An article in today’s Chron chronicles the story of Arcadia Publishing, the company responsible for those standard, sepia-tone-covered books about the smallest of small neighborhoods around San Francisco (and elsewhere) – and even slightly bigger small neighborhoods as well. I’ve been procrastinating buying the Sunset book (because I’m broke as a joke, but hey, what can you do), but see it and its neighborhoodcentric bretheren everywhere:
One of the biggest local best-sellers has been “San Francisco’s Sunset District,” which tells of the rise of the Sunset from a nearly trackless wilderness of sand dunes into a racially diverse and densely populated neighborhood that San Franciscans call “the avenues.”
The Sunset book went into two printings and sold 6,000 copies — a niche market blockbuster. One reason, said Lorri Ungaretti, who wrote the book, is that neighborhoods such as the Sunset are ignored, even though they are part of the fabric of a world-famous city.
The Sunset has a colorful history. It wasn’t long ago that people went out hunting rabbits in the sand dunes; on quiet nights, Ungaretti said, residents miles away could hear the lions roar in the zoo.
“Thousands of people live out there, or were raised in the Sunset or still live there, and all those other books ignore them,” Ungaretti said.
Arcadia has no book on Chinatown, or North Beach, or the cable cars. But there are two on San Francisco streetcars and one on Japantown. Arcadia likes the road less traveled.
Ha! Suck it, North Beach!
The books are fantastic collections of historical photographs and tidbits of information. Few people can avoid getting lost in images of their ‘hood when it was sparsely populated or dotted with horses, horseless carriages, and long-skirted, fancy-hatted women. The daydream inducing shots of Sutro Baths alone are worth the volume’s $19.99 price.
Check ’em out – chances are your neighborhood is represented. Unless it’s already over represented in, say, every other publication on San Francisco. Be an extra good citizen and buy one from your local bookstore. In the Sunset – go for Black Oak Books on Irving.