History of "Glen Park Among the Pines"
Real estate agent A.S. Baldwin of Baldwin & Howell is likely best remembered for the creation of suburban residential parks in natural settings. This may be best exemplified by the neighborhoods of Westwood Park and Westwood Highlands on the southeastern slope of Mt. Davidson, developed between 1917 and the mid-1920s.
By the end of the first quarter of the 20th century, Baldwin had become a leading innovator in real estate. His neighborhoods were among the first of their kind, successfully incorporating the “garden-suburb design” conceived by the Olmsted Brothers for nearby Saint Francis Wood. Baldwin was also a key proponent for the construction of the Twin Peaks Tunnel to West Portal. Despite the rise of the automobile, he knew that home lots would be difficult to sell without easy access to rail for fast, efficient, and convenient transit downtown. This was particularly true for Westwood Park and Westwood Highlands on parcels that had been part of the remote Outside Lands only a few years before.
The original entrance plan Westwood Park was to feature Beaux-Arts design. As described by Loeb, the concept included, “Rams and winged horses bearing urns, Corinthian columns, and benches … envisioned within the still-sylvan setting.” Further, “The classicism of these sculptural and architectural civic amenities playing against organic landscape forms harkens back to the ideals of the turn-of-the-Century City Beautiful movement.” Loeb emphasizes that Baldwin & Howell’s “… reliance upon the expertise it had accumulated through its earlier work in the district …” was part of the reason why Westwood Park and Westwood Highlands achieved such successful results.
So what does this have to do with the early development of Glen Park two decades earlier? As we’ll see, there are some interesting parallels. Let’s first review the area before Glen Park came to be.
Before Glen Park
If you were living in the bustling City of San Francisco in the 1850s, you would have considered everything south and west of Twin Peaks as a no-man’s land, a-way out there in the boondocks. It was someplace you wouldn’t really have wanted to go if you didn’t have to, mainly because there were either no roads, or the few that existed required a long, strenuous, and often sandy, dusty, or muddy ride in a wagon or carriage. This scenario couldn’t be more appropriately illustrated than seen in the 1859 United States Coast Survey Map of the northern San Francisco peninsula. The map shows topographic detail of the coastline surrounding the peninsula from ocean to bay, reaching inland about two miles or so on each side. But, in the middle of the peninsula? Absolutely nothing! It is completely blank. Perhaps a better moniker for these so-called “Outside” Lands may have been the “Inside” Lands instead!
The next step in the development of Glen Park was the introduction of rail service to San Jose on the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad in January 1864. In later years, the line would be acquired by the first transcontinental railroad, the Central Pacific. By 1870, all local railroads had been consolidated under the Southern Pacific. The railroad ran along the eastern border of the Fairmount Tract and future Glen Park, with a stop at the Four-mile House located near today’s Randall and San Jose Avenue. Introduction of rail service to the area was likely welcomed by the few residents already living in the new Fairmount Tract, platted in 1861, as well as their neighbors across the cut in the Bernal Rancho. (Read more about the Southern Pacific at the Sunnyside History Project).
From the late 1860s to the turn of the century, there would be a gradual increase in the number of new homesteads created as extensions of existing homesteads, such as the Fairmount Tract Extension, West of Castro Street Extension, and others. One of these, the Mission and Thirtieth Homestead Extension, was the first step taken in the development of Glen Park.
The First Glen Park Plat
The first known pioneers of the rolling hills that would become known as Glen Park appear to have been “milk ranchers.” By 1861, at least four dairy farms were located along Islais Creek in the future area of Glen Park: two in Glen Canyon operated by Charles Clark and John Gardener (or Gardiner), and two others less than a mile downstream operated by Henry Wilson and George Ulshofer. The Wilson milk ranch may have been near today's Diamond and Chenery. By the 1890s, a large grove of non-native eucalyptus trees was located at that intersection, which is why the area would become known as the Gum Tree Tract. It is not known exactly who planted the trees, but perhaps Wilson planted the grove as a wind break.
