100 Years Ago Today In The Avenues

Plans to build the Coliseum Theater were announced one hundred years ago today. | Photo: Cinema Treasures
By Walter Thompson - Published on February 16, 2018.

A century ago, the Outside Lands were a hive of new development as neighborhood associations controlled by early homeowners helped shape the city’s westward expansion.

These headlines from the front page of the February 16th, 1918 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle reflect the rapid pace of change taking place west of Twin Peaks.

Opening day, Twin Peaks Tunnel. | Photo: SFMTA Photo Archive

Thousands Ride Through Tunnel

The Municipal Railway announced that 21,166 people rode the new K line through the newly-opened Twin Peaks Tunnel the previous Sunday.

The 2.27-mile tunnel was the longest of its kind when it opened on February 3rd, 1918, with portals at Market and Castro streets and West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street.

"Since the operation of the K or tunnel cars, the receipts of the Municipal Railway system show an increase from $325 to $370 a day," reported the Chronicle, noting that weekend sightseers were providing "big days in tunnel traffic."

Although the tunnels have since been converted for light-rail vehicles managed by computers, original K-line streetcars were fully under the driver's control. "We allow a maximum speed of thirty miles an hour on the straightaway and a maximum of ten miles on the curves," said railway superintendent Fred Boeken, adding, "anybody can time a car."

In 1918, a K streetcar took approximately six minutes to travel between the Castro and West Portal. Today, the same journey takes about eight minutes, according to Google Maps.

Sunset Parkway at Noriega Street. | Photo: Google

Owners Approve Sunset Parkway

Members of the Improvement Club of Oceanside announced their plans to ask City Engineer M. M. O’Shaughnessy to widen 35th Avenue between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard to create a new parkway 110 feet wide.

“Numbers of property owners have express the desire to co-operate to the event of giving twenty feet off the fronts or their lots” to create a new boulevard. The move was viewed favorably by Fire Commissioners and local boosters, as the recently opened Twin Peaks Tunnel was sparking interest in local real estate development.

The area under consideration was comprised of five blocks with corner lots running parallel to 35th Avenue; the Improvement Club of Oceanside proposed re-subdividing the blocks, with each owner ceding twenty feet to the city.

After plans were finalized, the parkway was eventually placed between 36th and 37th Avenues, spanning Lake Merced to Golden Gate Park.

The Coliseum Theater in 1995. | Photo: Cinema Treasures

New Theater To Be Grand Movie House

As San Franciscans moved west, commerce followed. On February 16th, plans were announced for a new 2,200-seat theater at the southeast corner of Clement Street and Ninth Avenue.

Built by Samuel H. Levin, who also constructed the Metro, Balboa and Harding theaters, the Greek Revival structure was to have a 750-seat balcony, a steel frame with reinforced concrete and a roof "supported by large steel trusses."

When it opened nine months later, The Coliseum Theater exhibited Johanna Enlists, a wartime comedy-drama starring Mary Pickford. Renovated several times over the years, the building was converted to condominiums with ground-floor retail after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

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