The Story of Haight-Ashbury: The Summer of ‘67, the Painted Ladies, and the Hippie Movement
Golden Gate Park
Welcome to the City by the Bay, everyone's favorite city - San Francisco. Let's start by making sure you're in the right place. You should be standing at the west end of Haight Street at Stanyan at an entrance to Golden Gate Park. Normally, this would be near an outdoor bike rental business but, as of this writing, it's under construction.
My name is Barry, by the way. Born in 1950, and bred on Long Island until I went to Ohio University in 1968, I was just the right age to be a hippie.
In the next hour, I'll be telling you about the history and character of San Francisco, and especially the famous birthplace of the so-called hippie movement - Haight- Ashbury. I call it the so-called hippie movement because those of us who embraced this counter-cultural movement in the '60s, in an act of rebellion against the traditional society, appropriated the moniker "freak" to define ourselves.
I'll also spend some time telling you about the music of this period, which helped define the culture in a profound way, and tell you some other interesting stories about the area, including both the famous and the infamous. And of course, I'll show you, and tell you about the Painted Ladies, those beautifully decorated Victorian houses of San Francisco. In fact, I am happy to tell you that I'll be showing you some of the finest examples of these homes in all of San Francisco, just a few blocks from here.
But before you start walking, I'd like to give you some brief background. There is some evidence that indigenous people were here as far back as 5,000 years ago. The modern city of San Francisco was founded in 1776 by the Spanish, and named after Saint Francis of Assisi.
The San Francisco metro area is very large. In fact, it is the 5th largest combined statistical area in the U.S., with approximately 9.7 million people as of 2018. However, the city of San Francisco, which is the only city in the U.S. that is also its own county, and with a population of about 883 thousand, is only the 4th largest city in California. How can that be you might ask? Los Angeles, of course, is the largest city in the state, with nearly 4 million people. San Diego is a distant 2nd place, with a population of 1.4 million. Let me give you a few seconds to think about it. What California city is in 3rd place by population? (Sing Jeopardy song now.) The answer is San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, with over a million residents.
At only about 47 square miles, or 121 square kilometers, San Francisco is the second densest city in the states, only behind New York. You'll probably notice how dense this city is as you walk the vibrant Haight-Ashbury section today. It seems that there are cars, buses, delivery trucks, pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders and construction projects almost everywhere. So please be careful as you walk the route today, especially when crossing the street.
I'm sure you know already that this city is wealthy. In fact, among the 25 most populated cities in the U.S., San Jose and San Francisco were essentially tied for first in 2018 with a median income of about $113,000. This number compares to a median income in all of the U.S. at about $63,000.
Let's talk about one of San Francisco's great treasures: Golden Gate Park. If you look down Haight Street and turn around, you'll see the east end of Golden Gate Park before you. It stretches 3 miles, or about 5 kilometers, to the Pacific Ocean. But the park is only half a mile, or almost a kilometer, wide. This urban treasure comprises over a thousand acres, or over 400 hectares and, as such, is 20% bigger than New York's Central Park. With over 13 million visitors a year, Golden Gate Park is the fifth most visited city park in the country.
Before we get going, let me briefly explain how VoiceMap works.
It uses your location to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. This means that you can put your phone away now. Don't worry if I'm silent at times, when I'm not giving directions or telling stories. There's a map on your screen if you ever feel lost, and if you do get way off track without noticing, VoiceMap will let you know.
OK - let's start walking. With the park at your back, and facing Haight Street, turn right and start walking please.
Now let me tell you a little about Golden Gate Park and the amazing Scotsman and master gardener who was its commissioner for 56 years. The story of the park begins in 1860, when the area, which was mostly sand dunes and scrub brush, was surveyed and mapped by engineer William Hammond Hall. But it was his assistant, professional Scottish gardener John McLaren, who tirelessly oversaw the park's development and was its superintendent from 1887 until he died in 1943 at age 96. There's a statue of him in the park if you want to see what he looked like later on.
McLaren was able to introduce new species of plants to the land and is credited to have added over 700 new types of trees to California within the span of one year. By 1875, about 60,000 trees, mostly Eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress, had been planted. By 1879, that figure more than doubled to 155,000 trees over 1,000 acres or 400 ha. Within his lifetime, McLaren is credited to having planted over two million trees within northern California as a whole.
Keep going. You'll hear from me further ahead.