This story is the first in a series about the streets of San Francisco. After working on my book, “42 Encounters in San Francisco”, and photographing throughout different parts of our beautiful and special city, I decided to use the opportunity to share some of my discoveries with you. On the weekends, whenever possible, I take Muni to visit different streets for my encounters.
This time my destination was to Valencia Street. I left home at about 2 pm and told my wife Elfa that I was planning to be back by 4 pm. I took the #48 Muni Bus at West Portal next to the entrance to the Twin Peaks Tunnel. Its’ route is through 24th Street through Noe Valley, and I got off on the corner of Valencia. My plan was to walk up to Market Street and to take the Muni underground train back home after about two hours. When my phone rang and my wife inquired where I was, I realized that it was almost 6 pm and I did not even reach 18th Street.
From some online research, I learned that according to historian Louis K. Loewenstein, Valencia Street takes its name from either Jose Manuel Valencia or his son, Candelario Valencia. Since its establishment, Valencia Street featured an ethnically diverse population. Soon after we arrived in San Francisco in 1980, we learned that the Castro district is considered to be a center for gay men, while Valencia Street, according to an article in the Chronicle, was called “The Women’s’ District.” It gained notice as an “emerging bohemia”. At the same time, according to the same article, “it (Valencia Street) served a mix that included Mexican, Central American, South American, Native American, Caucasian, Black and other ethnic groups, as well gay of both genders.” The historical essay I was quoting from was written in 1997, almost twenty years ago. In our fast moving city, especially in the last few years, that is a long time. Valencia Street could not avoid gentrification and today it is a young dynamic, fun place to spend time and live in. According to old photographs taken at the beginning of the 20th century, Valencia Street had already established itself as an area that had a mix of residences and businesses, as it has today. This was why I was barely able to walk six blocks in four hours. I jaywalked, crossing each block to visit the businesses and stores on both sides of the street. I explored two used books stores, and two vintage record stores. One just opened the day before, across from the other one. A young woman was selling her own ceramic cups literally in the space between two stores. There were stores that sold beautiful jewelry, one that sold exquisite perfume, there were stores that sold cards, gifts and hats, antiques and teas. I discovered an art gallery, restaurants and coffee shops. One of them sells delicious Xanath Ice Cream. The last place I visited before my wife reminded me of the time, was Dandelion Chocolate. Unfortunately, I did not have time to indulge in its delicacies. But I am planning to return; this time together with Elfa. Hope you’ll follow my steps. Enjoy and Share.
P.S. Four images are only a few I brought back from my short trip. Some of them will end up in my next photo-book “42 Encounters with Couples in San Francisco”. The first one “42 Encounters in San Francisco” is being printed and is going to be ready before the end of September. It will cost $24.00. Start saving. I guarantee you will buy more than one book.
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