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Ada Frances Parker Stillings: One of Glen Park's First Civic Activists

This article was originally published in the (Hi)Stories of Our Neighborhoods column in the Winter 2016 issue of the Glen Park News. It is republished here with permission.

Approximately 225,000 people in San Francisco were displaced by the Great 1906 Earthquake. Ada Frances Parker Stillings and her husband, Calvin, were two who suffered such misfortune – family pictures show Ada cooking on a clothing water boiler in front of their damaged home. Like many others, the Stillings would eventually seek haven in the new residential district of Glen Park.

Ada Frances Parker Stillings (right) cooking with an unnamed friend in front of her damaged San Francisco home, 1906. Image courtesy of the Ada Frances Parker Family.

Ada and Calvin, a salesman for Singer Sewing Machine, had married in New Hampshire in 1904. She likely encouraged the move to San Francisco: when Ada was 10 years old, her family moved west to Oakland where, sadly, her mother died. Ada returned to New Hampshire in 1887.

We don’t know the location of the Stillings’ temporary housing – perhaps it was the earthquake refugee camp on the site of today’s Glen Park School, or the area around Glen Canyon Park. Yet, in 1908, Ada and Calvin constructed a classic Folk Victorian Farmhouse-style home at 2 Midway Street (today, 95 Nordhoff Street) at the crossing of the newly designated Stillings Avenue.

The Stillings home (circa 1915) at 95 Nordhoff Street and Stillings Avenue, a classic Folk Victorian Farmhouse-style home (constructed 1908) of which there are few examples in San Francisco. The home is now threatened with demolition for the construction of four ultra-modern residential units. Image courtesy of the Ada Frances Parker Family.

Glen Park was booming, not only with new residents but also the refuse they discarded. Fed up, 40 civic-minded women gathered to organize the Glen Park Outdoor Art League in February 1908, the first of its kind in San Francisco. The ladies strove to make Glen Park a “model suburb,” installing garbage cans and planting greenery throughout the neighborhood.

They next set their sights on city services. As the League’s president, Ada worked to establish the first branch of the San Francisco Public Library in Glen Park in September 1908: Delivery Station F, located in Mrs. Mary Bridget Mullally Hamilton’s dry goods store at 2975 Diamond Street (today’s BART station). They raised funds for Glen Park’s first volunteer fire department (on Diamond Street near Conrad Street), successfully petitioned the city to extend gas lines to Glen Park, and organized work parties followed by New England-style boiled dinners to make Lippard Street safe and passable.

Ada standing on the porch of her Nordhoff home, circa 1915. Image courtesy of the Ada Frances Parker Family.

By 1910, Calvin had become a manager at Singer Sewing in Tacoma, Washington. Following their divorce, Ada would continue her civic service. As a Tacoma police matron, she single-handedly captured an escaped convict. She then became a nurse and later returned to San Francisco where, in 1930, she was working at Laguna Honda Hospital. By 1940, Ada had moved to Silver City, New Mexico where she ran a retirement home for cowboys until the age of 86.

Ada Frances Parker Stillings again returned to San Francisco, passing away in 1967 at the age of 97. She is buried next to her mother in Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. A life well lived,! We honor Ada as one of Glen Park’s first civic activists among a history of many.

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