Fulton St & Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
To begin our tour, make your way to the intersection of Fulton & Stanyan. This intersection is accessible by mass transit and is located at the extreme northeast corner of Golden Gate Park Position yourself on the left-hand sidewalk as you walk down Fulton street, keeping Golden Gate Park on your left. We’re going to walk two blocks down and stop at the corner of Willard & Fulton; the first attraction on our journey. As you walk, let’s talk about an important word that will keep popping up on our tour today: Counterculture. In the United States, the counterculture movement of the 1960s & 70s was a wide-ranging, anti-establishment platform born primarily out of opposition to the war in Vietnam. As it grew, it would encompass and embrace Civil Rights activism, women’s liberation, pacifism, environmentalism, and anti-government protests of all sorts. It was populated heavily by young people and typified by a deep antipathy toward traditional authority. It encouraged bohemian attitudes toward sex, artistic expression, & psychoactive drug use. Speaking of drugs - here's another word for you: Psychedelic. The dictionary tells us that the word psychedelic, “relates to or denotes drugs that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness.” I’ll tell you that there was a lot of psychedelic drug use during the counterculture, so much so that the word psychedelic also came to describe an entire genre of rock music whose sound sought to replicate the sensory experience of a drug-induced high. Why am I telling you all this? Well, let’s just say that you’ll need to know a little bit about sex, drugs & rock n’ roll in order to appreciate our first stop.
2416 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
As you approach the corner of Willard & Fulton, on the right-hand side you’ll notice a large, white building with four columns. This is the first official stop on our tour. During the 1960s, this grandiose, 8,000 square foot, 17 room mansion facing Golden Gate Park was home to the psychedelic rock group Jefferson Airplane. Jefferson Airplane was formed in San Francisco in 1965. Their eclectic mix of rock, folk, and jazz came to define the “San Francisco” sound. The band achieved commercial success and legendary status after Grace Slick became the group’s lead vocalist. Slick’s powerful voice and riveting stage presence helped define the band. We have her to thank for the anthem of the Summer of Love - the aptly titled song “Somebody to Love.” The hit was released just weeks after Jefferson Airplane played the January Human Be-In across the street in Golden Gate Park. “Somebody to Love” is the battle cry of counterculturalism. It rails against the illusions of conformity and instead calls for free love, peace, and equality. While “Somebody to Love” fits the sound of the 1960s fairly well, Jefferson Airplane’s other greatest hit blasted away all the pop music conventions of its time. “White Rabbit” takes the listener on a psychedelic journey through Wonderland. The song has no verses or chorus. It is simply one unbroken march down the rabbit hole - building in intensity. The early lines are delivered gently by Slick, but by the end, she’s screaming. The song is a prime example of psychedelic rock, the sound of the Haight-Ashbury. It seeks to mimic in music the feeling of an acid trip. In addition to its endorsement of psychedelia, “White Rabbit” was a coming of age song for the hippies. Playing on Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, the song tries to show the “flower children” that they are no longer children and rather it is now their turn to take over from the old generation and forge a new world. It is a call to join Alice down the rabbit hole and build a new society. Both these songs and much of the rest of Jefferson Airplane’s music was written and recorded in this mansion. The mansion was built in Colonial Revival style by a lumber magnate in 1904. The grand exterior was mirrored inside by exotic decor from around the world. The bedrooms are all abnormally shaped and adorned with classical frescos. When Jefferson Airplane moved here in the 60s, they had the whole place painted black. According to reliable urban legend, more acid was dropped at 2400 Fulton than in any other place in the Haight-Ashbury. The band regularly hosted lavish banquets featuring roast suckling pig and plenty of marijuana to go around. The price tag for this lavish pad? A mere $70,000. You’d be lucky to rent a shoebox for that money in today’s San Francisco! Alright, let’s climb our way out of this rabbit hole and move along to our next stop. Immediately opposite the Jefferson Airplane house, you’ll see a path that will take you into Golden Gate Park - we’re going to take that path until we hit a road.
