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North Beach, San Francisco, California

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Title: North Beach, San Francisco, California  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Greenwich Village, Janis Joplin, Ken Kesey, Striptease, Vertigo (film), Time After Time (1979 film), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, San Francisco Municipal Railway, Little Italy, Mabuhay Gardens
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

North Beach, San Francisco, California

Coordinates: 37°48′1.04″N 122°24′36.66″W / 37.8002889°N 122.4101833°W / 37.8002889; -122.4101833

North Beach
Neighborhood of San Francisco
Marilyn Monroe after marrying her at City Hall in 1954.
North Beach
North Beach
Location within Central San Francisco

Coordinates: 37°48′1.04″N 122°24′36.66″W / 37.8002889°N 122.4101833°W / 37.8002889; -122.4101833

 • Board of Supervisors David Chiu
 • State Assembly Tom Ammiano (D)
 • State Senate Mark Leno (D)
 • U.S. House Nancy Pelosi (D)
 • Total 1.61 km2 (0.620 sq mi)
 • Land 1.61 km2 (0.620 sq mi)
Population (2008)[1]
 • Total 20,171
 • Density 12,571/km2 (32,558/sq mi)
ZIP Code 94111, 94133
Area code(s) 415

North Beach is a neighborhood in the northeast of San Francisco adjacent to Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf and Russian Hill. The neighborhood is San Francisco's Little Italy, and has historically been home to a large Italian American population. It is still home to many Italian restaurants today, though many other ethnic groups currently live in the neighborhood. It was also the historic center of the beatnik subculture. Today, North Beach is one of San Francisco's main red light and nightlife districts as well as a residential neighborhood populated by a mix of young urban professionals, families and Chinese immigrants connected to the adjacent Chinatown.

The American Planning Association (APA) has named North Beach as one of ten 'Great Neighborhoods in America'.[2]


North Beach is bounded by the former Barbary Coast, now Jackson Square, the Financial District south of Broadway, Chinatown to the southwest of Columbus below Green Street, Russian Hill to the west, Telegraph Hill to the east and Fisherman's Wharf at Bay Street to the north.

Main intersections are Union and Columbus, the southwest corner of Washington Square, Grant Avenue and Vallejo Street.

The somewhat compact layout of the neighborhood consists apartments, duplexes, and Victorian homes dating from the 1920s, when residents rebuilt the neighborhood from its complete destruction after the earthquake and fire of 1906.


Originally, the city's northeast shoreline extended only to what is today Taylor and Francisco streets. The area largely known today as North Beach was an actual beach, filled in with landfill around the late 19th century. Warehouses, fishing wharves, and docks were then built on the newly formed shoreline. Due to the proximity of the docks, the southern half of the neighborhood south of Broadway was home of the infamous Barbary Coast.

Following its reconstruction after the 1906 Earthquake, the proximity of the nearby docks and fishing wharves attracted a large amount of Italian immigrants that would create the Italian character of the neighborhood that exists to this day. Prominent Italian Americans that came from the neighborhood include Baseball legend Joe Dimaggio who grew up in the neighborhood and briefly returned to live there with his wife Marilyn Monroe during the 1950s, as well as former San Francisco mayor and politician Joseph Alioto as well as others from the prominent Alioto family.

Due to its past legacy as the Barbary Coast, Broadway east of Columbus, grew to be the home of the city's red light district and striptease clubs. The Condor Club, on the corner of Columbus and Broadway, was opened in 1964 as America's first topless bar which it still is today. The Lusty Lady, a peep-show establishment, is notable as the world's only worker cooperative strip club. The Broadway strip was also home to the Mabuhay Gardens, The Stone and On Broadway nightclubs, which were important venues in the punk rock scene of the late 1970s to mid-1980s. Another notable night spot was The Committee, an Improvisational theatre group founded by alums of The Second City in Chicago. The Committee opened April 10, 1963 at 622 Broadway in a 300 seat Cabaret theater.

During the 1950s, many of the neighborhood's cafes and bars became the home and epicenter of the Beat Generation and gave rise to the San Francisco Renaissance. The term "beatnik" originated from the scene here and was coined in a derogatory fashion by local and famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. Many of that generation's most famous writers and personalities such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady lived in the neighborhood. Another poet from this generation, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founded the City Lights Bookstore that still exists today on the corner of Broadway and Columbus as an official historic landmark and serves as one of the main focal points of this generation.

Since the 1980s, and much like Manhattan's Little Italy, due to a decrease in immigration from Italy and gentrification, the neighborhood has seen its native Italian American population rapidly shrink, while neighboring Chinatown has been rapidly expanding north into the neighborhood east of Broadway and along Stockton Street causing a major demographic shift to a mix of mostly Chinese and young professional population, although some, albeit very few, Italian Americans remain.

Attractions and characteristics



While the native Italian American population has dropped rapidly since the 1980s, the neighborhood still retains an Italian character with many Italian restaurants, cafes, and bakeries that line Columbus Avenue and Washington Square.

Religious institutions and sites

  • The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, the city's namesake, is located on Vallejo Street.
  • Known as "The Italian Cathedral of the West," Saints Peter and Paul Church is located on the north side of Filbert Street in front of Washington Square. Joe DiMaggio married his first wife there, and came for photos after his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Saints Peter and Paul is considered a San Francisco landmark and an emblematic tie to the neighborhood's Italian American past. It offers a weekly mass in Italian every Sunday at 11:45 AM, and attracts visitors annually from around the world.

Secular institutions and sites

  • An alleyway between Columbus and Grant Avenues is named for Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, who once lived there and frequented the famous City Lights Bookstore on the corner of Columbus and Broadway as well as the numerous nearby bars and coffee shops.
  • Broadway east of Columbus Avenue still serves as the city's main red-light and nightclub district, with many strip clubs, as well as bars, nightclubs, jazz clubs, and the like.
  • The Academy of Art University has several buildings in the area, including one along Columbus Avenue and one across the street from Pier 39.
  • The San Francisco Art Institute is located in the northern end of North Beach, on Russian Hill.

See also

San Francisco Bay Area portal



External links

  • North Beach Yahoo Maps
  • North Beach Neighbors a San Francisco Neighborhood Organization
  • at en fuego magazine
  • Historic North Beach and Telegraph Hill photographs by photographer JB Monaco
  • (Painter Dave Archer recalls working at the Fox and Hound (later called Coffee and Confusion) in North Beach, in various capacities, and of his memories of Hoyt Axton and Janis Joplin, who got their starts in San Francisco at that club.)
  • (Painter Dave Archer recalls living and working in North Beach, San Francisco, and the characters he met there (some famous, many up-and-coming and later famous).)

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