A map from 1863 shows the boundaries of Ulshofer’s homestead, mostly on the south side of Islais Creek and abutting the San Francisco-San Jose Railroad (today’s San Jose Avenue) under construction. According to records, George Ulshofer was a native of Wurtemberg, Germany, born about 1820. The San Francisco City Directory of 1862-1863 lists him as owning a “milk ranch” at “Rock House Hill, at old San Jose Road, 5 miles from City Hall.” Some earlier maps identify a large rock located on the eastern side of the railroad tracks, next to the railroad depot. By 1865, Ulshofer had moved his milk ranch to 17th and Douglas in Eureka Valley.
On May 22, 1869, the Daily Alta California and the Sacramento Daily Union announced the incorporation of the Mission and Thirtieth Street Extension Homestead Association, with the “… objective of the purchase of the San Miguel Rancho, and improvement thereof.” Capital stock of $105,000 (the equivalent of $1.8 million today) was divided into 300 shares at $350 each ($6,300 today). The trustees of the association were F.W. Myrick, William T. Gunn, F. Manteil, Albert Macy, and C.F. Brown.
The first announcement of the sale of home lots describes the location of George Ulshofer’s milk ranch:
“THIS FINE PROPERTY ADJOINS the Fairmount Tract and lands of the MISSION AND THIRTIETH STREET HOMESTEAD UNION on the south and west, right along the line of the Railroad on which it fronts. These lands are a portion of the San Miguel Rancho, the title to which is acknowledged to be the best of any property in the county of San Francisco. Substantial Soil and Substantial Title. The line of travel by horse cars, which are now being pushed forward and extended, will make these lots immediately available for improvement.”
Three hundred lots, 25 x 100 and 35 x 120, were offered for $350 each at $10 monthly without interest. Sales must have been slow because by January 1870, the lots were being offered at a 50% discount.
Langley’s City Guide to the City of San Francisco (1877) is the earliest map of this plat yet located – essentially a direct overlay of Ulshofer’s property. It provides our first visual look at the oldest streets in Glen Park. Six of the streets extend south from the banks of Islais Creek: Croton, Fulton, Park, Clinton, Hamilton, and Kingston. The seventh is Berkshire that leads from the railroad in a generally westerly direction and intersects all six, dividing each street in half. In the same order as above, these streets are today named Diamond, Brompton, Lippard, Chilton, Hamerton, and Burnside. Except for Hamerton and Burnside, all of these streets today intersect with Bosworth.
It would take another six years for the Board of Supervisors to approve the extension of Telegraph, or New County Road, from 26th Street to Silver Avenue. In their approval it was proclaimed that the road, “… shall be hereafter designated and officially known as ‘Mission Street.’” This was good news for local residents as they had been demanding road improvements for years. An article in the Daily Alta California declared the extension of Mission Street would be, “… like the opening of a gate leading into a vast and valuable field for improvements. It is in reality a gateway, a pass through which the thousands to come will communicate …”
Sunnyside and the First Electric Road
Homestead acquisition to the south and west of Twin Peaks was sluggish but continued to slowly extend farther away from downtown. Development of the future Glen Park was equally slow. Though Diamond Street and Castro Street had finally made their way up and over Gold Mine and Fairmount Hills from Noe Valley, it was hoped a new railroad might help nudge the region into popularity.
With an armload of cash from well-timed investments in the French phase of the Panama Canal, Behrend Joost was ready to buy land, and lots of it. He had already franchised a new railroad to the area, the first electric road in San Francisco. By April 1892, the San Francisco-San Mateo Railroad was servicing the Fairmount Tract and all points south, making its way along Chenery Street, south on Diamond over Islais Creek, then parallel to the Southern Pacific track to San Mateo County.
While the railroad was under construction in 1891, Joost purchased 200 acres of land from James P. McCarthy, who five months earlier had purchased 589 acres of the former Rancho San Miguel from Senator Leland Stanford. Joost called his new land the Sunnyside, offering 2,250 lots for sale, the largest development in San Francisco to that date. Buyers of home lots in the Sunnyside were promised the benefits of the new electric road. Unfortunately, sales remained sluggish while Joost became embroiled in litigation over alleged financial mismanagement of both the railroad and the Sunnyside Land Company. He sold the railroad at a loss to James D. Spreckels, son of the sugar magnate, who promptly began improving and extending the road.
