Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

Klebingat Recalls The City Front

 
 
Klebingat Recalls The City Front Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, March 20, 2014
1. Klebingat Recalls The City Front Marker
Inscription. Captain Fred Klebingat was 24 years old when the panorama at the right was made from the Ferry Tower. He had sailed into San Francisco in 1908, as a seaman-donkeyman on the S.N. Castle. In 1979, at the age of 90, he walked the city front recalling life through the years on what was East Street in his youth. He studied the four-part 1913 panorama: ”Well, it was like this, you see.” and the Captain was off on a fresh memory.
Over the years, starting in 1953, Karl Kortum, Director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, listened intently to Captain Klebingat, setting down the captain’s detailed recollections of 57 years at sea – mostly in the Pacific, ”My home from home.” From seaman to captain of square-rigged vessels in the South Seas; he mastered a range of vessels, from Hollywood yachts to Liberty ships. Captain Klebingat died in Coos Bay, Oregon, aged 95 – his words set her in italic are the real thing - ”Well, maybe I was wrong 2% of the time.”

East Street Becomes The Embarcadero In 1909

San Francisco gave a week-long party – The Portola Festival _ to honor Gaspar de Portola’s discovery of San Francisco Bay in October, 1769. For three years the city had been hauling debris and rebuilding from the 1906
Ferry Tower Panorama, part 1 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, March 20, 2014
2. Ferry Tower Panorama, part 1
Panorama captions, presented left to right:

The copper dome tops one of two signal towers on either side of the Ferry loop. With no traffic lights, and only a few mounted police (who had more important things to do), streetcar and cable car drivers relied on tower-men’s signals to start and stop.

Captain Klebingat recalled that, ”It was right here that Feige Hanson’s Hash House served a Free Lunch of cannibal sandwiches: slices of pumpernickel with raw ham-burger and a slice of onion on top.”

Yosemite Beer at 5 cents a glass includes a typical Free Lunch – hard boiled eggs, pickles, and corned beef hash. ”No matter how broke you were, two scoops of beer allowed you Free Lunch,” recalled Captain Klebingat.

Triangular Sign on Horse Advertised Central Hotel – 500 rooms – 25 cents Free baths – Captain Klebingat remarked, ”I bet you they only had five baths-well, maybe twice that.”

American flag flies above the Coffee Palace, beside a banner lettered: “Help Wanted – Headquarters U.S. Army.”

”Ensign Saloon served more lager beer than the rest. Seamen drank steam beer; commuters could pay for lager.” #2 East; Henry Dree’s Oyster Bar
earthquake and fire. “Let’s give a party and invite everybody to San Francisco to see the city rebuilt.” To honor Portola, streets were dedicated: Portola Drive and the Embarcadero paid homage to the city’s Spanish roots. Mission Revival architecture placed red tile roofs on stuccoed police stations, on new pier facades and warehouses. Cool grey San Francisco fell in love with sunny Spain. East Street still appears on signs in this view and in the recollections of retired seafaring men.

View from the Ferry Tower, June 3, 1913

Around noon, on that Tuesday, a photographer climbed the tower steps up the 220 feet, set up his camera and loaded it with a seven-inch glass plate – not once but four times. Each time he shifted his camera’s tripod carefully to make and overlap for a panoramic view of the waterfront. What he captured was an ad man’s dream, the prime place to push your product. Where else could you be sure of reaching 60,000 people – not once a day, but twice. Twenty-three ferry boats made 180 trips a day, carrying a total of 12,000 fares every working day. Weekends carried half as many, but locals and tourists had a little money in their pockets. Such were the times, that it didn’t take much. At 16 Embarcadero (directly above) Yosemite beer, at 5 cents a glass is advertised in stained art glass. In 1913 prices
Ferry Tower Panorama, part 2 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, March 20, 2014
3. Ferry Tower Panorama, part 2
Panorama captions, presented left to right:

”Ensign Saloon served more lager beer than the rest. Seamen drank steam beer; commuters could pay for lager.” #2 East; Henry Dree’s Oyster Bar.