Conservatory Dr E, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you come to the end of the path, turn left and follow the road down to the stop sign at the base of the hill. You are now entering Golden Gate Park. This park is to San Francisco what Central Park is to New York City. It’s been around since 1870, covers 1,017 acres of land, and is famous for its AIDS Memorial Grove, Japanese Tea Garden, and a multitude of ponds. It is also the site of the first public playground in the United States. One more fun fact, since 1890 the park has housed American buffalo. Coincidentally - the buffalo paddock (where the animals live) marks the unofficial birthplace of Twitter; in 2000, the first-ever tweet was sent from there by the CEO, Jack Dorsey. We’ll only be visiting a portion of the park today as part of a larger journey toward and through San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. As you’ll soon learn, however, Golden Gate Park played an important role in counterculture's origin story.
Conservatory Dr E, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you near the bottom of the hill, let’s talk about the 1967 “Summer of Love,” a distinct period when roughly 100,000 hippies descended on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to celebrate and participate in the countercultural movement. The kick-off event (held in Golden Gate Park) which heralded the Summer of Love’s arrival was the ‘Human Be-In’ - you may remember I mentioned this back at the Jefferson Airplane house. You are now walking toward the very spot where the Human Be-In occurred.
Peacock Meadow, 240 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you near the stop sign at the base of the hill, the perpendicular intersection is John F. Kennedy Drive. Take the crosswalk over to the other side of JFK Drive. You’ll see a walking path which forks - take the right-hand fork nearer the large palm tree. This path will lead you to the top of Hippie Hill - our next destination. Now you can’t understand the counterculture movement without also taking a look at its foot soldiers - the hippies (they’d hate that metaphor, by-the-way). The word ‘hippie’ was originally derived from the term ‘hipster’ (the hipsters or beatniks were an earlier countercultural group known for their love 40s & 50s jazz culture). The hippies were their less-cynical 1960s era progeny. Hippies were young, anti-establishment, free spirits who thought that people should, “make love - not war”. They were also known as flower children because of their fondness for wearing floral patterned clothing and penchant for literally passing out flowers to everyone they m et - from the random passerby to the police officer on the boundary line of a protest. They embraced non-violence, mysticism, hallucinogenic drugs, and an open sexual ethic. Taken as a whole, they would have a profound effect on the popular culture of the 1960s & 70s - from dress, to art, to music. And if you didn’t understand them (or still don’t) you, my friend, might be a square. Keep walking until you get to the top of the hill.
Unnamed Road, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you reach the top of the hill you should be able to see a wide, sloping expanse of grass, and a meadow below. Stop here. Mark Twain once quipped, "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," so it seems fitting that San Francisco's “Summer of Love” began on an actual winter’s day - January 14th, 1967 - at this very spot: Hippie Hill. From where you are now standing, Beat poet Alan Ginsburg, Harvard Psychology Professor Timothy Leary, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead announced the arrival of the counterculture with an event dubbed the Human Be-In. The Human Be-In was a so-called “gathering of tribes” where members from the many different countercultural groups came together in solidarity. From hippies to performance artists, psychedelic mystics to Marxist radicals, the groups came together to participate in chants, poetry readings, and impassioned speeches. And, of course, there was music. For both those standing on this hill and the 35,000 people who sprawled below on the grassy meadows of Golden Gate Park, this moment marked the beginning of a revolution that sought to liberate a generation from the strictures and conventions of those who came before. Perhaps one of the most influential speakers that day was the man who had served as a sort of ‘John the Baptist’ for the counterculture change. His name was Allen Ginsberg - a celebrated Beat poet and leader among the earlier hipster generation. Ginsberg arrived in the city in 1954. In 1956 he published his most famous book entitled - Howl and Other Poems. The San Francisco Police department deemed it obscene. They removed it from the shelves of the City Lights bookstore and took the further step of arresting the book’s publisher & the store manager who sold it. This drew national attention and ultimately led to a highly publicized obscenity trial. In the end, the judge decided that Ginsberg’s Howl had “redeeming social importance.” The advocates of free speech won a great victory while the Beat generation found its defining moment. As for Ginsberg, he resisted definitions; quote: “There is no beat poetry, or a beat novel, or beat painting. Beat is a poetic conception, an attitude toward the world.” Speaking of which, let's beat it out of here and go see a little bit more of San Francisco, shall we? At the base of hippie hill, you should see a path. Make your way down onto the path and follow it leftward. Walk until you reach the roadway merger of John F. Kennedy & Kezar Drive. Along this stroll, take in the beauty of Golden Gate Park. During the Summer of Love, these lawns and paths were filled with flower children getting high, playing music, and making love. Keep a sharp eye out and you will likely see (or smell) some modern day hippies following in their footsteps. This might be a good time to tell you more about another Human Be-In participant: Timothy Leary. Today, hippies are remembered for their belief in meditation and their desire to transcend reality. They used drugs in search of the same effect. Hallucinogens were especially popular and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) was the drug of the day. A Harvard professor of Psychology named Timothy Leary experimented with the scientific uses of LSD, eventually concluding the drug had the power to change society through altered consciousness. Leary spoke to the hippies at the first Human Be-In. In the leadup to the event, a philosopher friend of Leary’s advised him to coin a slogan for the movement and suggested the jingle "Lysergic acid hits the spot / Forty billion neurons, that's a lot.” Later (while taking a shower) Leary hit upon an alternative slogan - and on the hill that day he exhorted the crowd to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Leary likened LSD’s mind-altering abilities to meditation and spirituality. He called upon the Baby Boomers to abandon the conformities of college, career, and family in order to search for freedom and transcendence. For this, Richard Nixon labeled him the most dangerous man in America.
