Stories Beneath Our Feet

Flow blue transfer-print plateSaloon keeper, music teacher, stableman, blacksmith, candy maker. These were just a few of the occupations of the people who lived on Tehama Street in San Francisco nearly 150 years ago. Where their modest homes once were, now sits a towering high-rise luxury apartment building, known simply as 33 Tehama (San Francisco Planning Department project "41 Tehama Street").

But before this modern designer residence could be erected, archaeological excavations of 19th century privies, outhouses that evolved into garbage pits, were conducted to recover artifacts and other data that would otherwise have been destroyed by construction. These discarded materials give us a glimpse into the lives of the working and middle class residents that once called this street home.

The Neighborhood

"South of the Slot"

The modern, ultra-developed character of contemporary SOMA varies drastically from the district’s previous identities. At one time the area was referred to as "South of the Slot", in which "the Slot" referenced the cable car rail that ran down the center of Market Street.

South of the Slot were the factories, slums, laundries, machine-shops, boiler works, and the abodes of the working class [Jack London in The Saturday Evening Post 1909].

Jack London’s characterization of the area represents a very distinct period of time but the district has changed and evolved several times since its beginnings in the late 1840s.

Corner of Second & Tehama, 1857During the Gold Rush the current South of Market area was an expanse of sandhills and wetlands where early gold seekers could put up their tents at no fee. Planners were not content to grow the city on the natural landscape of steep sandhills and valleys, and began to transform the landscape to better suit urban use and growth. Before long, existing terrain was flattened and new land was created by filling in the edges of the bay. The 1850s saw the establishment of the upper part of Rincon Hill as an upscale neighborhood of semi-countrified mansions and cottages for San Francisco’s social elite.

Post-Gold Rush San Francisco had enjoyed 15 years of prosperity, from the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859 to the economic crash of 1875. Overall, the city’s population increased from 150,000 to 235,000 between 1870 and 1880. Much of the increase was concentrated in the South of Market, where living conditions grew more congested as the district absorbed numerous German, Irish, and English immigrants.

The sharp depression of the mid-1870s marked a watershed in the social and economic history of the South of Market. Outside of the wealthy enclave of Rincon Hill, most residents of Tehama Street lived payday to payday, working for wages. A new urban pattern developed in the late 1880s as the economy began to grow again, linked to two emerging technologies: telephone service and electric power. Electrically equipped industrial loft buildings serving new and expanded light industries came to characterize the South of Market, with its printing factories, ink works, and paper fabricators.

1905 Sanborn map

The area between Howard and Tehama contained many lots occupied by temporary buildings and other land lying vacant while property owners waited in hope of erecting substantial loft buildings along this major street artery. Between Tehama and Clementina, buildings were mostly occupied by metalworking industries. In the area bounded by Clementina and First were plating works, a lithograph company, and warehouses. This pattern of light industrial commerce persisted well into the 20th century but the neighborhood’s character is rapidly changing as buildings that once housed light industrial operations are currently being replaced by modern mixed-use residential and commercial high-rises.

Households on the Edge

The excavated artifacts from three of the parcels (35, 37, and 41 Tehama) now occupied by 33 Tehama consisted of discarded household goods derived from three neighboring households who rented duplexes on the border of San Francisco’s industrial district. The great variety of residents who lived in these homes exemplifies the mixed socioeconomic character of this area. Despite their differences these families had all immigrated to San Francisco for opportunities and new lives.

Coughlin

Porcelain "eye"

In 1873 Daniel and Catherine Coughlin (also spelled Coughlan, Coughran, Coghlan, and Corcoran) moved into 35 Tehama with their extended family. They would live there for the next 17 years. Daniel was married to Catherine Whelan. Together they had two children, J.J. and William. Daniel worked variously as a laborer, hostler, and stableman for most of the time he lived at 35 Tehama.

Alcohol bottles and tobacco pipesThe Coughlin household of 1880 included Daniel, Catherine, and their two sons: John, a harness maker and William, a blacksmith. Catherine’s brother and sister—Dennis Whelan, a shoemaker,  and Johanna Whelan, a dressmaker—also lived with the family, as did Catherine’s niece and her husband, Mary and Cornelius O’Brien. Cornelius worked as a baker. In this way, the Coughlin household came to include six wage workers. In 1887, son William Coughlin became proprietor of a grocery and liquor store at 1329 Sansome Street, near the Embarcadero. He moved to live above the store and the family gradually followed him. The older family members passed away over the years, Porcelain mugbut in 1900 William Coughlin’s household above the store/saloon at 1329 Sansome still included his widowed mother Catherine, widowed cousin Mary O’Brien, and his aunt Johanna Whelan.

