Bernal History Events Calendar

We're happy to appear at street fairs, festivals, and other community events to show old photos of the neighborhood, give out free booklets, and chat with people about Bernal Heights history.

Upcoming Events
  • Aug 21, 2019 7:00pm-8:30pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Summer Show-and-Tell

    After two presentations back-to-back, this month's meeting will be a general show-and-tell get-together. Bring your photos, stories, and artifacts and we'll talk!

    The meeting begins promptly at 6:30 in the downstairs meeting room of the Bernal Heights Branch Library (turn left at the bottom of the stairs). As always, this meeting is free and open to all.

    -
    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland (at Andover)
  • Sep 18, 2019 7:00pm-8:30pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    A History of Water in San Francisco and the Spring Valley Water Company

    When you turn on your water faucet, do you ever think about the history of the water companies and delivery systems that allow you unfettered access to one of the most important and critical resources on the planet -- clean, fresh water? San Francisco is fortunate to have a pristine water source providing some of the best water on the planet to 2.4 million people in San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties. Eighty-five percent of it comes from the Sierra Nevada snow melt and travels by gravity 160 miles to Bay Area reservoirs; fifteen percent is runoff in Alameda and Peninsula watersheds. 260 million gallons of water flow per day through 380 miles of pipelines and 60 miles of tunnels into 11 reservoirs with five pump stations and two water treatment plants.

    Who obtained the water rights and how we have access to this water, and the sometimes turbulent and muddied stories behind it, are what this presentation is about. Sit back and let our “earthquake shack guy,” John Blackburn, take you on a wet and wild ride through our water history, which in San Francisco starts with its discovery and only the Ohlone living here. The story is about the early Spanish explorers and soldiers, Catholic friars and scribes and settlers, and then the Spring Valley Water Company. This is a story few people have heard, the way John presents it.

    The meeting begins promptly at 6:30 in the downstairs meeting room of the Bernal Heights Branch Library (turn left at the bottom of the stairs). As always, this meeting is free and open to all.

    -
    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland (at Andover)
Past Events
  • Jul 31st, 2019 6:30pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Chuck Poling presents "Precita Park Stories"

    Chuck Poling will a personal history of a childhood in Precita Park during the 1960s and ‘70s, told through spoken word and song with his wife, Jeanie. In a journey that took him from Catholic school and kickball to rock stars and revolution, he was just a kid trying to make sense out of it all.

    Chuck says, "I grew up in a working-class neighborhood at one of the most tumultuous times in San Francisco history. It was also one of the most ethnically diverse and egalitarian places in the U.S. at the time, and a hotbed of political and social activism. A lot of my motivation for this performance is to provide both nostalgia for longtime residents and some history and perspective for more recent transplants."

    Chuck credits his gift of gab with helping him avoid trouble from larger, tougher schoolchildren, which was pretty much everybody. The longer he kept them laughing, the more likely he kept his lunch money.

    Chuck was born and raised, and stubbornly continues to reside, in San Francisco. He spent his childhood years living on Precita Park and now lives in the Inner Richmond. He has worked for iconic San Francisco institutions such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Gap. He’s also a well-known master of ceremonies at bluegrass, folk, and country music concerts and festivals, including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Bluegrass Pride. He and Jeanie host the Bluegrass Country Jam at the Plough and Stars every first Wednesday of the month.

    The meeting begins promptly at 6:30 in the downstairs meeting room of the Bernal Heights Branch Library (turn left at the bottom of the stairs). As always, this meeting is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland (at Andover)

  • Jul 31st, 2019 6:30pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Chuck Poling presents "Precita Park Stories"

    Chuck Poling will a personal history of a childhood in Precita Park during the 1960s and ‘70s, told through spoken word and song with his wife, Jeanie. In a journey that took him from Catholic school and kickball to rock stars and revolution, he was just a kid trying to make sense out of it all.

    Chuck says, "I grew up in a working-class neighborhood at one of the most tumultuous times in San Francisco history. It was also one of the most ethnically diverse and egalitarian places in the U.S. at the time, and a hotbed of political and social activism. A lot of my motivation for this performance is to provide both nostalgia for longtime residents and some history and perspective for more recent transplants."

    Chuck credits his gift of gab with helping him avoid trouble from larger, tougher schoolchildren, which was pretty much everybody. The longer he kept them laughing, the more likely he kept his lunch money.