Kezar Dr, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you reach the merger of John F. Kennedy Drive (to your left) and Kezar Drive (to your right), you’ll notice ahead of you that two roads become one near the edge of the Park. Being mindful of traffic and using the crosswalks, follow the right-hand sidewalk out of Golden Gate Park and look for Stanyan Street.
600 Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Cross over to the far side of Stanyan Street so that Golden Gate park is on your right and to your left front is the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. To your immediate left, you’ll notice that a portion of the park seems to continue into the city. This tree-lined bit of greenery sandwiched between two roads is actually another San Francisco Park named The Panhandle. In the early 1960s, this lush park was nearly paved over and made into a freeway. Eisenhower’s Interstate plan called for the creation of great highways across the nation. In 1964, San Francisco’s City Council proposed that one of them be built here. The locals objected; the park had been an area fixture since it was first founded as a botanical garden in the 1850s. The neighborhood rallied to save the Panhandle and thousands gathered in protest to halt the spreading asphalt. The movement was called the Freeway Revolt - and it worked! It was an early victory for local community activism in San Francisco as well as one of the first victories of the U.S. Environmental Movement. This successful campaign paved the way (pun intended) for the hippies to live in harmony with nature and reject the schemes of authority which sought to devastate the park. During the Summer of Love, the Panhandle went on to become the sight of free concerts (rather than freeways). The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix routinely put on shows for the hippies gathered here. But the sound of their music would, literally, not have been heard were it not for another important event during the Summer of Love - the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. The Monterey Pop Festival was the Woodstock of the West. From June 16th to June 18th, 1967 (just a couple hours’ drive down the Pacific Coast from the Haight-Ashbury) many of the greatest names in music gathered to play to a hippie-heavy crowd. The big four of the Haight-Ashbury were there: Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane. They were joined by British superstars the Who, southern California favorites the Mamas and the Papas, Memphis soul star Ottis Redding, the blues rival band the Animals, influential sitar player Ravi Shankar, and many others. Why am I telling you all this? Well, after the festival ended, the Grateful Dead stole the sound equipment and brought it back to the Panhandle where it was used in live performances for the rest of the Summer of Love. Now let’s head to the Haight itself. Continue down Stanyan Street until you reach Haight Street. Along the way keep the neighborhood on your left and Golden Gate Park on your right. As you walk, I’ll relate one more observation about the Monterey Pop Festival. Perhaps just as interesting as those who played are the stories of those who for one reason or another could not. The Beach Boys had a key role in organizing the event but were unable to attend because lead guitarist Carl Wilson was lying low after refusing to serve in Vietnam and because his brother Brian Wilson was suffering from poor mental health. The Beatles declined to play Monterey because by this point in their careers their music had become too complex to be performed live. Bob Dylan was out of action following a motorcycle accident. The Kinks failed to obtain visas because of a union dispute, and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were legally not allowed in the US (lots and lots of drug arrests). It seems the organizers of the event also intentionally snubbed the Doors. That’s right everyone. The Doors were locked out.
730 Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Turn left off Stanyan onto Haight Street. This walk will take you into the heart of the neighborhood and the heart of our tour. As we journey down Haight Street you are bound to notice traces and glimpses of 1967 everywhere you look. As you walk on, you’ll notice on your right one the Haight’s most notable establishments - Amoeba Records which, along with its counterpart across the Bay in Berkeley, is one of the Bay Area’s most beloved record stores. Keep going and I’ll rejoin you on the next block as you near Cole Street.
