While some of the more stodgy San Franciscans turn their noses up at traveling to The Avenues, aka The Sunset, this sleepy neighborhood is rich with history and charm. The Sunset is where Karl the Fog has taken up permanent residency, and it’s also home to everyone’s favorite brunch spot, Outerlands. With its close proximity to Ocean Beach, The Sunset is populated with surfer bros and artists, and the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is on the low-end at $2,470, according to Zumper.

How did The Sunset become one of the most slept-on neighborhoods while retaining so much of its character? Find out in our historic photo series of the “Outside Lands.”

Wreck of the whaler Atlantic, 1886

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp4/wnp4.0041.jpg

In 1886, a wrecked whaler by the name of “Atlantic” washed onto the Ocean Beach shore. Twenty-nine crew members perished — the vessel had been on its way to the Arctic to hunt sperm whales.

Seabreeze Resort, 1897

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp4/wnp4.0966.jpg

Once covered in sand dunes, development of The Sunset began in the 1870s and 1880s, largely thanks to the attention brought on by Golden Gate Park. According to the Western Neighborhoods Project, the Seabreeze Resort (shown above) had a checkered past. Named the “Most Unusual Place In The West,” the roadhouse attracted entertainers, boxers, racing fans and newspaper men. 

Cable car route under construction, 1909

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp36.00044.jpg

Originally, The Sunset’s streets were named after letters of the alphabet, but in 1909 the City changed the letters to full words, such as “Taraval” for “T” and “Lawton” for “L.”

Panorama of Sunset Heights, 1921

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The 1920s and 1930s saw an uptick in development due to newly available FHA loans to build single-family homes. Those interested included Ray Galli, the Stoneson Brothers and the Doelger Brothers.

Fleishhacker Pool, 1923

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The photo above is actually an advertisement for a car with Fleishhacker Pool in the background. The public saltwater swimming pool was under construction, soon to become one of the largest heated outdoor swimming pools in the world until its closure in 1971.

Tornado House, 1930

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp30.0124.jpg

Repaired and still standing today, the aptly named Tornado House was hit by turbulent winds on February 24, 1930. The tornado reportedly spun the house sideways off its foundation.

Sand dune clearing, 1930

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp36.03973.jpg

During the 1930s, The Sunset developed further into what is known as a “streetcar suburb.” Floorplans mirrored each other block after block, so much so, that if you visit a friend’s house on Noriega, and another on Taraval, they’re likely to look eerily similar.

Irving Theatre, 1941

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Open from June 10, 1926 through July 8, 1962, Irving Theatre screened second or third-run motion pictures for the Inner Sunset.

Portola Market, 1951

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By the end of WWII, The Sunset’s sand dunes had been leveled off and residential construction was complete.

Irving between 4th and 5th Avenue, 1970s

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San Francisco in the 1970s was still a hotbed of counterculture subversity and arguably better looking automobiles.

Boat car on 9th and Irving Avenue, 1983

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A boat with a view! On warmer days, two boat cars would run through The Sunset, giving tourists a chance to snap photos and people-watch.

Ocean sunset in The Sunset, 1992

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp25.1843.jpg

When Karl the Fog slinks away and dusk hits, one can truly understand how The Sunset earned its romantic namesake.

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