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Auto Row on Van Ness

Unfinished History

Automobiles poured into San Francisco and California during the first decades of the 20th century. In 1915, Ford already had a factory at 21st and Harrison in the Mission making Model-T’s, and by the mid-1920s, the new car business was fully ensconced along Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco:

Van-Ness-Ave-south-at-Eddy-Auto-Row-1929-SFPL.jpg

Van Ness Avenue south at Eddy Street, with Auto Row well established in this 1929 photo.

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library, courtesy C.R. collection

Chevrolet dealership at Van Ness Avenue and Sacramento Street 1933 AAD-4649.jpg

Chevrolet dealer at Van Ness and Sacramento, 1933.

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

Avenue Rambler dealership August 1964 AAD-4645.jpg

Rambler dealer, Van Ness Avenue, August 1964.

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

Interior of Don Lee automobile showroom at Van Ness Avenue and O'Farrell Street 1929 AAD-4656.jpg

Interior of Don Lee Cadillac showroom (now AMC Theaters).

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

Don Lee automobile dealership at Van Ness Avenue and O'Farrell Street 1928 AAD-4657.jpg

Don Lee Cadillac dealership, Van Ness and O'Farrell, 1928.

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

Tendrnob$van-ness-1930.jpg

Van Ness and Sacramento, 1930

Photo: Private Collection, San Francisco, CA

Van-Ness-south-at-California-w-Auto-Row-and-H-streetcar-1936-SFPL.jpg

Van Ness Avenue south at California Street, with an H-streetcar making its way through "auto row" in 1936.

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library, courtesy C.R. collection

Interesting to recall that while 30,000 citizens were mobilized to stop freeway building in San Francisco (the very same elevated, pedestrian-free streets McClintock had come to endorse as an industry flack) thousands more, mostly African American and white youth, staged a vigorous civil rights campaign along auto row, demanding that blacks be given equal treatment in hiring by auto dealers, especially Don Lee’s Cadillac dealership.

Crowd cheering settlement with auto dealers 1964 AAK-0884.jpg

Crowd cheering civil rights employment settlement with auto dealers, 1964.

Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library