San Francisco, Here We Come (Part 2)

(Continued from “San Francisco, Here We Come!”)

House_Front

715-717 Baker Street, San Francisco, where Ursula lived as a little girl and teenager

Thankfully, I heard from Sal the next day—Monday afternoon! Through text messages, we arranged for me to come over at 11:30 am Tuesday, Michael’s and my last full day in San Francisco.I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. I was going to get to see Ursula’s house!

On Tuesday morning, Michael and I said goodbye to our friends and their two fluffy cats, and got in our rental car parked out front. We drove in light rain down Lincoln Way along the south edge of Golden Gate Park, then catty-corner through the park and along the Panhandle. Turning left on Baker Street, we started looking for the house after a few blocks. After passing several other Victorian homes on the tree-lined street, we found a parking spot a couple doors down from our destination.

Entryway to 715-717 Baker St.

Entryway to 715-717 Baker St.

The rain had stopped and the sun had just broken through the clouds. A good omen, I mused. We decided I would introduce Michael to Sal and ask if it was OK if he tagged along for the tour. We walked up the 10 steps to the entryway, where twin, green-colored wood doors with oval windows stood side by side: 715-717 Baker St.

A small, hand-scrawled sign instructing visitors to knock was taped next to the apparently malfunctioning doorbell of Sal’s—and previously the Cheshire’s—flat. I rapped on the door a few times, and saw a handsome, somewhat sleepy-looking young man in pajama-like pantaloons and T-shirt walking toward the door.

He opened it and graciously welcomed Michael and me into his home. After smiles and handshakes all around, Sal, a doctor, explained his attire and bed-head by way of saying he’d been on call the night before. He invited us into his bay-windowed living room to chat for a while, before showing us the house. I couldn’t wait to see it!  (To be continued…)

Me in front of  the Cheshire's old house

Me in front of the Cheshire’s old house

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More Photos!

Here are a few more photos from the second, recently discovered “Mystery Dancer” photo album. Enjoy!

The new neighbor. 516 Jones Street, San Francisco.

The new neighbor. 516 Jones Street, San Francisco.

Above, Alfred and Clara Cheshire (bending over the carriage) introduce baby Ursula to the neighborhood kiddos. They, and one of Ursula’s aunts, are in front of the house where Ursula was born in 1902: 516 Jones Street near Geary. The house burned in 1906, the year of the great earthquake and fires.

Alfred, Ursula and Clara are at the top of the steps under the canapy of wisteria.

Alfred, Ursula and Clara are at the top of the steps under the canapy of wisteria.

A family affair, on the steps of the Uphoff family home in Grass Valley, where Ursula’s mother, Clara Uphoff Cheshire, grew up.

Conservatory, Golden Gate Park

Conservatory, Golden Gate Park

Described as a “gem of Victorian architecture,” the Conservatory of Flowers today is the oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America. It opened to the public in 1879, and, according to the Conservatory’s website, “was an instant sensation and quickly became the most visited location in the park.

Clara, Alfred and Ursula Cheshire, and aunts Jeannette and Mathilde.

Clara, Alfred and Ursula Cheshire, and aunts Jeannette and Mathilde.

Fabulous dresses!

Fabulous dresses!

First run of the electric car between Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA

First run of the electric car between Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA

The handwritten caption under this photo says it was the first run of the electric car between Grass Valley (where Ursula’s mother grew up) and Nevada City, California. According to Wikipedia, the Nevada County Traction Company constructed the electrified railway in 1901; it covered a total of about 6 miles of track using streetcar technology.

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She Got Her Start in San Francisco

Ursula Cheshire birth announcement

The “San Francisco Call” announces “a daughter” (Ursula) is born to “the wife of Alfred D. Cheshire.” Poor Clara doesn’t even get credited by name!

I’ve been having fun researching Ursula’s early life, and have found several mentions of her and her parents in early 1900s San Francisco and Los Angeles newspapers, mainly in the “Society” columns. I feel like I am on a treasure hunt, and for me, the clues I am discovering are the individual coins, gems and jewels that are amassing one by one in the chest that holds Ursula’s story—the ultimate treasure.

I was particularly thrilled when I came across this announcement of Ursula’s birth in the San Francisco Call’s “Births—Marriages—Deaths” column. It confirms

Baby Ursula on September 14, 1902, at age 3 months, 5 days

Baby Ursula at age 3 months, 5 days, with mother Clara, on September 14, 1902

she indeed burst into the world on June 9, 1902, which I had earlier deduced from the penciled caption on the back of the baby picture at left, which noted the photo was “taken Sept. 14th, 1902, baby age 3 mos., 5 days.” Another copy of the same photograph announced that Ursula weighed 12 pounds (!) at birth.

At the time of the 1900 Census, Ursula’s parents, Clara and Alfred Cheshire, were living at 516 Jones Street in San Francisco (just three blocks south of where my husband and his ex-wife lived in the late 1980s!). The Cheshires may still have resided there at the time of their daughter’s birth, but in August 1903 when she was one year old, they bought a lot on the west side of Baker Street, just north of McAllister. I discovered this in the “Real Estate Transactions” column in the San Francisco Call, which let me to an index of deeds, and then to the deed itself (which I found at familysearch.org).

House rendering

A modern rendering of the Baker Street home

The inscription written on the back of the photo below of the interior of the Cheshires’ home confirms their residence as 715 Baker Street, where they lived when Ursula “was small.” According to San Francisco property records and a contemporary real estate description, their house—which still stands!—was a Victorian dwelling built in 1902. As you can see from the picture, Clara and Alfred decorated it in typical ornate Victorian fashion. You can see what the exterior and interior of the home look like today, including some period details, in photos appearing on a 2011 real estate listing.

Baker St. house interior

An ornately decorated room in the Cheshires’ Victorian house at 715 Baker Street in San Francisco

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1897 (from Online Archive of California)

The Cheshires lived within walking distance of Golden Gate Park and I can just imagine Clara, Alfred and little Ursula visiting there from time to time. (In fact, a couple of the pictures in the album may have been taken there, although it’s impossible to say for sure because they have no captions.) According to the Encyclopedia of San Francisco, “At the turn of the century, Golden Gate Park was the free Disneyland of its time, with attractions ranging from animals and birds to lush plantings and numerous types of recreational and athletic activities.”

Ursula and Alfred

Ursula and her father, Alfred…at Golden Gate Park?

Ursula and Friend

Ursula (left) and friend…at Golden Gate Park?

 

 

I just want to say I am having a ball with this blog and everything it entails, and I hope you’re having as much fun learning about Ursula as I am! Until next time…

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