Lost Murals

Unfinished History

by Chris Carlsson

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Herb Caen floats over San Francisco.

San Francisco has enjoyed a renaissance of public mural painting going back to the early 1970s. During the decades since, many murals have been painted and then later were lost, either due to being buried behind new buildings adjacent to them, or to the destruction of the buildings on which they were painted. There are some examples of lost murals on other pages in Foundsf.org, such as the story of the Mission Coalition Organization where Michael Rios painted the first mural in the Mission in 1972 and it was later obliterated; the Vietnam War mural on the side of a building on 24th Street where there used to be a parking lot at Bryant and now is hidden behind a new structure; or the much-loved Chuy Campusano mural that once towered over the intersection of 17th and Harrison, but was whitewashed and painted over by the Cort family when they bought the building.

Here are some more lost murals, with many more to be documented (and hopefully not too many more to be lost going forward!).


This mural of a beatific Herb Caen face in a cloud floating over the City was painted in the late 1990s on the side of a tire shop on Mission Street between 6th and 7th Streets. As these photos were taken, the new condominiums were beginning to be built in the empty lot next door.

Photos: Chris Carlsson

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This mural was painted in 1975 by Gilberto Ramirez on the Cogswell Polytechnical College building near 26th and Folsom. The building was later torn down and replaced by a multi-unit, low-income apartment building that fills the block between 26th and Cesar Chavez along Folsom.


Honoring LULAC, 1975, by Gilberto Ramirez

Photo: Tim Drescher


Deconstruction of the building destroys the mural. Old Bernal Dwellings projects visible in background east of Folsom Street.

Photo: James Prigoff


Street scene by Clarkston Peadee, 1975, at Hayes and Divisadero Streets.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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Western Addition Project Area Committee (WAPAC) Mural by David Bradford, 1975.

Photo: Tim Drescher


Latinoamerica, 1974, by Mujeres Muralistas, on laundromat on Mission south of 25th Street.

Photo: Tim Drescher


Our History is No Mystery, 1976, Masonic at Hayes, by Haight Ashbury Muralists.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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Mission Coalition Organization mural by Michael Rios at 23rd and Folsom, c. 1977.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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Paco's Tacos mural by Mujeres Muralistas on southwest corner of 24th and South Van Ness, now long gone behind a new Mission Housing building.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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Minipark on 24th Street, site of an original cluster of murals painted by different artists, this one by Michael Rios in 1982. Most of the original art is now long-gone.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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Even these Minipark murals, painted later, have themselves been superceded by later works.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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The iconic International Hotel or I-Hotel, was home to this mural by James Dong and Kearny Street Workshop before its 1978 destruction.

Photo: Tim Drescher

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This whale by Kevin McCloskey on the side of an historic firehouse greeted Oak Street commuters for many years, before the Bank of America turned its Broderick Street branch bank and parking lot into a new supermarket topped by several floors of apartments in the 1990s. Is the whale still there?...

Photo: Tim Drescher

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Hot Air Balloons over Bryce Canyon, 1975, by Jack Frost in the Valencia Gardens projects.

Photo: Tim Drescher

This particular mural was painted in the 1990s behind a 76 Union gas station at Duboce and Market, just east of the U.S. Mint. In these January 2013 photos by Chris Carlsson you can see that the gas station is gone and is being replaced by a new building, which sits there today, a large gray glass condominium. The mural may still be behind it, but we can't see it anymore.

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Graffiti artists joined in the fun towards the end.

Local artist Andrew Schoultz achieved some fame in the 2010s as a member of the emerging "Mission School," after painting many murals around the neighborhood. One of the most dramatic of his works has been obliterated from its prominent spot on Lexington Alley at 18th Street, where it adorned a shop called "The Apartment."

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Photos: Chris Carlsson, 2013

The famous British graffiti artist Banksy has passed through San Francisco from time to time. One of his works briefly sat under a "No Trespassing" sign in Sycamore Alley just west of Mission Street.

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Photo: Chris Carlsson, 2010