Exploring Our Building's History - From Sand to Staples to Suds to Beer

We're really blessed to be building out a space that has a lot of history in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  That said - being curious types, we snooped around the internet, the San Francisco library for records, and explored through old building plans to find out what uses and history have been previous to our occupancy at the corner of Haight and Pierce - the corner home to Black Sands Brewery!

The Wiggle's Long Natural History

Yelamu Oholone Indian Woven Huts - Credit - SF Library

Yelamu Oholone Indian Woven Huts - Credit - SF Library

The corner of Haight and Pierce is located on the much used "wiggle," the bike lane favored by many to cross against the western part of the city from Market Street. Much to our amazement this piece of land was used for 1000s of years. From the great resource ThinkWalks we learn "Predating the Spaniards, the Yelamu Oholone Indians occupied the lands and had a village called Chutchui that was located along the creek near Market Street. The corner of Haight and Pierce at the time was a sand valley that was an actually river valley during heavy rains."

The couple hundred residents of Chutchui were conscripted as the first labor for the Franciscan padres who founded Mission Dolores. Indians were called “diggers” but probably not for their new pastime as ditch diggers. More likely, it’s because they made baskets from rhizomes dug out of the creek banks.

The Ohlone thrived in the San Francisco Bay Area for thousands of years, living remarkably ecologically sustainably without using intensive agriculture as we know it. While the Ohlone nevertheless did interact with the land substantially through hunting, gathering, fire management and other cultural practices.


Its great to remember the Native American history of the property and we'll try our best to incorporate that passion for craft and being sustainable on the earth in our beer making. We're already looking into rain capture systems and proper water management systems to minimize our impact.  The Ohlone Dancers also had a great sense of style and culture. From Spanish reports we learned they favored Black and White - something we at Black Sands share!


Western Addition Annexed!

By the middle of the last century, farms had spread through the Lower Haight valley. In 1851, San Francisco annexed the valley as part of the "Western Addition," extending the city's western border to Divisadero Street (so named because it divided the city from the land that was considered part of the Presidio). By the turn of the century, Haight Street had established itself as a business district serviced by a cable car line following the current route of the #7 trolley bus. The farmland had been parceled into grids of 26-foot wide housing tracts and the Wiggle was born as the zig-zaggy, contoured route that connects the central districts.

August 1886 - Cattle + Railcars

You can see the corner of Haight and Pierce in 1886 clearly in the above photo. The Street car moving along Haight street passing what looks like cattle and shrubs! Who owned this pasture? Moving to the SF Library's SF Block Books we found our answer!

MicroFiche Adventures.

From the 1890 Block Property Book available on Microfiche - we find the first deeded owner of that parcel and that the pasture was owned by Jon J Marks. Awesome! 

Only 4 years later - the land became deeded to a relative (possibly wife or daughter) Adelaide M. Marks. 

1894 Block Book of San Francisco. See Block 440 Above.

The property remained a large flat pasture until 1899 when according the Sanborne Insurance Maps of San Francisco a dwelling unit was built by Adelaide along with three subdivisions. She subdivided the land into the properties seen below. Whats more interesting is the construction of the home was inset from the street and was a single floor with a carriage / horse house on the corner of the plot. Did Adelaide keep horses, a tool shed for workers? Equally interesting is the Sanborne map identifies the shed on the map!

1899 San Borne Insurance Map! See the inset property!

From the 1907 SF Real Estate Circular we find the following for sales transaction listing a 27.6 * 87.6 plot (which matches our building lot) selling the property for $16,000! In today's dollars using the US Treasury Inflation Guide that would be about $440,000 in today's dollars! 

SF Real Estate Circular from 1907 Lists Sale of the Property for $16,000.

Looking below one learns that Adelaide destroyed the single unit dwelling and deeded the property into various subdivisions. A mysterious D Von D Mehden built the building we're standing in now and Adelaide's relatives took other sub divisions! The Building records state that our building was built in 1908 and is the same basic design as the current building.