Market Street (120 feet wide) with four street car tracks, joined by a cable car slot coming off Sacramento Street on the right. On the left, Steuart Street comes into Market, followed by Spear and Main streets, father west.

Advertised Hotel Rates: Terminal Hotel on Market, rooms started at $1.00 or $1.500 with bath. Bay Hotel: 50 cents & up; Other hotels: 30 cents & up; Cosmopolitan – 20 cents per cubicle.

OWL has been spelled backwards so that you would ask about this monumental error with the hoped-for result: remember OWL when you bought your next cigar.
stay in place long enough to only post them once.

Steam Beer – 5 cents a scoop – so was a good cigar

Captain Fred Klebingat recalled, ”San Francisco in those days was known all up and down the Pacific Coast as ‘The City’; the Embarcadero was known as East Street; and all this part of town was known as ‘The City Front’. It was here that the work of the city was done. If you walked in the Ensign Saloon and called “Captain” – half the men in the place would look up. If I was in the money, I’d get oysters at Herman Dree’s, washed down with lager, and have a steam-towel shave and shine on my boots. You’d know it was summer in this picture – June 1st was Straw Hat Day – but I never wore such a thing. It was like this – the big talk around 1913 was the Panama Canal – due to open in 1914. Think what it meant for San Francisco shipping, if you didn’t have to fight your way around Cape Horn with freezing seas over the deck.”

You could buy a house cheaper than a car

“Horses still did most of the heavy pulling on the waterfront,” Klebingat recalled. ”Big iron wheels made a terrible racket on the paving.” At Market Street, two buggies tear around the corner, as the sidewalk group admires the smart open roadster parked by the
Ferry Tower Panorama, part 3 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, March 20, 2014
4. Ferry Tower Panorama, part 3
Panorama captions, presented left to right:

OWL has been spelled backwards so that you would ask about this monumental error with the hoped-for result: remember OWL when you bought your next cigar.

Commercial Street (82.5 feet wide) no longer reaches the Embarcadero.

While teamsters drink at the Loop Bar, their thirsty horses refresh themselves at the special horse trough installed by the S.P.C.A. with running water piped in.

Big iron-wheel drays were built to carry heavy cargo right off incoming ships. Waterfront paving has to bear the heaviest loads. Hand-hewn basalt paving blocks were the longest lasting, but made streets the most expensive annual item in the city budget.

Impressive U.S. Customs House in the background on Washington & Jackson had been finished in 1911 – still stands in 1999.

On Clay Street (82.5 feet wide) an electric trolley arrives on the Embarcadero, to swing around in front of the Ferry Loop. Clay Street no longer reaches the waterfront.
curb. The June 3rd Morning Call carries ads for “Six Passenger Torpedo Sports Car at 5,000” and “Comfortable Two-bedroom Cottage on Pacific Street at $3,500.” Also noted, “During April, emigration from Hamburg and Bremen is heavier than in years, 43,000 people left Germany for the United State.” ”Well,” said the Captain. ”I was only 16, when I left on the German ship D.J. Waljen, bound for Chile by way of Cape Horn in 1905. Sailed into San Francisco in 1908. I’m not one of those fellows with one foot in Germany and one in this country, what we used to call ‘white-washed Yanks’.”

“Boss of the Road” – City Front – A Man’s World

“No women on the Front,” Captain Kibbling recalled: “Women you saw in a stream morning and night, crossing from the Ferry Building to Market Street, and back again. But not many others around. A few Salvation Army lasses, beating the drum on the street corner at night, part of the band. Maybe a whore or two in the waterfront hotels, but mostly that class of women congregated on the Barbary Coast – some distance away. You were safe on East Street at any time. The San Francisco waterfront was not a riotous scene filled with drunken sailors, as some romantic writers would have it. San Francisco
Ferry Tower Panorama, part 4 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, March 20, 2014
5. Ferry Tower Panorama, part 4
Panorama captions, presented left to right:

On Clay Street (82.5 feet wide) an electric trolley arrives on the Embarcadero, to swing around in front of the Ferry Loop. Clay Street no longer reaches the waterfront.

