team) to the Damn Yankees. Down 1 to 0 in the bottom of the ninth inning in the deciding seventh game, we had runners at second base (Willie Mays) and third base (Matty Alou) and two outs. While Orlando Cepeda waited in the on-deck circle, Giants batter Willie McCovey hit a smash line drive that was caught by the leaping Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson. Game over. Series over. Damn!

Some fans argue that the 1962 Giants (see photo, above) stack up as the best Giants team in club history. I was one of those people until Nov. 1, 2010. Now I argue that one of the best teams in the history of baseball—along with the 1927 New York Yankees and the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers—was the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

But that was yesterday. Today is March 31, 2011, and in their season opening game, the Giants are facing off against their archrival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in L.A.’s yard at Chavez Ravine. Go, Giants!

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BIG MAN ON 24TH STREET: Noe Valleyan Matt Cain, who was a starting pitcher on the 2010 Giants team, was scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers in the third game of the 2011 series. A few days before the game, we asked his opinion of the ’62 Giants. He shrugged and said, “The 1962 Giants? That was way before I was born.”

Cain, born in 1984, didn’t want to talk baseball, but he had a few thoughts on Noe Valley. Asked why he picked the neighborhood, he said, “My wife and I moved to Noe Valley [two years ago] primarily because of the real family atmosphere we found in the neighborhood. It has lived up to all of our expectations.”

As Giants fanatics know, Cain and his wife Chelsea became parents of a baby daughter, Hartley Mae Cain, on Dec. 12, 2010.

“We love to walk around in Noe Valley and check out all the stores,” says Cain. Over the last two years, you might have encountered the Cains walking their dogs, Tater and Cali, at one or the other of the dog parks in Noe Valley.

The Cains also enjoy shopping at the Noe Valley Farmers Market. Another place you might spot the family is at Toast. “That probably is my favorite place to eat on 24th Street,” says our local Giant.

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THE MYSTERY OF HISTORY: As usual, Noe Body knew the answers to all of the “pop quiz” questions last month, so no one won an extra-large pizza at the Noe Valley pizza parlor of their choice. Too bad. Most of the answers, but not all, could have been found in the Voice archives at

Pizza or no, here are the answers. The first question was:

1. What does the “AT” stand for in the telephone number AT 2-6700, posted on the sign at Hall Realty on the corner of Church and Valley streets?

It stands for “Atwater.” Hall Realty has been located at that corner since 1951. Yup, that’s 60 years, folks. We now know this number as 282-6700.

“I moved my office here from the Excelsior District because it had parking,” says Mary Hall, “which was a big problem for me when I was in the Outer Mission. I have three parking spaces on Valley.”

Hall says she paid $16,000 for the building, which once was the Pence China Shop, where pots, plates, and other dinnerware were manufactured and sold. “They had left a kiln in the back,” recalls Hall. She says that for many years, starting perhaps during the 1890s, the building was a butcher’s shop. “I think I have been here longer now than any other business up here on Church Street, except Drewes Meats.” She adds, “This used to be a very quiet neighborhood with mostly Irish and German families, but now there is such a wide range of people living here.

“The best thing that ever happened here was when they filmed the movie Sister Act [in 1991], across the street at St. Paul’s,” says Hall. “There was so much excitement.”

In recent years, Hall has focused her real estate business on property management.

2. What is the name of the owner of Tuggey’s Hardware store?

Answer: Denny Giovannoli, who bought it from his father, Bob Giovannoli, in 1976. Tuggey’s first opened as Sawyer’s Hardware in 1898 and was renamed when William Tuggey bought the business in 1899. William passed it on to his son Gene, who sold it to Bob Giovannoli in 1957, who retired and sold it to his son Denny. You can see Denny in the store any time. Ask him the names of his mannequins that have been in the front window for the past 40-plus years. Those names will be asked in our next quiz and could win you an all-expenses-paid trip to Glen Canyon.

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SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET: Question No. 3: Who are the current owners of the Noe Valley landmark on the corner of Sanchez and 21st, the house Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph built for his mistress back in 1930?

That would be Frederick Roeber and his wife Gina Sanfilippo. According to San Francisco real estate records, the couple purchased the Tudor-style home from its longtime owners, the Salaman family, in August 2008 for $4.3 million. Curiously, this landmark house was built without a kitchen.

Roeber, who is now in the process of restoring the crumbling house and who had commissioned a historical study of the building, says, “Legend has it that since this was the house of the mayor’s well-tended mistress, she had no need of a kitchen.” (I guess she got delivery or carryout.)

“When we originally purchased [the house], we intended to just put in a big kitchen, make some minor changes inside, and move in by the end of the year,” says Roeber. “However, as our contractors began looking more closely, we discovered myriad problems that had built up over the years: dry rot, live bugs, failing foundation, unsupported loads, a leaking roof, and more. It became clear that to save the house we’d have to pretty much rebuild it.”

There is a “grand hall” on the second floor with a fantastic view and leather flooring, where parties and receptions were held. Roeber promises he will be preserving that room, which has a large fireplace made of Hetch Hetchy stone. “Unfortunately, the mortar is of lesser repute, and hasn’t aged well, [but] we have found a way to keep the stonework in place and looking right, while keeping these historic stones from crashing into the bedroom below, when the Big One hits.”

The kitchen is a major undertaking. “After the main house was built, they built a carriage house (in 1934, I think), tangent to the main house. The previous owners used it as a family room, and we’re turning it into a big kitchen,” says Roeber. “We opened up its attic space, and we’re using reclaimed timbers to build a ceiling that echoes the grand hall above.” You can see some pictures of this process, taken by the craftsmen, by going to

Roeber and his wife moved to the city about 10 years ago and currently reside on Chenery in the Fairmount neighborhood. They expect to be moving into the house after the restoration is complete, sometime “this autumn.”