    Chuck was born and raised, and stubbornly continues to reside, in San Francisco. He spent his childhood years living on Precita Park and now lives in the Inner Richmond. He has worked for iconic San Francisco institutions such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Gap. He’s also a well-known master of ceremonies at bluegrass, folk, and country music concerts and festivals, including Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Bluegrass Pride. He and Jeanie host the Bluegrass Country Jam at the Plough and Stars every first Wednesday of the month.

    The meeting begins promptly at 6:30 in the downstairs meeting room of the Bernal Heights Branch Library (turn left at the bottom of the stairs). As always, this meeting is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland (at Andover)

  • Jul 17th, 2019 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Tracing the El Camino Real Through Glen Park

    This month's presentation is from one of our neighborhood neighbor groups, the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project!

    Today's Chenery and Arlington Streets were first platted during the Civil War as part of the Pacific Railroad Homestead Association. Located 4 miles from downtown San Francisco, the area was an undeveloped rural district that likely had more cattle than people. Why a road in a sparsely populated region had been named for Richard Chenery, a prominent Gold Rush pioneer who led the California contingent in the Washington, DC inauguration parade for President Abraham Lincoln, had remained a mystery.

    However, through the comparison of several maps over the past 160+ years, the answer may have been found. Glen Park historian Evelyn Rose of the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project will use these maps to comment on what appears to be the origins of Chenery Street and how this particular route through today's Fairmount Heights, Glen Park, and Sunnyside has influenced, and continues to influence, transit routes throughout the district.

    The meeting begins promptly at 7:00 in the downstairs meeting room of the Bernal Heights Branch Library (turn left at the bottom of the stairs). A Q&A session will follow. As always, this meeting is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland

  • Jun 19th, 2019 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    From the the Flats to the Hill: Bernal and Mission Neighborhood Newspapers Through Time

    RESCHEDULED FROM JANUARY! A project of the San Francisco Department of Memory, Neighborhood Newspapers of San Francisco digitally preserves and promotes San Francisco community newspapers. This collaborative community effort has made almost 1,600 issues dating back to the 1960s freely and widely accessible. Community historians Vicky Walker and Elizabeth Creely join project manager LisaRuth Elliott in sharing some of the rediscovered stories of Bernal Heights and the Mission District, as taken from the pages of the local newspapers: New Bernal Journal, North Mission News, and New Mission News.

    A question-and-answer session will follow. Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Apr 17th, 2019 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Public Library
    Earthquake Refugee Shacks on the Hill and Elsewhere

    Join John Blackburn, BHP’s very own “earthquake shack guy,” as he narrates a presentation that takes you on an historical journey about the refugee camps and relief cottages (earthquake shacks) that were set up in response to the 1906 earthquake and fire. The shacks provided safe and sanitary housing for the families of workers who would help rebuild -- reboot, if you will -- a ravaged City.

    As we approach the 113th anniversary of the earthquake, it is important to put these cute, adorable, and very lovable cottages in perspective. You can’t know or appreciate them without understanding their background and significance as one of the most important pieces of our City’s storied history.

    The cottages/shacks began the original Tiny House movement that is sweeping the land today. They were the first “affordable housing” that allowed poor and working-class families the opportunity of home ownership. Their historical significance cannot be understated, and they remain a model for disaster housing.

    Refreshments will be served. If you would like to bring something to share, please do.

    The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Public Library 500 Cortland (at Anderson)

  • Mar 20th, 2019 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Holding up the Sky! Celebrating California Women and their Fight for Civil Rights

    Since the early days of statehood, women in California have been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights. Elaine Elinson, local Bernal library patron and coauthor of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California and winner of a Gold Medal in the California Book Awards, will lead a special presentation for Women's History Month.

    We will look at the lives of Charlotte Brown, who fought the color bar on San Francisco street cars in 1863; Selina Solomons, who organized shop girls and laundresses to win women’s suffrage; Alice Piper, a 15-year-old Paiute who challenged the segregation of Native American children in Big Pine public schools – and other courageous women. Join us as we find out what motivated these bold women – and the rights they won for us all.

    The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland (at Andover)

  • Feb 20th, 2019 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Reading the Model: Bernal History in 3D

    Segments of the WPA-built City Model are on display throughout San Francisco at the city's branch libraries, including Bernal's. You can read more about the project on the San Francisco History Center's blog.

    BHP has used the 1938 aerial photos the model was based on for our research into the neighborhood, so it is a spectacular treat to get to see the model itself, especially as it hasn't been on public display since 1942 and its future home is undetermined!

