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Construction crew discovers historic advertising behind facade at Duboce Park

The ads were discovered on the Hermann Street side of the building. | Photo: Lauren Crasco/Instagram
By Teresa Hammerl - Published on July 16, 2020.

On Wednesday, construction workers turned back time at a building adjacent to Duboce Park. 

After removing the exterior of a three-story residential building at the corner of Hermann and Steiner streets, the workers revealed long-hidden mid-century advertisements for Par-T-Pak Cola, Arden ice cream, and Rainier beer.

"Wonder how long it’s been since anyone had a Par-T-Pak Cola," neighbor Dan Johnson wrote on Instagram.

Photo: Dan Johnson/Instagram

Given the "wines" and "liquors" mentioned in the left and right corners of the display, a Divisadero Corridor-centric Instagram account speculated that the building might be a former corner store. 

That's likely true, says David Gallagher of OpenSFHistory. An official Planning Department historic preservation survey says that the building itself was constructed around 1905. 

According to Gallagher, the corner apartment at 44 Steiner St. was converted into a grocery store around 1917. The owner was named Herman Schade.

Gallagher found a newspaper listing from 1948 that shows the building for sale due to illness, with Dora Kramer listed as the owner beginning in 1930. By 1953, there was a refrigerator business there.

It's unclear when the corner store closed amid all these changes, but Gallagher speculates that the '50s might be "around the time the building was stuccoed," concealing the ads.

A view across Duboce Park to Hermann and Steiner in 1945. The sign was discovered on the fourth building from the right (on the corner). | Photo: San Francisco Public Library

That timeline fits with the era of Par-T-Pak, a line of sodas sold between 1933 and 1954 by Nehi. In the Steiner Street ad, Par-T-Pak is promoted as "so rich, so smooth, so satisfying."

Other large Par-T-Pak signs in San Francisco have been noted at 375 Valencia St. in the Mission and at 188 Taylor St. in the Tenderloin.

A Par-T-Pak ad at Ocean Avenue and Brighton Street in Ingleside in 1941. | Photo: San Francisco Public Library 

The newly uncovered advertisements were put up by Foster and Kleiser, an outdoor advertising company founded in 1901. Many of the iconic signs on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip in the 1970s were also hand-painted by Foster and Kleiser artists.

Another portion of the ad, which appears to have been taken down yesterday, notes that Arden Ice Cream is available and that shoppers should "take some home." It's unclear exactly when Arden operated, but the Los Angeles Public Library has historic photos of an ice cream plant and a horse-drawn carriage promoting the brand in the 1950s. 

The last portion of the ad is for Rainier Brewing Company, with the 1930s-era tagline "In the West, it's Rainier Beer and Ale."

Rainier was brewed in San Francisco until 1953, at which point it consolidated operations to its native Seattle and sold its plant at 1550 Bryant St. (near 16th St.) to Hamm's Brewing. The plant, which closed in 1972, still stands as an office building.

Photo: Diana Gaffney/Hoodline

According to Planning Department records, the current construction at the building is set to add three new accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as in-law units.

Johnson says he talked to the construction crew on Thursday. "They are going to have to build over it, but they are not taking it out," he said. "It'll be waiting, hidden, for another 50 years."

Photo: David Gallagher/OpenSFHistory

This isn't the first time construction has uncovered well-preserved old advertising. Most recently, a seismic retrofit at Zeitgeist, the Mission's iconic dive bar, uncovered long-forgotten 7-Up advertising. 

"We have very few color pictures of SF before 1950," Gallagher said. "So it's wonderful to see these vibrant billboards get exposed, and get a sense of what the city and neighborhoods were like in color."


See something interesting while you’re out and about? Text Hoodline and we’ll try to find out what's going on: (415) 200-3233.

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