Enter A.S. Baldwin
By 1891, A.S. Baldwin was reported to be owner of the land called the Gum Tree Ranch near the Four-mile House. Evidence for this appears in an article in the San Francisco Call in August of that year in which he bailed out the manager of his ranch, John Dubois, who had been arrested for battery of a coworker. The Gum Tree Ranch, according to a 1947 article in the San Francisco Chronicle describing the recollections of a man who had grown up in Glen Park in the late 1800s, was located along Diamond Street at Surrey and Sussex Streets and Poppy Lane. Adjacent to the ranch, Glen Park Terrace would be platted along the north side of Chenery from Diamond to Surrey and the south side of Surrey from Diamond to Chenery seven years later. Concurrently, Baldwin was managing a large parcel adjacent to the Gum Tree Ranch that had been purchased by the Crocker Estate Company in 1889 from Adolph Sutro.
Thanks to Behrend Joost, Baldwin’s land already offered the convenience of an electric road that could transport residents downtown and back. Step 1 accomplished. Now, how to make the land attractive enough that potential buyers would want to board the railroad in the first place?
Knowing that amusements were the popular activity of the day, Baldwin came up with the grandest plan possible: build a magnificent zoo, schedule exciting daredevil events and the best entertainment to be found, and aggressively promote it. This new breathing spot would be certain to bring City dwellers out to Glen Park Terrace. Visitors would disembark the railroad at Diamond and Chenery, which was also the main entrance to his proposed Mission Park and Zoological Gardens. As they strolled up Glen Avenue (today’s Chenery between Diamond and Elk) to the main pleasuring grounds, Baldwin envisioned visitors admiring his new home lots and quickly making the decision to buy!
Baldwin contracted with Anson C. Robison, a well-known importer of exotic birds and animals, to create a list of animals to purchase for the zoo. He also hired prominent architect Frank S. Van Trees to design an elegant Italian renaissance building to house the animals, with a colonnade on three sides, three grand entrances, a central court with a seal pond, grassy lawns and an occasional palm tree. He also hired Berkeley landscape architect George Hansen, who described the Gum Tree Tract extending into Glen Canyon as a “natural amphitheater.” Hansen mapped out grand boulevards and circular paths interspersed with islands of greenery that followed the topography of the hillside.
Both plans were reminiscent of the Beaux-Arts designs introduced by Daniel Burnham at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. “The White City” that Burnham developed for the Exposition incorporated landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted. By the early 1900s, the style had evolved into the City Beautiful movement, implemented in Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and other cities. Burnham would develop a plan for San Francisco in 1905, mirroring much of Hansen’s plan for Glen Park. However, because of the 1906 earthquake and conflagration, his plan was never carried out.
Part of Baldwin’s plan included selling the Crocker Estate land that included Glen Canyon to the City of San Francisco to establish as a permanent park. After much contentious debate, the supervisors voted against the purchase because they considered the price too inflated, opting to fund streets, sewers, and a new hospital instead. This did not stop Baldwin, however. He scrapped the plans by Van Trees and Hansen and continued on with a revised, downscaled plan. He installed seal ponds and a bear pit, an eight-foot high fence around the property to contain his ranging herd of elk, and built Morro Castle to house an aviary, tea house, and a children’s playground. Each week, a great variety of exciting entertainment was scheduled. “Glen Park”, the pleasuring grounds that would give the district of Glen Park its name, was a wild success, averaging 8,000 to 10,000 visitors each week. (Learn more about the origins of the name "Glen Park.")
By 1898, Baldwin was ready to offer Glen Park Terrace home lots for auction. With Glen Park resort in high gear, Baldwin began promoting Glen Park Terrace as “The Gem Subdivision of the Mission,” offering, “75 superb building lots for business and residence purposes.” Their promotion continued,
“Every lot in Glen Park Terrace has a fine sunny exposure and commands a good view of this new and popular resort, Glen Park. It is an admitted fact that all property adjacent to public or private parks enhances rapidly in value. It is also conceded that no park has ever attained such popularity within the same time as Glen Park. What Woodward’s Garden was to the city years ago so is Glen Park to-day. The attendance at Glen Park Dewey day [Note: celebration of the American victory in the Spanish-American War] was 41,287 … wherever such crowds go real estate values must increase. Glen Park Terrace commands the key to the whole situation …”
Unfortunately, home sales did not begin to soar as quickly as Baldwin had hoped, with very few of the 75 lots being sold. People loved coming to Glen Park the resort, but perhaps they couldn’t bear the thought of thousands of people tramping across their Glen Park Terrace lot on their way to and from the resort.