    At our February meeting, we will talk about the origins of the project and show photos of the city model past and present, including high-resolution color images of portions of Bayshore, Glen Park, and St. Mary's Park that aren't on public display. We'll talk about how this three-dimensional map changes our perceptions of the neighborhood and how it has changed over the years. A question-and-answer session will follow.

    The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland (at Andover)

  • Feb 7th, 2019 2:00pm (Thursday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Map of Bernal Contest

    BHP are partnering with the Bernal branch library and Public Knowledge to design a map of the perfect Bernal Heights. You've seen the City Model from 1940, and what our neighborhood looked like then. What would a modern version of Bernal look like for you? What would you change, and what would you add? Come with your best ideas, and we will have the materials for you to make an original map displaying your vision for an even better Bernal!

    Artwork will be put on display so patrons can vote for their favorites.

    Take Part is a project of the Public Knowledge partnership between San Francisco Public Library and SFMOMA.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Nov 21st, 2018 12:00am (Wednesday)
    No meeting this month -- HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

    The Bernal Library closes at 5 p.m. for Thanksgiving on our usual meeting date, so there will be no BHP presentation this month. We don't meet in December either, so we'll see you in January!
    map to:

  • Oct 17th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Irish Hill, The Potrero’s Lost Neighborhood

    Irish Hill is a neighborhood that literally disappeared. Located between today's Dogpatch and Pier 70, this ten-square block neighborhood was populated from 1867 until 1923. Most of its residents were single men, many of them Irish, that were employed in the adjacent shipbuilding industries, like the Union Iron Works.

    The neighborhood's reputation for drunken debauchery and crime was well known in late-19th century San Francisco. Boarding houses, hotels, and many saloons fueled Irish Hill's reputation as a rowdy, dangerous place to be, day or night.Very little has been known about this working-class neighborhood.

    For several years, Steven Fidel Herraiz has researched Irish Hill, a ghost town whose residents, buildings, streets, and original topography no longer exist. Through rarely-seen photographs, historic newspaper articles, and artifacts, he tells the story of this dynamic neighborhood, whose demise in the early 20th century was brought on by the very industries that created it.

    A question-and-answer session will follow. Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Sep 19th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Little Boxes: The Legacy of Henry Doelger

    We have a special movie presentation! We are delighted to host Robert Keil for a screening of his film, Little Boxes: The Legacy of Henry Doelger, which is a fascinating visual journey through the Westlake District of Daly City, California. This is the first documentary about Henry Doelger and his signature community, one of America's first and most iconic major postwar suburbs. Little Boxes not only documents Doelger's place in history, it uncovers Westlake's amazing development process and its classic midcentury style. A question-and-answer session will follow.

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Aug 15th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Bernal History Project monthly meeting: How to Find Your California Ancestors

    Wondering how to research your family or your home, but don't know where to start? Not sure what records are available from the Gold Rush era to the 1906 earthquake and fire and beyond? Bring your questions and suggestions to this month's Bernal History Project meeting, which will be a roundtable conversation hosted by genealogist Sandra Huber of the California Genealogical Society and Library. She will share her extensive knowledge and advise on the best resources for local research. Sandra says, "I was able to learn so much about how to research records in San Francisco and California and elsewhere, I wanted to help others do the same."

    Sandra is a fourth-generation San Franciscan who attended Catholic schools and SF State University. She has a longtime interest in genealogy, and has successfully researched her maternal and paternal lines back for eight to ten generations. Some of her own ancestors, the Freemans and the Wrins, built houses side by side in Bernal Heights and ran a plumbing business for sixty years. She is working on a book about her family history in San Francisco and their places of origin.

    She hosts and facilitates the San Francisco Special Interest Group (SF-SIG) monthly history group at the San Francisco Main Library (second Saturdays) and the California Genealogical Society and Library (third Saturdays).

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Jul 18th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Bernal History Project monthly meeting: Show and Tell

    This month's meeting will be a general show-and-tell get-together. Bring your photos, stories, ephemera, and questions -- and we'll talk!

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Jun 20th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Story-Mapping San Francisco's Neighborhoods

    You may already have encountered Thy Tran and Bryan Wu, members of the Survival Project artist collective, because they hosted a story-sharing space on Cortland Avenue outside the library recently. At this month's Bernal History Project meeting, they will introduce their public installation, Transition24, which launches in autumn 2019. Bernal Heights is one of the highlighted neighborhoods in the project, which will include a series of interactive sound portals that connect stories of migration and transition.

