The Hippodrome -- 560 Pacific

560 Pacific Ave. | map |

A c.1909 view west toward Kearny with a great view of the Hippodrome. This was the first location of the theatre. They're first listed in the 1911 city directory. The business was operated by Frank Schivo. By 1915 he was also running the Thalia. The San Francisco Public Library photo appears on a "Barbary Coast" page on Found SF. It also makes an appearance with a Wikipedia article about the Barbary Coast. 

A detail from the c.1909 photo. This version is in the Ronald W. Mahan collection and came from a Terry Helgesen scrapbook. Thanks, Ron! Looks like the event advertised on the banner is the appearance of fighter George Nicholson, "Open To All Comers." On the signage around a column it looks like "See Motion Pictures..."

This spot was closed in 1920 with the Hippodrome name resurfacing in the mid-1920s across on the south side of the street at 555 Pacific. It would reopen here at 560 at the end of Prohibition. The Midway, seen here on the north side of the street, would soon move across to 585. The Thalia, seen on the far left, would soon move east on the block to 414 1/2. The old Thalia location would become the new Diana Hall spot. See separate pages on the Thalia, Diana Hall, and the Midway. The page on the 555 Pacific Hippodrome location has additional data on the history of other establishments on the block.

This section of what is now called Pacific Ave. was once Pacific St. John Freeman offers some history: "From c.1860 Pacific Street ran west from the waterfront but there was no construction west of Locust as from that point on it narrowed down to a sliver as it skirted the Presidio wall. Because it was associated the Barbary Coast, there seemed to be a need by those on Nob Hill and further west to distance themselves from that tawdry historic reputation. In June 1871 the Board of Supervisors renamed the portion of the street west of Larkin 'Pacific Avenue.' That stood until about 1930, when the decision was made to rename the eastern portion Pacific Avenue as well." In 1939 the 500 block was rebranded as the International Settlement.  

At the end of February 1913 the Hippodrome was one of nine establishments in the 500 block scheduled to be shut down as a result of a recently enacted "police department ban." The other places named for action were the Moulin Rouge (555 Pacific), Spider Kelly's, Red Kelly's, the Bear, the Dragon, the Thalia, the Cave, and the Midway. A newspaper article on April 25, 1915 located by Jack Tillmany reported another "move against dives" that targeted sixteen businesses in the 500 block for some sort of enforcement action, including the Hippodrome. 

In 1920 enforcement of the Volstead Act was ramping up. A newspaper story from November 20th advised that "two notorious Barbary Coast dance halls," the Red Mill at 555 Pacific and the Hippodrome at 560 Pacific "are permanently closed and will stay closed..." and that the other twenty of the twenty-two "resorts" on the street have their instructions as to how to operate. In the mid-1920s the Hippodrome name briefly resurfaced across the street at 555.

The post-prohibition reopening of 560 Pacific was December 9, 1933. An opening day ad announced that "The Hippodrome - The One - The Only - The Original -  Opens tonight at its old stand bigger and better than ever - 560 Pacific Ave. (Barbary Coast's Main Street)." They promised "Music and Entertainment...Italian Dinners.... Regal Amber Beer, Belfast Ginger Ale and New Century Beverages."

They noted that "A natural rock grotto for the stage is one of the many unusual touches that have been added..." The ad claimed that "Way back in 1910...the Hippodrome was opened in its present location by Frank Schivo..." The reopening was by his brother Gus Schivo, associated with Adolph Nestoris. Among those congratulating them in the ad was "Shanghai Red - 542 Pacific - Good Food Snappy Entertainment."  They had a fire in January 1934 and reopened in February. Closing date for the business as the Hippodrome is not known.

Interior views as the Hippodrome: 

Back in business in December 1933. "Photo shows the Hippodrome Cafe, famous cafe of the pre-Volstead days, which is again open on the Barbary Coast, which has returned to life since the repeal of the 18th amendment and known to tourists the world over." It's a News-Call Bulletin photo on the San Francisco Public Library website.