Baldwin sold all of his land interests in Glen Park between 1900 and 1903. The exciting promotion of Glen Park the resort that had been appearing in the local media each week seemed to fade at about the same time. It wasn’t the end of the pleasuring grounds, however. Now under new management by the Crocker Estate Company, it would be operated as a private picnic area for many years before becoming a public park once again. By 1922, the City had purchased the land as a permanent park. If Baldwin could have been in possession of a crystal ball that could have foretold the upcoming burst in sales only three years down the road in 1906, he likely would have held on to the parcels.
Glen Park as a Sylvan Setting
The real boom in Glen Park occurred as displaced refugees of the Great Earthquake and Fire migrated to the Outside Lands in search of new homes. An earthquake refugee camp was established on the future site of Glen Park School and in and around Glen Canyon. It is believed that at least two homes in Glen Park today are converted earthquake shacks, as well as other shacks now long gone. Soon, sales of home lots throughout today’s Glen Park rapidly increased in number.
Other real estate agents picked up promotion of home lots where Baldwin had left off. The River Brothers included photographs of the still rural area with the headline “scenery in and around” in their ads for lots in the Glen Park and Castro Street Addition, just $350, and $25 down (about $8,750 and $625, respectively, today.) In 1907, G.H. Umbsen & Co. promoted Glen Park Terrace as the “Switzerland of San Francisco.” In another ad, Umbsen reminded prospective buyers,
“The men who own property there [Glen Park Terrace] today are the men who LOOKED AHEAD. You can’t wait till property values are increased, you must get in and HELP INCREASE them, if you would make money … GLEN PARK TERRACE is within 500 feet of electric line, within 30 minutes of the business center of san Francisco. It is PART OF SAN FRANCISCO. Buy a lot, build a home, save the price in rent. Be independent.”
Arthur G. Duncan, selling agent for the Crocker Estate Company, headline “Glen Park Among the Pines”:
“Glen Park is not only the most beautiful residential park in the city, but here you will find a mild climate, as balmy, as free from fogs and strong winds as Marin County, yet Glen Park is in San Francisco, and a five-cent fare takes you to any part in the city. The west portal of the proposed Twin Peaks tunnel is less than a mile from Glen Park which means a 15-minute ride to Market Street.
“The people residing around Glen Park are desirable neighbors. They own their own homes and take pride in beautifying them. Surrounding their homes you will find roses, sweat peas, ivy, and the most beautiful flower gardens … Almost every lot around Glen Park is dotted with pines, acacias, eucalyptus, and other choice varieties of trees; wildflowers grow in profusion. Many of the homes have stone hedges and rustic arches which would do credit to almost any country lodge or estate. …
“The adjoining property west, south, and north of Glen Park are owned by the Crocker Estate Company. Years ago they realized that San Francisco must inevitably grow towards Glen Park, and they purchased many blocks and planted acacias, palms, pines, eucalyptus, and semi-tropical plants. They now have this property laid out with broad streets following the gently sloping contour of the land …”
Sounds like a lovely place, indeed!
A.S. Baldwin would continue to hone his residential development skills over the next 20 years. He likely ruminated over his failure to sell home lots in Glen Park Terrace despite the overwhelming success of the Glen Park resort and immediate access to the electric road. Baldwin had considered incorporating grand, almost over-the-top architectural Beaux-Arts designs for his initial proposal, the Mission Park and Zoological Gardens. However, without being able to sell the property to the City, he moved forward with a down-sized and likely more economically feasible plan.
When developing the sylvan Westwood Terrace and Westwood Highlands 20 years later, he once again considered the incorporation of Beaux-Arts features but, as before, rejected the idea. It appears to have been a theme he was drawn to but was reluctant to implement. Most importantly, with Glen Park Terrace Baldwin had made an attempt to bring home buyers to the park. Twenty years later, he realized the reverse had the potential to be much more valuable – attract buyers by bringing the park to the home. And, he was right.