This article was originally published in the (Hi)Stories of Our Neighborhoods column in the Summer 2016 issue of the Glen Park News. It is republished here with permission.
“Glen Park” evokes a pleasant mental image – rolling, green hills bisected by a babbling brook, engulfed in the freshest air. From Scottish Gaelic “gleann”, literally, “glen” refers to a narrow or secluded mountain valley.
Our “Glen Park” is not the first use in San Francisco. Glen Park Avenue, between Mission, Howard, 12th, and 13th Streets, was juxtaposed within one block of two popular resorts in the 1870s, City Gardens and the more famous Woodward’s Gardens. Into the 1890s, a popular “breathing grounds,” Wild Wood Glen Park, was a ferry ride away in Sausalito, and briefly, Trestle Glen Park in East Oakland.
In 1891, the Castro Street Land Company, managed by realtor Archibald S. Baldwin of Baldwin & Hammond (by 1897, Baldwin & Howell), began acquiring and improving approximately 160 acres of property south of the 30th Street line. The acreage included much of today’s Glen Park from Castro Street westward, and Glen Canyon west to Miraloma Heights, north to Portola Drive, and south to Mangels Avenue.
On January 31, 1897, the incorporation of the Glen Park Company was announced, “… to conduct parks, museums, zoological gardens, and other places of public resort and entertainment.” Mimicking other local resorts, and with a “glen” in the form of a “narrow or secluded mountain valley” among the lands (Glen Canyon), this appears to be the first use of “Glen Park” for our district. The Glen Park Company, likely controlled by Baldwin behind the scenes, received title to some of the lands from the Castro Land Company in March 1897.
After his offer of 140 acres to the City for his “Mission Park and Zoological Gardens” was rejected,
Baldwin downscaled his plans and named the new pleasuring grounds ”Glen Park - Mission Zoo.” Officially opening in September 1898, Glen Park would draw thousands every Sunday to witness a wide assortment of sports, entertainment, and exotic animals. He believed it would be a big draw for the 75 new home lots he first offered for sale in May 1899: Glen Park Terrace, fronting Glen Avenue (today’s Chenery Street west of Diamond) to Surrey Street, then returning on Surrey eastward to Diamond.
This advertisement appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 18, 1899 is the first announcement for the sale of home lots at Glen Park Terrace, located “At the Main Entrance to Glen Park.”
Glen Park enjoyed enormous success from 1898 to 1900. Sales at Glen Park Terrace, however, were lackluster and by 1903, Baldwin had sold all of his interests. The Crocker Estate took over management of Glen Park in 1901, apparently making it a private resort after 1913, and finally transferring the canyon lands to the City in 1922.
So, in fact, our Glen Park was actually named for a long, forgotten breathing grounds, pleasuring resort, and zoo. How “wild” is that?