As some of you techies out there might know, Roeber, a physicist and software writer, was one of the founding fathers of the World Wide Web, with past affiliations that included Caltech, CERN, Netscape, and Google. “I don’t think much that I wrote still survives. My actual documents were hosted on machines that are now long dead,” says Roeber. As for his status as a founding father, he says modestly, “I like to think that I helped kick the can down the road a bit.”

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IN OLD NOE: Question 4 was about history, too: Where is the first house built in Noe Valley located, and in what year was it built?

Answer: That would be the house located at 3780 23rd St. between Church and Chattanooga, which was built in 1868 by George Pracey. It was originally located at 1081-85 Church St., but was moved down the hill when Church was graded in 1893 to make way for the J-Church rail line. Old photos from 1868 show the big house flanked by a barn, silo, water tank, and a windmill. A springtime stroll down Severn Alley, next to the house, will take you back to a peaceful time.

You can read a great account of this house’s history in the June 2002 issue of the Voice. See “My Family Farm,” written by Pracey’s great-granddaughter, Suzanne Girot. Girot, who lived in the house, recollects that seven fireplaces provided the only heat, and she had a dilemma every Christmas about where she should hang her stocking.

5. Where in Downtown Noe Valley was Dan’s Gas and Diesel?

The gas station occupied the lot at 3865 24th St., which is now a parking lot owned by the Noe Valley Ministry, on the south side of 24th between Sanchez and Vicksburg. It’s also the site of the Noe Valley Farmers Market. There are many in Noe Valley who want to turn that space into a public square.

Dan’s Gas and Diesel became history on May 20, 2003, when a wrecking ball took a mere 45 minutes to flatten the station’s garage and office. It was bought by the Ministry for a cool $3.25 million from John McCarthy and Fred Hornblower back in 2001. (See the story by Corrie Anders in the April 2001 Voice.)

The property became a gas station in 1930 when John’s father, also named John McCarthy, opened a Shell Gas Station. That original structure was demolished in 1959. A new name was given to the sheet-metal building with garages that replaced it—Dan’s Gas and Diesel. Okay, who’s Dan?

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SCHNITZEL WITH NOODLES: Question 6: What is now located where Speckmann’s German Deli and Bierstube stood from spring of 1962 to their last supper on April 27, 2001? The answer, of course, is the world-class restaurant Incanto, located on the corner of Church and Duncan streets.

Question 7 asked, Where did Noe Valley Dance Space move from and to in September of 2010? Many of you knew that the very popular dance studio moved from the Noe Valley Ministry to a newly renovated storefront (used as a residence for many years) on the corner of Noe and Alvarado. Dance Space is directed by choreographer and dancer Laura Padierne, who had a memorable performance in the movie version of Rent. She says she has never been busier than in her new location. The space offers 20 classes a week, and she has “130 kids who are happily learning dance.”

Turn now to Question 8: Name the last president of the now defunct East & West of Castro Street Improvement Association, and Question 9: Who was the first president of the Friends of Noe Valley, when they organized back in 1971?

These were the easiest, since the answers could be found in the Rumors in the April issue of the 2010 Noe Valley Voice or by going through the Voice archives. E&W’s Paul Kantus was a newsmaker in this paper since the first issue of the Voice (May 1977), and so was Friends of Noe Valley’s first prez, Claire Pilcher.

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BARAPALOOZA: Finally, Question 10: What and where was the Celtic Tavern? It was a bar located at 4054 24th St. Now it’s known as the Valley Tavern. The history of the bar goes back about 50 years. It used to be a mortuary and then became a bar that was called Murphy’s Inn, in the early 1960s. After that, it became the Celtic Tavern in the early ’70s, owned by Tom and Jane Wrench. Then it was called Country, and after that, in the latter 1970s, it became famous as Finnegan’s Wake. The Noe Valley Voice was conceived in the place in early ’77. After Finnegan’s lease expired and it was forced to move, the place became Noebody’s Inn, which unfortunately described the atmosphere. The Rat and Raven took over 26 years ago and operated until about 13 years ago, when its owner was murdered at his Russian River Home. The Coyote Club operated the bar until 2003, at which point Vince Hogan took over and opened his Valley Tavern.

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LASTLY BUT NOT LEASTLY, the bonus question was: What month and year did the first Rumors column appear in the Noe Valley Voice? That would be May 1981. Yup, this is my 300th Rumors column.

In that first column I asked, why oh why is the Noe Valley Market located in Eureka Valley at Noe and 15th streets? (It is still there.) I also wondered why the Noe Valley News was on Market Street, and why some people were calling Eureka Valley “Castro Village.”

Some of the names appearing in that first column were Malon De Loach (barber), Rick Hardina (Bell Market’s manager), Kim Lee of Kim Lee Laundry, Larry De Vischer, who was moving his insurance office, and neighborhood activist Miriam Blaustein, .

I reported that “Link Lovers [were] Lamenting Local Link Loss,” in other words, people were protesting Noe Valley Deli owner (and still owner) Karim Balat’s removal of the hot links from his menu. My other news was that the suggestion box at Herb’s Fine Foods (now Toast) included a bunch of new requests, including “Raisin toast, please,” “Get new uniforms from Frederick’s of Hollywood,” “Don’t wash the walls,” “We want Dali art,” “More jus on the Roast Beef au Jus,” and the classic “Get a larger suggestion box.”

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THAT’S 30 for this 300th. If you hear any good Rumors out there, send me an email at Ciao for now.