Walking with Mary
The last posting generated a response from Jennifer, who wants to know about a day tour of the city before the San Francisco launch party for LOCKED ROOMS next week. What fun!
(Now, if I can only remember what the book is about and where they went in it’e2’80’a6)
Before you set off, you might like to print off the ‘e2’80’9cSan Francisco Then and Now’e2’80’9d page from my web site’e2’80’99s Press Page and take it along for a comparison of the Cliff House, the Ferry Building, and Lafayette Square.
Chinatown is most definitely a part of the book, and be sure you look for the pagoda that was the phone exchange in the Twenties, because the poor operators there were rather startled by the events of the book’e2’80’99s ending scene. And while in The City, Russell and Holmes stay at the St Francis, whose afternoon tea I can recommend, and Russell walks from Union Square to Chinatown in a bit of a daze.
Her walk that evening would be a bit of a stretch for most of us, but in case you’e2’80’99re feeling ambitious (or want to cheat and drive it) she goes down Grant all the way to the Embarcadero, follows the water past Fisherman’e2’80’99s Wharf and the Aquatic Park and then turns south on, probably, Gough or Octavia up into Pacific Heights to her house.
The Cliff House is a place you should definitely visit, and the best way to begin here is to park near the Sutro gardens at the top of the hill and walk through them until you are staring down at the road, the sea, Ocean Beach, and the (new) Cliff House. This is another fabulous place to eat, with the waves, rocks, and sea lions just as Russell and Holmes see them in the book, although the version of the place that shows on the cover is the earlier building, which survived the earthquake (one wonders how) only to burn a year later. For those who object to the anachronism, please see page 67 of the book, and don’e2’80’99t write me any more letters to point out the mistake.
Dashiell Hammett’e2’80’99s home at this time was in the apartment house at 620 Eddy, and he often ate at John’e2’80’99s Grill, on Ellis near Stockton. There’e2’80’99s no name to the grill where Holmes meets him in the book, but it could be John’e2’80’99s.
And Russell’e2’80’99s home? Unfortunately, she gives no address. But for an idea of her neighborhood, drive into Pacific Heights and park along the perimeter of Lafayette Square. From the eastern side of the Square, you can see what burned during the 1906 fire, described by her father’e2’80’99s manuscript in the book. And for a lovely, beautifully preserved private home similar to what hers must have looked like, visit the Haas-Lilienthal House on Franklin Street near Washington. It’e2’80’99s even open on Wednesdays, from noon to three.
At the time, and especially during Russell’e2’80’99s childhood, the cable car lines were considerably more extensive. Visit the exhilarating cable car museum for an idea of what stops Russell would have made. It’e2’80’99s on Washington and Mason, eight blocks east of the Haas-Lilienthal house, three west of Chinatown’e2’80’99s main street. In fact, you could walk the length of Washington from Lafayette Square to the Embarcadero, about a mile and a half, and you’e2’80’99d end up at the Ferry Building, just in time for a restorative glass of champagne and a Mary Russell fortune cookie.
Many of these places have web sites, to give you background, and the St Francis has rooms very like those of the 1920s that look out over Union Square.
And be sure you tell me at the party what you ended up seeing.