“Boss of the Road” Overalls Competes with ”Can’t Bust ‘Em.” According to Klebingat: ”An easy place to borrow some money was the tailor at men’s clothing stores. You paid interest, but you got money on the spot.”

Captain Klebingat recalled, ” At the North Pole Restaurant at the Foot of Clay, one could get a hamburger as big as a platter, 2 handfuls of onions on top, a big potato or 2, and all the bread one could eat for 15 cents. It was only a hole in the wall – just 15 stools.”

Street lamps are electric, but sidewalks along the waterfront that had been hammered in place right after 1906 earthquake are still wooden planks. Waterfront rats, said to be “tame as kittens.” Burrowed underneath, feasting on garbage from saloons and cafes.

Merchant Street (82.5 feet wide), no longer reaches the Embarcadero.

Telegraph Hill appears in the background with the huge land slide gash caused where Gray Brothers’ Quarry had repeatedly blasted away. Only a few eucalyptus trees blow in the wind near the bald top of the hill.
cops kept things in hand: they might pick up an inebriate, but let him go if he was not causing any trouble. They might say to a bystander, ‘You know that bird? You do! Well take care of him – get him out of my sight.’”


The Cosmopolitan Hotel: 20 cents a night

”I climbed the stairs with my shipmate Jack Van Barm;” Klebingat recollected, ”Into a big hall divided with a running partition about six feet high. This hall was a maze of alleyways, with a door leading to each cubicle; the strong stench of crowded humanity prevailed. Jack’s enclosure had a cot and a pillow and some blankets. ‘This is all I can afford,” Jack said, ‘Just this morning a head stuck up over this low wall and says to me, “What time is it?” All at once, I knew that it was a damn easy way to rob a guy.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘And you wearing that gold chain. Why not raise some money on it? I don’t have much, but I can lend you a few bucks. And you can raise money on that gold watch chain.’ Jack grabbed his bag, and we left. Later, I was told that they nailed chicken wire up, to stop the guests from climbing from one cell to another.”

”Even In My Time The City Front Was Changing”

“Some seafaring men moved further up town, looking for a furnished room with a family. People
Klebingat Recalls The City Front Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, March 20, 2014
6. Klebingat Recalls The City Front Marker
liked this kind of lodger; he was very seldom there, but he paid his rent to store his good clothes. The people you knew when you walked down East Street, or the Embarcadero – the new name – became less. It had been a maritime community; it was less so. And by now it has been replaced altogether. What you see there now are skyscrapers and a park.
” Captain Fred Klebingat stood here in 1979 to search for remembered places. The entire block of businesses between Steuart Street and the Ferry Building had been dislodged by a park. A massive new hotel replaced the modest Terminal Hotel. All the small businesses between Drumm Street and the waterfront had made way for the Embarcadero Center, skyscrapers and fountain plaza.

On the front of the podia

San Francisco was the City, the Waterfront was where the work of the City was done – Captain Fred Klebingat
 
Erected by San Francisco Art Commission for the Waterfront Transportation Projects.
 
Location. 37° 47.724′ N, 122° 23.633′ W. Marker is in San Francisco, California, in San Francisco City and County. Marker is on The Embarcadero near Market Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 The Embarcadero, San Francisco CA 94105, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Bustle of the City (a few steps from this marker); Signs of History (within shouting distance of this marker); Freeway Supports (within shouting distance of this marker); Splendid Survivor (within shouting distance of this marker); San Francisco Vietnam Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); The Abraham Lincoln Brigade (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Captain Leidesdorff (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Splendid Survivor (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
 
More about this marker. This marker is on a podia located in front of the Ferry Building.
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 1, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 379 times since then and 57 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 1, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
Paid Advertisement