A happy drinking crowd at the Hippodrome in February 1934, reopened after a fire. It's a San Francisco Public Library photo.

An act at the Hippodrome in February 1934. It's a San Francisco Public Library photo.

Reborn as the Monaco Theatre Restaurant: 

The Monaco Theatre Restaurant opened at 560 Pacific on April 27, 1939. Thanks to Jack Tillmany for the ad. That same year the block was rebranded as the International Settlement. 

An advertising item located by Jack Tillmany using a drawing based on the image appearing in the ad above.

A more colorful version of the image used in the two items above. This one is from from a 40s menu. Regular dinner was $1.25 -- or opt for the Deluxe Monaco Dinner for $2.50.

The outside of the menu for the Monaco. Thanks to Doris Lantz for posting it on the Facebook page San Francisco Remembered.

In the early 50s the building was a restaurant called Lucca. It was next a club called the Bella Pacific. It's seen in the 1957 film "Pal Joey." Reel SF has a fine page on the International Settlement as seen in the film.

Status: It has been demolished. There's a new building on the site.

More exterior views:  

Looking east from Kearny c.1913. Beyond Spider Kelly's we get the bottom half of the Hippodrome's sign at 560 Pacific. Also on the left note signage for new Diana Hall location at 580 (formerly the Thalia) and the Thalia, now way down the block at 414 1/2. The windmill on the right is at 555 Pacific, here the called Red Mill / Moulin Rouge. In the foreground on the right is the Midway at 585 Pacific. The San Francisco Public Library photo appears on a Wikipedia page about the "Terrific Street." 

Thanks to Jack Tillmany for this 1913 photo from his collection. The Hip is running film of the fight between Willie Ritchie and "Mexican" Joe Rivers. And if you want live action it appears that George Nicholson, "champion welterweight wrestler," will be there that night in person to fight you if you're interested. 

A terrific 1910s view of the Hippodrome and Thalia and their fine new signage. We're looking east from Kearny toward Montgomery St. The photo, from the Museum of Performance and Design Performing Arts Library, is on Calisphere. It's also on a Found SF page about the Barbary Coast and on the San Francisco Public Library website.  

Another version of the view east is in the San Francisco Public Library collection, which they date as 1908. It's obviously later as the vertical signs we see weren't in place that early.
The city directory for 1916 still lists the Hippodrome as being here at 560 Pacific.

A c.1925 view of the unused building during Prohibition. Down the block the narrow building with the little peaked roof was the Thalia, with its sign support still visible. The photo from the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library appears on Calisphere. It's also on the Found SF page about the Barbary Coast.  

That's Jesse Brown Cook,
a law enforcement official responsible for cleaning up the area, on the sidewalk in front of the Hippodrome. Cook was at times a Police Chief and a Police Commissioner. Later he collected photos and other items regarding S.F. law enforcement. The photo is from his collection. Wikipedia has more about Mr. Cook. 

The street in 1929. In the foreground is the unused Hippodrome building. Look down the block at the short building just before the corner building that had been the Thalia Theatre, here seen with its facade redone. It's a photo from the San Francisco Public Library.

A November 2, 1933 Chronicle photo appearing with "The big screen, no not your TV: over 100 years of San Francisco Theaters," a March 2016 SF Gate photo portfolio. 

A News-Call Bulletin photo published in January 1934. Perhaps the question was who or what started the fire at the Hippodrome. On the left it's Spider Kelly's. The photo is in the San Francisco Public Library collection.  

A January 1934 inspection after the fire. In the photo are, according to the Library, owner Frank Schivo along with Adolph Naston (Nestoris?), Jim McGrath and others. It's a San Francisco Public Library photo. That may have been brother Gus, rather than Frank Shivo

A January 1934 Louis Stellman photo of gawkers looking at the entrance after the fire. It's in the San Francisco Public Library collection. The venue was soon back in business. 

