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The Panhandle from Clayton Street
The Panhandle is a park in San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker that forms a panhandle with Golden Gate Parkmarker. It is long and narrow, being three-quarters of a mile long and one block wide. Fell Street borders it to the north, Oak Street to the south, and Baker Street to the east. The Haight-Ashburymarker District lies to the south of it. Only two streets run through it, Stanyan Street at the western end between it and Golden Gate Park, and Masonic Avenue through the middle. Two paved walking paths run through it from Golden Gate Park to Baker Street, one allowing bicycles. There are basketball courts, a public restroom and a playground in the section between Stanyan Street and Masonic Avenue.

In the 1970s, the Panhandle had a rough reputation, but neighborhood changes and the addition of lighting, have lessened this.

The Panhandle is near the geographic center of the city, and forms the southern boundary of the Western Addition neighborhood and the northern boundary of the Haight Ashburymarker. In the 2000s, real estate developers began calling the area bounded by Divisadero Street, Fell Street, Turk Street, and Stanyan Avenue North of the Panhandle or, more cutely, NoPa.


An 1853 map of San Francisco labels the area that the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park presently occupy the "Great Sand Bank." In 1870, the Panhandle's footprint occupied large, shifting sand-dunes with little vegetation in between it and the Pacific Ocean known as the "Outside Lands". The large hills of sand, semi-arid conditions, and powerful winds generated by the Golden Gate Effect conspired to make agriculture and gardening nearly impossible -- except for in a few small valleys protected from the constant winds.

William Hammond Hall's long-term plan to create a vast recreational park in San Francisco was first implemented in The Panhandle in 1870, which became part of Hall's experimental laboratory for finding suitable vegetation for reclaiming the dunes. After much trial and error, Hall found that by first planting barley - followed months later by sea bent grass mixed with yellow lupin - the sand dunes could be stabilized enough to dump manure and top-soil without risk of wind-erosion. On top of this layer, Monterey Pines, Monterey Cypresses and Eucalyptus -- all known for quick growth and shallow root structures -- could take root.

After Hall tamed the dunes, the Panhandle was ready to accept planting of hundreds of tree varietals, representing regions from all over the world, including such species as Bailey's Acacia, Japanese Yew, Black Walnut, Blackwood Acacia, Queensland Kauri, and Italian Alder. The land in and around the Panhandle has been so completely transformed by 100+ years of irrigation and development that the sandy, unstable ground beneath is no longer apparent.

Trees in the Panhandle are among the oldest in San Francisco. A small stand of California Live Oaks near Fulton Street and 6th Avenue pre-dates Hall's plantings.

In 1899, a proposal was considered for an extension of the Panhandle park all the way towards Van Ness and Market Streets.

In the 1950s, a freeway was proposed that would have run through the Panhandle, but due to a citizen freeway revolt it was canceled; the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in 1959 and again in 1966 against building the Panhandle freeway. Instead, the Panhandle is bordered by wide, one-way streets, with traffic lights timed to allow cars to move continuously at 25 miles per hour. Similar pairs of rapid through-streets exist throughout San Francisco.


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