December 2012

History Night

Peter Linenthal

The 13th Annual Potrero Hill History Night took place last month at International Studies Academy. The balmy evening began with a convivial barbeque on the school’s patio, enlivened by the Apollo Jazz Group, the proceeds of which benefitted ISA’s student travel program. The large crowd then moved inside the school’s handsome auditorium where they were welcomed by Potrero Dogpatch Merchant’s Association president Keith Goldstein, followed by an Afro-dance performance by ISA students.

Next on the program was San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte, who talked with Goat Hill Pizza’s Philip DeAndrade about growing up on the Hill more than 60 years ago. After heavy rains, according to Nolte, there was a pond on Army Street – now Cesar Chavez –  where kids could launch a raft. A plant kids called the “Pee Plant” was sure to make you wet your bed if you ate it. Serpentine outcroppings became pirate caves in a child’s imagination; the Hill was a wide-open place where kids roamed freely. When public housing began to be built on empty lots, kids pulled up the surveying stakes. They didn’t want anything built on their playgrounds.

Geologist Christopher Richard gave a slide talk entitled “The Mystery of Mission Creek.” The mystery is the source of that creek. Based on one map, it was commonly held that the creek draws from a lake. Richard, however, convincingly argues against this idea, with support from a wealth of historic and geologic data. He set the scene by describing Juan Bautista de Anza’s search for land by a body of water where he could found a mission. Sites by Mountain Lake, Washerwoman’s Lagoon, and the tidal slough that was the source of Mission Creek were possibilities. The tidal slough was chosen. It’s source is a stream whose source is near Duboce Park.

History Night’s audience also were presented with a video taken on a tour of the old armory, now home of, at 14th and Mission streets. In addition to learning about the production of BDSM videos for online viewing, tour participants get a rare glimpse inside a historic building, used as a set in Star Wars, whose huge roofed parade ground will soon become a space for public events. And in the basement you’ll see something even more amazing: underground water constantly flowing, a subterranean tributary of Mission Creek.

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