1909 Block Book D Von Der Mehden claiming stake to the corner of Haight / Pierce - what today is 701 Haight Street and Black Sands.

In 1908 D Von der Mehdan the 3 floor building with 701, 703, 705 units mapped. You can see the land next to the building was empty.

The name Mehdan is quite rare and sadly we haven't found too much. The only record match is from the 1914 SF Blue Book listing membership of Mr Mehdan in the SF Orchestra Club! 

Property owner Von Der Mehdan listed as member of the 1914 SF Orchestral Club.

Moving through the ages we find the above photo from 1927. On the lower right hand corner you can see the market store that occupied the 701 Haight store front. Its unclear what market store this was, but likely a general store with a large glass front on Haight Street.  

Also in the above picture is the lack of the street car lines. Either there was some pre-photoshop action happening here or some photo magic. Sadly those street cars are gone! How wonderful it would be to jump on to a street car to go through the city.

SF Library - 1940 House and Street Directory

SF Library - 1940 House and Street Directory

Moving forward in time we find the next records for the property in the 1940 SF House and Street directory listing the occupant of 701 Haight Street market as JH Robinson & Sons along with Matilda Crouch and Leah Reeder being tenants upstairs.  Did JH Robinson run the store as Robinson & Sons Market since 1908 when the building was built? 

We're still amateur sleuths and couldn't find too much yet of the property from 1940 onwards. It seems that the market morphed into a laundry mat in the late 1970s when Delaney and Family took over the unit.

Majestic Laundry / "Delaney Laundry"

From the DCP 1976 SURVEY Survey field form we find a rather dull photo of the 1970s showing Delaney Laundry! We've petitioned the SF Health Department for records on the property and will share those as they become available. From the photo - looks like an extra structure was planned for the roof? Roof deck for the tenants? The 2nd entrance on Pierce 2as also closed off and original large windows are visible in the building. We're doing our best to restore the building to a beautiful yet contemporary take.

1976 Delaney Laundry Mat Photograph from DCP Land Review

DCP 1976 Land Review Notes

DCP 1976 Land Review Notes

The DCP 1976 Land Review plots the building and its relation to other building.  Its fun to see the inspectors notes on the property.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hollingsworth

Owned by Mr. Delaney and family. Majestic Laundry / Delaney Laundry was presumably opened in the late 70s and continued through until late 2008 when our current owner took over the building. Wild 70s linoleum, even older non functional machines and and plywood partitions 

From Yelp review of the site in 2007 we get this magic gem on the former business owner:

"I remember when Mr Delaney used to sit on a stool at the end of the folding table, scowling at you when you came in.. He'd patrol the washing machine aisle watching for amateur laundry mistakes.. sneaking up and putting your jumpy ass on blast if you mixed your darks and whites..   It was one of those experiences that were irritating as fuck when you were in it, and too silly not to talk about over drinks later.. I miss Mr Delaney and his commitment to clean laundry.."

When we moved into the space, initial demolition of the laundry mat was done by the new owner Jay Johnson, bar owner of SF institutions like the Orbit Room. Jay wanted to build his own bar in the space for the last few years but decided finally in 2014 to rent it to other parties. We were so lucky to find the space and be the current occupant. The basement and back stock room was full of laundry equipment, old motors, drive belts, 1000s of packs of soap, and awesome signs that we kept and we'll try to use in the space. The old clock in the photo is still with us and we'll make a great place for it in the new shop!

Photo Credit: Stephen Hollingsworth

We've had a lot of fun on this time travel exploration piece. If you have any more information to share on the property do please contact us! We're eager to learn more! 

As we move forward in the space its really great to remember all the history of the space and try to incorporate the past energy in our new creations. 2014 is an exciting time for the building -we're planning on finishing construction soon and opening this summer offering crafted ales, spirits, food, coffee and a resource for the community.