Great Highway / Playland / Ocean Beach

Postcards on this page show the Great Highway over time.

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These cards give views of Ocean Beach from Cliff House and from Sutro Heights. The Beach Chalet (opened 1925) shown on the cards below is absent in all of these. Left: Britton & Rey 552, postmarked SF 12/28/1905, is a modified version of earlier Weidner 116 (comparison here). It shows the Dutch Windmill (completed 1902) but not the Murphy Windmill (completed 1905), so the image must predate 1905. Next: Mitchell 2081. I've seen another Mitchell 2081 postmarked 2/12/1910, so the image must date from 1905-1910. Next: Cardinell-Vincent 1567 shows a densely packed beach, with a large roped-off space; it probably depicts a particular event. The P.P.I.E. seal dates it to ca. 1915. Right: Pacific Novelty shows the esplanade seawall (completed 1923) and the Big Dipper at Playland (built 1923), so it must date from ca. 1924. The Britton & Rey and Cardinell-Vincent cards show the Swiss Chalet (moved when Beach Chalet was built in 1925) on the west side of Ocean Boulevard (now Great Highway), it's hard to tell but I think the Pacific Novelty card also shows it.

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Left: Zan 409, RPPC, postmarked Sonoma 1/05/1942. Photographer Alexander J. "Zan" Stark (1889-1967) produced thousands of postcards (ca. 1935-1955), mostly b+w RPPCs (see Publisher: Zan). An earlier Zan postcard of Ocean Beach is shown below. Right: Scenic View 18; this page shows a variant with very different coloring.

I buy very few linen era postcards, but I found this Scenic View card charming. Then I received the RPPC as part of a bargain lot with several other cards and was truly delighted when I placed them side-by-side. The image looks south down Great Highway from Sutro Heights, with Playland at left and Ocean Beach at right; a view from roughly the same spot in 2020 looks like this. The images are very similar, but I think Scenic View is based on a different photo (northbound traffic jam, grown vegetation on ocean side of seawall). I like the color splotches splashed on Playland roofs and on parked cars.

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Left: Zan 281 presumably dates from the late 1930s; it surely predates Zan 409 above, based both on the stock number and on the cars. Right: Roberts C491, written 3/26/1952. The writer had breakfast in Berkeley with Admiral Nimitz that day and then saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Steve's SF postcard pages: