Playland -Topsy's Roost : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

To Whom it may concern,

Have you ever heard of a place in the San Francisco area Playland, called "Topsy's Roost"?

My parents say it was a place where you would eat dinner in "cubby holes" in the wall and then if you wanted to dance.. you would get to the dance floor by sliding down to it on a big slide!!

Can't find any info on it.. Can you help?

-- Frank Giovanni (, July 14, 1999


Topsy's Roost was a local SF eatery of the 1920s that specialized in chicken dinners, and whose decor and advertising included racist overtones. (Topsy was portrayed in ads as a stereotypical African American plantation girl with nappy locks, sack dress, etc.) The interior of the Roost featured a barn-like atmosphere with lots of rough wood and overhanging balconies.

The Roost was located in a now-demolished building on Great Highway just north of Balboa Street. This same building, originally known as "The Casino," apparently dated to the 1880s and lasted through the mid-1970s. Over the years it housed such diverse activities as Topsy's Roost, the Surf Club (a dance hall); a slot car race track during the '60s, and "The Family Dog on the Great Highway" circa 1970-1972.

Marilyn Blaisedell's photo history book of Playland has excellent photos of Topsy's Roost and it's rather bizarre travelling advertisement truck.

-- John Martini (, July 15, 1999.

There is a review of Topsy's Roost in Ruth Thompson's "Eating Around San Francisco" published in 1937. There is a pretty good description of what was apparently an enormous restaurant and night club. It could accomodate 1055 diners and the dance floor could hold 300. She includes their rec ipe for fried chicken and describes the plantation/Negro theme with average sensitivity for the period.

-- Don Martinich (, July 19, 1999.

I'm over 75, born in San Francisco, and lived there for 10 years. I remember Topsy's Roost. I was always disappointed because my numerous aunts and uncles talked about the fun they had at the place and I was considered too young to go along. Yes, you could slide to the dance floor if you were seated a floor above. I, with my mom and dad, passed by in our Model A Ford, on occasion, and and I looked longingly as we passed. If Topsy's was not my roost, Playland at the Beach was. One of my great sadnesses in life was the day they tore it all down for condominiums. The era of innocent fun was gone forever. There was never a word said about a race motif or any comment thereto. In San Francisco we were color blind, thank heaven!

-- Wilbur R Johnson (, May 17, 2003.

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