    Thy and Bryan will share photos from their recent Gathering Table on Cortland, reveal early design sketches, serve treats connected to past work, and ask for Bernal residents' suggestions for further research and outreach in our community. If you'd like to contribute stories of your family's journey, please come to the meeting and meet them!

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free, kid-friendly, and open to all. Muni: 24, 67. Street parking: can be tricky because this is St. Kevin's bingo night.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • May 16th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Dogpatch Ranch: The Origins of a Chinese American Family

    Glenn Lym’s documentary tells the story of his great-grandfather, Lim Lip Hong; his great-grandmother, Chan Shee; and how they raised their family on a ranch in the Potrero District of San Francisco on the then-Bay shoreline during a period of intense anti-Chinese discrimination in San Francisco and throughout the West.

    Former Bernal resident Glenn Lym is an architect and historian. This screening is part of the San Francisco Public Library's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations, and is jointly presented by the Bernal Heights Branch Library and the Bernal History Project.

    The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Apr 18th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Crackers at St. Anthony's: Bernal in the Movies and TV

    This month we have another compilation show by Ben Valdez. It includes excerpts from Crackers, a 1984 film by Louis Malle set at 24th Street and Alabama and starring Donald Sutherland, Sean Penn, Wallace Shawn, and Christine Baranski in a comic caper about an inept team of safe crackers who team up to rob a pawn shop.

    Ben will also reprise clips from The Ordeal of Patty Hearst, a 1979 made-for-TV movie that actually used the Symbionese Liberation Army safe house at 288 Precita to film in (and which startled Ben's grandparents, who used to live at that address in the 1960s). You'll see Better Call Saul's Jonathan Banks as Bill Harris, jogging along Army Street and buying fish from a street vendor on Precita before being arrested by FBI agent Dennis Weaver for his role in Hearst's kidnapping.

    We'll also have footage of the 1974 Streets of San Francisco episode "The Most Deadly Species," in which guest star Brenda Vaccaro plays a hit woman who seduces Michael Douglas and gets up to no good in St. Anthony's Church. And let's not forget the famous chase scene in the Steve McQueen 1968 classic movie Bullitt.

    Ben will also show some family home movies of weddings from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Anyone who has Bernal-related home movies or other clips to suggest is very welcome to bring them on a USB stick or disk to show at the meeting.

    The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Mar 21st, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Bernal History Project monthly meeting: Show and Tell

    This month's meeting will be a general show-and-tell get-together. Bring your photos, stories, and artifacts and we'll talk! Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.
    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Feb 21st, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    From Confederate Spy to Lesbian Collective: The Strange History of 386 Richland

    BHP founder member Molly Martin has compiled a slideshow about the history of the Bernal Heights building where she has lived for 38 years -- and the shocking details she's just learned about its first owner.

    Molly is asking for your help solving the mystery of the building’s architectural transformation, using objects found in the walls as clues.

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Jan 17th, 2018 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    Bernal History Project monthly meeting: Happy New Year show-and-tell!

    Our first get-together of the year will be a show-and-tell. Bring stories, photos, and ephemera to share.

    We will also be talking about San Francisco History Days at the Old Mint, taking place on March 3-5, 2018. BHP will be taking part, along with dozens of other community historians, archivists, genealogists, archaeologists, researchers, educators, reenactors and other history enthusiasts -- and best of all, the event is free!

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)

  • Nov 15th, 2017 7:00pm (Wednesday) at Bernal Heights Branch Library
    The History of the Bernal Cut: Slideshow and Holiday Potluck

    The origins of the Bernal Cut lie in the early San Francisco and San Jose Railroad, which later became the Southern Pacific Railroad. Dug out of the hills between Mission and Randall streets and San Jose and St. Mary's avenues, the "cut" made a shorter rail travel route into and out of the City. This single-track route remained a passenger route until 1932, continued to operate for freight trains through the 1940s, and was essential to transporting coffins and visitors to the cemeteries in Colma.

    We'll have a slideshow about the history of the Bernal Cut as well as a display and a working model of the train itself, built by John and Virginia Kibre.

    This is the last meeting of the year and will be a pot-luck event. Bring goodies, chips/dips, noshes, sushi, sweets, or anything to share. We'll provide cookies and coffee.

    Wednesday's meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp in the downstairs meeting room at the Bernal branch library (500 Cortland at Anderson); turn left at the bottom of the stairs. As always, it is free and open to all.


    map to: Bernal Heights Branch Library 500 Cortland Avenue (at Andover)