This large, extended Irish Catholic family appears to have stayed together through the generations more out of choice than necessity—it does not seem a stretch to say that they cared about each other. We take the "Love the Giver" mug to represent this family’s guiding principle.

von Lindeman

Charles von LindemanAmanda von Lindeman Otto Karl (also Charles) Albert and Amanda von Lindeman lived at 37 Tehama from 1875 to 1879, along with their children, Ferdinand and Ann. During their rather brief residence, Otto worked at a variety of jobs.

In 1875, Charles was listed as a salesman at J. E. Hammersmith’s shop which sold toys, fancy goods and perfumery. He may also have worked as a clerk elsewhere as a second job as he is often listed in city directories under both Otto and Charles, each holding different jobs. While Amanda taught music and languages throughout the period, Otto appears to have changed jobs annually. Toys from von Lindeman privy In 1876, he was listed as a salesman at a dry goods store, and a clerk in 1877. In 1878, he was listed as a clerk as well as a candy maker, and in 1879 a salesman and laborer. After their occupancy of 37 Tehama, Otto worked as a cellarman, and their son Ferdinand had a series of manual jobs—as a fireman, a laborer, and a stevedore.

Engraved wedding ring The von Lindeman family moved in 1879 to 165 Perry Street, in a neighborhood of small, densely packed two-story row houses—this was a move down the social-economic scale. While Otto seemed to change jobs regularly, Amanda continued to teach music almost to her death at 92.

Atkinson

Black decorative buttons James and Johanna Atkinson and their daughter, Mary, lived at 41 Tehama from the late 1860s to 1879. The couple’s other child, William Henry, died in 1868 at the age of 7 months, shortly after the family moved into 41 Tehama. James Atkinson, an Irish emigrant, was the owner of the Market Exchange Saloon at the time of his Tehama Street residency. The Atkinsons took in a series of boarders, often bartenders at the saloon.

Porcelain doll heads While James Atkinson’s business seems to have been doing well when they moved into 41 Tehama, sadly he appears to have been a victim of the depression of the mid-1870s. By 1879 he was declared an insolvent debtor and was court ordered to sell all his property. He moved out of 41 Tehama that year, and was listed as a single boarder in a house on Market Street in 1880. It appears that James Atkinson tended bar for the remainder of his working life.  The collapse of his business was accompanied by the breakup of his family. We do not know what happened to Johanna and the children.

Wooden toothbrush 

An End and a Beginning

Carved sealThese are just brief glimpses into the lives of the people whose stories are a part of SOMA’s ever evolving character. There is still so much to learn and explore. The artifacts from the 41 Tehama project have been processed and archived. We welcome and encourage other archaeologists and historians to use the material housed at the David A. Fredrickson Archaeological Collections Facility at Sonoma State University. The 41 Tehama and other South of Market archaeological collections are fabulous research sources whose potential can be further explored in the decades to come.

Sources

Fardon, George Robinson
1856  "View from Rincon Hill," San Francisco. Photo by G.R. Fardon circa 1856. George A. Berton Collection, FN-10945, California Historical Society.

Find a Grave
2005  Jeanne Amanda Gommez von Lindeman record (Find A Grave Memorial No. 11608871) created by Richard Schwaberow, 25 August 2005. Available online at Find A Grave website. https://www.findagrave.com/index.html (accessed 18 May 2017).

2005  Otto Karl Albert von Lindeman record (Find A Grave Memorial No. 11610261) created by Richard Schwaberow, 25 August 2005. Available online at Find A Grave website. https://www.findagrave.com/index.html (accessed 18 May 2017).

London, Jack
1909  South of the Slot. The Saturday Evening Post, May 22, 1909, 181(47):3–4, 36–38. http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2017/04/25/post-fiction/classic-fiction/south-slot-jack-london.html (accessed 21 March 2018).

Otis, F. N.
1855  "City of San Francisco," circa 1855, by F. N. Otis, M.D. surgeon in U.S.M. Steamship Cos. Service. Printed by Endicott & Co., New York. Courtesy of UC Berkeley Bancroft library. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf200007cq/?order=1 (Calisphere website, accessed 21 March 2018).

Praetzellis, Mary, and Adrian Praetzellis (editors)
2018  The 41 Tehama Street, San Francisco, Final Archaeological Resources Report and Data Recovery Report. Anthropological Studies Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California. Prepared for 41 Tehama, LP, San Francisco, California.

Sanborn Perris Map Company
1905  Insurance Maps of San Francisco, California, Sheet 154, Volume 2. Original 1899 survey is overlaid with pasted-in building updates for ten different dates, the last being September 1905. Sanborn-Perris Map Company, Broadway, New York. Available online from David Rumsey Map Collection.

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