Cole Valley Walking Tour>

A Cole Valley Walking Tour

Start at the corner of Carl and Cole. The building at the northwest corner, which now houses Crepes on Cole, used to be a comedy joint called "The Other Cafe" (you can still see the old sign high on the side of the building facing Carl Street). Robin Williams and Dana Carvey used to be regulars there long before they were famous. Eos, on the southwest corner, and Kezar, on the southeast corner, are fantastic places to eat and drink. If it's open, Kezar has great photos of the neighborhhood at the turn of the century hanging on its walls.

Walk down the business strip towards Parnassus. Cole Hardware, on your left, is a neighborhood classic -- everything a hardware store should be. The building on the southeast corner of Cole and Parnassus used to be the landmark Tassajara Bakery, owned until 1993 by the Zen Center/Buddhists that own Green's Restaurant and the Tassajara Center in Big Sur. They sold the business to Just Desserts around 1993, and Just Desserts closed the bakery in 1999.

Turn left on Parnassus. At 56-58 Parnassus are two huge Bay trees (they're Italian Bay, not the California native that you find in the Bay Area) and the leaves are fine for cooking). Turn up Belvedere. Belvedere is one of the prettiest streets in the city -- beautiful Edwardian homes and a canopy of mature trees. Walk up Belvedere to the corner of 17th Street. At 598 Belvedere is a former Episcopal Church (St. Aiden's) that's been converted into a home. Turn up 17th Street to Clayton, then right on Clayton until you get to Carmel. The firehouse at the corner was converted into condominiums in 1998.

Turn right onto Carmel. This street, and some of the surrounding streets, buried their overhead wires in 1990. Notice what a difference it makes, even though the trees haven't had a chance to create a mature canopy yet! At the corner of Carmel and Cole, head up the hill and walk to the end of the Cole Street dead- end. The house at 1544 Cole is one of my favorites in the city -- an old Edwardian house set back off the street and nestled into a garden on the edge of Tank Hill. (You'll see a lot of old houses set far off the street in Cole Valley -- usually it means that the house was built before the street grid was laid out.) The modern condos at the very end of the street on the right were just built in 1995 -- a good example of "infill" housing construction in urban areas rather than suburban sprawl.

Turn around and head back to Carmel. Turn left on Carmel until you get to Shrader. On Shrader near the corner of Carmel lives Supervisor Sue Bierman, a former community activist who is largely responsible for stopping the freeway from running through the Golden Gate Park Panhandle in the 1960s. Head up Shrader -- at 1555 Shrader look for a very plain modern house where the owners have decorated their garage doors with a handsome Chinese symbol. Does anyone know what it means? Continue up Shrader -- at the point where the street angles to the left, notice the beautiful house and landscaping. There used to be two gigantic Monterrey cypresses here, one to the left and one to the right of the driveway. The tree on the right crashed in a December 1995 storm, damaging houses across the street and causing at least one injury. The tree on the right was recently cut down, leaving only the huge trunk, which was carved during the summer of 1998 into a statue of a winged figure.

Continue up Shrader to Belgrave, turn left on Belgrave, and f ollow it to the end of the street. Follow the path at the end of Belgrave up to the top of Tank Hill, which I think offers the most spectacular view of San Francisco in the City. Watch how the last few steps before the top open up the entire panorama! Behind the hill is the old foundation for the water tank that used to be there; hence the name.

Retrace your steps back to Belgrave. Follow Belgrave past Shrader to Stanyan (just before Stanyan, though, take a look at the beautiful houses and gardens at 144 and 160 Belgrave). T urn down Stanyan, and walk down this steep street until you get to 17th Street. The New Zealand Christmas Tree at 1221 Stanyan is the only one I know of in the City with *yellow* flowers, instead of red (something maybe only a tree weenie would care about). Continue down Stanyan to Rivoli, turn right on Rivoli and follow it until Shrader. The modern building at the corner of Shrader and Rivoli (1401 Shrader) is the work of Ira Kurlander, a well known architect, and the house (note that the first floor is a 1908 Edwardian)was formerly owned by Jerry and Kathleen Brown's mother, Bernice Lane Brown. Keep walking down Rivoli, past several young trees -- the Victorian Box and Loquat trees that you see on this block are the result of Friends of the Urban Forest tree plantings that occurred in Cole Valley in 1992 and 1998, helping to keep Cole Valley one of the "best-treed" neighborhoods in the City.

Turn left on Cole Street, and follow Cole back to Carl Street. You're done!