Constructinion of the Crooked Street : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

Can anyone tell me how the crooked street and IN particular, Montclair Terrace was built including references for articles andorpictures....? Thank you, Fran

-- Fran Bak (, October 07, 2001


Start with the SF Public Library's SF Historical Photograph Collection:

Under "Lombard Street" there are about 95 images to go through in there: server=photos&start=20&screen=Authority.html

I didn't find a listing for "Montclair Terrace" in the collection.

-- Rosa Debonneheure (, October 07, 2001.

The 1000 block of Lombard Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth, is nicknamed "the crookedest street in the world" It has eight switchbacks in its one-block descent. It was a little used cobbled street with a 27 percent grade until 1922, when the corkscrew design was installed by the city as a way of making the street accessible to automobiles. Carl Henry, the founder of the Owl Drug Company, who owned lots on the block, was the first to propose the design. City engineer Clyde Healy designed the road with a 16 percent grade. The municipality paid for the grading and the paving and the lot owners facing the block paid for the fancier-than-usual brick steps and plantings and agreed to pay for the garden maintenance. The street achieved its purpose of making the lots accessible, thus increasing their value.

The crookedest street suffers from overpopularity. Because it is, as an advertisement could for once say honestly, "a unique driving experience," it attracts far too much traffic. It has turned out to be a mistake to promote a major tourist attraction in the middle of a residential area. And in this case the impact is on the opposite slope of the hill; summer traffic backs up on Lombard, where cars over heat and sometimes catch fire. Because the street is a public way maintained by public funds, there is principled objection to closing it or restricting its use. Scenic it is, sensible it is not.

When looking at the street, be sure to look at the buildings that define it as well. Most are stucco flats and apartments with clean, modern lines built since the 1940s. While none is outstanding individually, as a group they make a distinctive block that can only be San Franciscan.

Off this tourist-happy crooked block is 65 Montclair Terrace, an elegant International Style house designed by Gardner A. Dailey in 1938. Now draped by a bougainvilea vine, its clean lines, various view-catching terraces and top-floor loggia represent a high point in environmentally-sited Bay Area architecture. A short staircase at the end of Montclair Terrace leads to Chestnut Street.

-- Bob Verbrugge (, October 08, 2001.

Constructinion... I love that word. Thanx! Constructinion... HAHAHAH!

Please excuse me if I sound rude.

-- Sean M. Hall (, October 22, 2002.

Constructinion... I love that word. Thanx! Constructinion... HAHAHAHA!

Please excuse me if I sound rude.

-- Sean M. Hall (, October 22, 2002.

There's a good account of the history of the Crooked Street written by Sharon Moore on the Russian Hill Neighbors site:

(it's down the page a bit)

-- David Gallagher (, April 11, 2003.

I have a completely different story re: the construction of Lombard Street. I forget the name of the book I read it in, as I was a lot younger when I read it. The story I read was that Lombard Street stands between what used to be a red-light district and a blue-collar district. After work, the men would go to the red-light district for fun. Many would end up spending the night there, and in the morning would rush off to work. This was in the horse-and-buggy days, and often they'd be in such a hurry that they'd take the hill too fast. This resulted in many accidents, and consequently many deaths. So the residents of Lombard Street decided something needed to be done to slow the traffic down. The crooked layout was the result and the reason for it was then covered up to protect the names of those involved and avoid unnecessary scandal. This story makes more sense to me than the one about making the hill more accessible to cars. There are several hills in San Francisco with much steeper grades (i.e. 22nd St. which is almost like driving up a wall. Down is worse). I even had the misfortune to have to drive a hill so steep that my car started rolling backward appx. half-way up, depite the pedal being all the way to the floor. I can't imagine what it'd be like going down that hill. So why weren't these streets re-done? I have also heard of another street in San Francisco which is "crookeder" than Lombard. But I've never seen it. --- Elaine

-- Elaine Briggs (, June 30, 2003.

Can you provide some documentation for this bit of lore? Delicately stated, it's pretty far-fetched.

I'm sure the Russian Hill Homeowners Association would be fascinated to learn that there was a "red light district" at the top (or bottom) of Lombard Street in the early 1920s; that type of entertainment was limited to Pacific Street on the old Barbary Coast during that era.

-- John Martini (, June 30, 2003.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide any sort of documentation. I don't even remember the name of the book I read this story in. It was a long time ago that I read it. In retrospect, it does sound kinda far-fetched. It may be that the whole thing was simply the product of some author's wild imagination. However, my own experiences mentioned in my post are absolutely true. My car really did start rolling backward, even with the pedal to the metal. The funny part was that my friend was in the back seat saying her prayers ("Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, drive us up this hill Lord,")and I finally said "If you're gonna pray, don't ask Him to drive. Ask Him to push!!!" She gave me an angry look (this woman was very religious), but then suddenly the car got a burst of power and we made it the rest of the way up. As it was, she gave me a stern reprimand. "You don't ask Him to push a car up the hill, she scolded." I just smiled and said, "Well He did it, didn't He?" But enough of that.

-- Elaine Briggs (, July 02, 2003.

All I know about the Crooked Street is that my friends and I would take wooden planks, soap or wax the bottoms of them, and ride down the brick street! Cars didn't go down it as much then!

-- RayH (, January 08, 2004.

A street in SF crookeder than Lombard, I think it is Vermont Street or in that general neighborhood. Check a good map and see for yourself.

-- William Ian Williams (, March 12, 2004.

I don't know about Vermont st. but I seem to remember a very crooked street in the Bernal Heights area and at that time, 60 years ago, it wasen't much of a street but do remember going over it on my Harley and maybe in my 36 Plymoth Dan Hastings

-- DAN HASTINGS (, March 13, 2004.

Isn't Kansas around 23rd or 24th as crooked as Lombard?

-- Michael White (, July 07, 2004.

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