A c.1934 view east toward the reopened Spider Kelly's and Hippodrome. It's a photo from the Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt collection appearing on the Open SF History Project website. In the foreground it's a bit of the Diana Hall building at 580 Pacific, the Lindy Hotel at 576 and Spider Kelly's at 574. Also see a 1933 view of Spider Kelly's in the collection taken when they were getting ready to reopen after Prohibition ended.

A February 1934 view of the entrance of the reopened Hippodrome. It's a San Francisco Public Library photo. 

A 1938 photo. Thanks to Lily Castello for spotting it on eBay.  

A wider 1938 view west, a find on eBay. To the left it's Spider Kelly's and then Diana Hall.
Another 1938 view that surfaced on eBay. Here we get the story about the property: "To Lease."  We're too late for the "15 Big Acts" of the "Floor Show - Big Girl Review and Gay Frolic."

A 1939 view looking onto Pacific from Kearny. It's a photo from the Jack Tillmany collection.  

A view from Kearny in 1947. The Hippodrome's facade had been redone in 1939 as the Monaco with arches added between the columns. Thanks to Bob Ristelhueber for finding the photo. 

An early 50s look east on Pacific from Kearney St. Lucca, on the left, was occupying the 560 Pacific spot. The photo appeared on a PBase Chinatown Photo Gallery page but seems to have gone missing from that site. For several more locations where that leg sign traveled to see the pages about the Little Fox here on this block and the Chez Paree on Mason St.   

Looking east c.1952. The Carousel is in the Lindy Hotel / Spider Kelly building. The squat white building is what used to be Diana Hall at 580. It's a photo from a private collector on the Open SF History Project website. 

A November 1953 view looking west toward Kearny. The Bella Pacific, on the right, is in the Hippodrome building. Thanks to Guy Waters for posting the photo on the Facebook page San Francisco Remembered. The photo, credited to the Charles Ruiz collection, appears on the Found SF page about the Barbary Coast.

Looking west toward Kearny in 1954. Note the infill of those arches on the Hippodrome/Bella Pacific facade when compared to early photos. The photo from Glass Key Photo appears on the Vintage San Francisco Facebook page. It's uncredited but perhaps by Charles Cushman.  

Sinatra going into the Bella Pacific in "Pal Joey." The photo appears on a Reel SF page about the block as seen in the film. 

Jack Tillmany comments: "As a footnote, by 1957, the days of the Barbary Coast and International Settlement were over but the lights were turned on more time by Columbia Pictures when it was used as the site for their 1957 film 'Pal Joey' starring Frank Sinatra, a must see for that, and a lot of other accurately represented local reasons, captured in Technicolor, for the last time. In the opening reel, Sinatra arrives from the East in Oakland, and takes Ferry Boat over to SF, and arrives at the Ferry Building, just as travelers once did, that particular year being the last year of Ferry passenger service from Oakland, and the year before the construction of the beloved Embarcadero Freeway. Talk about a 'moment in time!'"

A 50s view looking onto the block from Montgomery St. The Bella Pacific is down there on the right  hiding behind the Moulin Rouge. The Barbary Coast on the left, with "leg" sign, is one of the buildings that would later become the Little Fox. Thanks to Phil Davies for the photo, appearing on the Facebook page San Francisco Remembered.

A 50s look across to the Bella Pacific and the Moulin Rouge. Thanks to John Harris for finding the photo. 

The replacement building at 560 Pacific. We're looking east toward Montgomery. Photo: Bill Counter - 2015 

More information: See the page on the 555 Pacific Hippodrome location for additional data on the history of other establishments on the block. Also see the separate pages on the Thalia, Diana Hall, the Midway and the Little Fox

Jack Tillmany's Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of San Francisco" can be previewed on Google Books. It's available from Amazon or your local bookseller.  

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1 comment:

  1. My Grandfather & His brother Frank owned the Hippodrome, Frank passed as there were opening it with Partners Adolph Nestori. I have all the original inside photos & many more. I published in my book"The Schivo's from Italy to the Barbary Coast" C 2009 335 pages a copy is at SF main library also in Marin. Walter Schivo novato(Author) Novato, Cal