History's Mysteries: Unidentified Moving Objects  


Attention History Sherlock Holmes Investigators!


Can you solve these unidentified San Francisco moves? If you have any information about these moves, please email me!


These mysteries will be updated as information is provided! Just email:


Diane Donovan@donovansliteraryservices.com


And put ‘Moving Information’ on the subject line, and refer to the photo image number associated with each caption.




Clues include the dome-shaped structure on the right, the horses and wagons which would place this move pre-truck, and the period dress of the women in the background. (Courtesy of Glenn Koch.)




The cars in the background would date this photo to be the 1920s or teens.  (Courtesy of Glenn Koch.)




The building on the right would hold clues as to the streets involved, at the least. (Courtesy of Glenn Koch.)




It looks as though this building was sliced in half for its move.  (Courtesy of Glenn Koch.)




The top of this building looks to be related to the prior photo. Note the horse movers, which would again date this effort pre-truck. (Courtesy of Glenn Koch.)




The terrain looks to be San Francisco, but which neighborhood? These movers are Mac trucks - the company had a truck of this style in 1910, which changed around 1918.



1. After a 1913 Sanborn map confirmation:


We are looking at a building being moved across Geary Street (now Blvd.) at Arguello Blvd. The view is toward the north on Arguello, and the corner buildings was identified in 1913 as a French Laundry on ground floor, with living units above, which has the angled bay window, and projected bays along the side. The addresses of the corner building were 498 Arguello and 3650-3652 Geary. The unique roof in the background was originally called Richmond Grammar School, but at the time of this move was renamed Roosevelt Grammar School. Today all this has changed. The NE corner is the parking lot for a Wells Fargo branch and about 1930, the Roosevelt Grammar became Roosevelt Jr. High, a brick building designed by Timothy Pflueger. 


The question is where they moving the building from and where to? I can only speculate where it came from, but there was development along Arguello, to create a fine boulevard as it had been so named in December 1909, from First Avenue. This is not a unique building being moved, but most likely it had occupied a lot that was more desirable for other construction, because from Geary to the Presidio Gate was intended to be much classier residences. The 500 block, across Geary, was itself across from Odd FellowsCemetery then (until all graves were removed in 1939-40). The land value across from the cemetery was definitely less than the blocks north of Geary which were near the more prestigious Jordan Park residential tract, and a few blocks south of Presidio Terrace, a very exclusive enclave. 

                                      --John Freeman


2.     Is it possible that this building came from the site of Temple Emanuel? And perhaps it had something to do with Presidio Terrace? I have a picture of a little shingle caretakers cottage that was there. Also if the building was from Arguello blvd, it would have come from the left side of the street given the direction of the front of the house. That little projecting piece on the left would likely have been on the back end of the house.   – Glenn Koch


3. Today, of course, demo and reconstruction is so simple, and moving, with permits to block traffic, move overhead wires and all the rest is a huge expense, but there was a time when the building materials might have been more valuable than the labor, and moving even a simple cottage was cost-effective. 


I want to look at what was on the property where Temple Emanuel would be built at Lake and Arguello. The synagogue complex was built during the early 1920s, so site prep was earlier. I am only guessing on the age of the moving vehicles, but we are in the general range. If you find a picture of the little shingle caretakers cottage on its original site, we might get lucky. 

                        --- John Freeman






2 Hahn Street (at Leland) is one of Visitacion Valley's most colorful stories - and its biggest mystery. Its high wall and Edwardian style is in stark contrast to the rest of the neighborhood, but the real mystery lies in its stormy past. Three sisters inherited the house, but couldn't get along. Their solution to irreconcilable differences was to cut the house in thirds. Each sister received her own separate piece. (Courtesy of the Visitacion Valley History Project.)



Serendipity is a marvelous thing. It solves mysteries and was active in the case of 2 Hahn Street.


Historian David Gallagher outlines how he solved this moving house mystery: "It all came together serendipitously. SF Heritage (where Woody was working) was doing stuff in Vis Valley, and posted a picture of 2 Hahn.  I happened to have been searching around that time for the location of the 24th & Vermont shot (unidentified at the time) and recognized the building. I realized the timing was right for US the 101 construction, so I searched the Sanborn maps looking for the right footprint. Then confirmed it with the SFMTA shot."

The original location was at 24th & Vermont. David proves it with the Sanborn map research and photo, but he is still looking for the missing top floor!


His Twitter feed charts the memories and events that came together to solve this puzzle:




And here are the Sanborn maps and photos documenting the link!




Two sections of the grand Edwardian were moved away: but, to where? Research has confirmed that the house was moved to its present location in the late 1940s (water hookup occurred on October of 1947), and that it was once a larger house. What was its original location? Is the legend of the squabbling sisters a true story?  (Courtesy of the Visitacion Valley History Project.)



  Mystery MOVERS  


Aside from their names on moving projects, these movers are a MYSTERY. What is their background? How did they enter the building-moving business? How many buildings did they move in San Francisco?


These are the movers, their eras, and what has been found so far - please email if you have further details to share on these mystery movers and their legacies!



D.J. Sullivan - 1905 - confronted city officials about

mover's rights; cut utility wires and wound up in



E.E. Otterbeck - 1904 - raised, lowered, moved



J.R. Poole - 1900s - demolition, salvaging, moving


Henry Diener - 1890s-1900s - great visual move of

a Rincon Hill house exists on a postcard.


Henry Chester and Patrick Gleason - formed

Housemover's Union #1 in protest of fees.


Housemover's Union #1 - early 1900s union: who

were they, how many members did they have?


Herbert L. Hatch - moved the Ohio building and

elevated a building over streetcar tracks. What is

his history, what other buildings did he move?


Hanson Bros Movers - moved many San

Francisco houses in the mid-1950-60s. Who were

they? What is their history?


Ayen HouseMovers - moved buildings in the

1970s. Who were they? How many buildings did

they move?


Suell House Moving, 1875 - moved many early

San Francisco Buildings. We have their later

history/merge into Montgomery's moving business,

but little about their early moving history under the

Suell House Moving name.