1801 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Up ahead is Cole Street. Turn right on it and - at the corner - make sure to look at the murals. This neighborhood is famous for its street art. You should spy Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Garcia. We will talk more about these giants of the Haight-Ashbury when we get to their houses. Speaking of houses, there are plenty of beautiful Victorians around here - so look around as you walk. Also, the rainbow mural on the opposite side of Cole Street is called Evolutionary Rainbow and it dates all the way back to the Summer of Love. Sadly, the original was painted over in the 1980s, but the locals eventually brought back the artist (Yana Zegri) to repaint it and today it’s been recreated as a mosaic. As you continue to walk up Cole Street, I’ll rejoin you.
618 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
On Cole Street - locate the house number 636. The address most associated with Charles Manson is located at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, but you don’t need to go all the way to Southern California to come to grips with one of America’s most infamous figures. Charles Manson first went to prison in the early 1960s on a charge stemming from car theft. While incarcerated, he became involved with the Church of Satan and by the time of his release, Manson’s ambition was to start a cult of his own. In March of 1967, Charles Manson was released and he shortly moved in with Mary Brunner, a librarian at UC Berkeley. Soon Manson gathered (and lived with) a following of 18 women. Brunner’s apartment was too small for the growing “family,” so Manson and his early followers moved here to 636 Cole. Manson’s followers survived by begging, petty theft, and playing music. Manson was drawn to the Haight-Ashbury to recruit more acolytes from amongst the newly arrived hippies. However, there was a surprising competition in the local cult circuit, and Mason did not like the widespread use of LSD, so later in the year the Manson Family departed the Haight-Ashbury for a road trip down the Pacific coast. They eventually settled at Spahn Ranch outside of LA. Manson had two visions. First, he claimed to be a messianic figure. He often pronounced his name “Charles Man’s Son” as to imply his Christ-like nature. Manson pointed to the Beatles’ White Album as evidence of his divinity. He believed that the Beatles were sending him messages through their music and calling upon him to bring about the end times. Manson was also an avowed white supremacist. He believed that a race war was coming in which Black Americans would destroy white America. He referred to this coming war as the “Helter Skelter.” He planned to weather the coming storm with his following in an underground bunker. Then (after the war) Manson would emerge to lead the Black people who he believed to be incapable of self-rule. His second vision was to become a pop star. In Southern California, Manson befriended the Beach Boys and even lived with them for a time. He wrote a song for the Beach Boys which he called “Cease to Exist.” They actually recorded it and released it under the more digestible title “Never Learn Not to Love.” The Beach Boys failed to credit Manson, however, and he became enraged. This fury blended with Manson’s growing impatience about the Helter Skelter. Manson wanted to send a warning to the Beach Boys and create the chaos that would precipitate his apocalypse. So on the night of August 8th, 1969, Manson sent several of his followers to a house owned by Terry Melcher, an LA producer and friend of the Beach Boys. Inside the house, the followers of Charles Manson brutally killed actress Sharon Tate and four other visitors to the home. The next night, Manson’s followers struck the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and killed him and his wife. Manson and his followers were apprehended and served out their lives in prison for a wave of crimes that horrified the nation. Alright, let’s keep going. Go back up Cole Street to Haight Street. Turn right on Haight. Continue until (on your left-hand side) you come to a three-story red Victorian labeled the Jimi Hendrix Red House.
1665 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
While you walk along Haight Street, on your right hand side you will notice an earlier, different three-story red Victorian on the right side of the street. This is the Red Victorian. During the Summer of Love, it was a cheap boarding house that served as a nerve center for the hippies. The ground floor hosted meetings on all of the political questions of the day from Civil Rights to the Anti War Movement to the growing Environmental Movement. Upstairs the rooms are still themed after the Summer of Love. It was cheap places to crash, like this house, that made the Haight-Ashbury so appealing to hippies in the first place.
1537 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you walk along Haight, the Jimi Hendrix house is on the left-hand side of the road - number 1524. On the ground floor you’ll spy a tobacco shop and next door you’ll see a market. When you arrive, face the red brick Victorian. During the Summer of Love, this house was the residence of Jimi Hendrix, arguably the greatest rock n’ roll guitar player of all time. Hendrix was born in Seattle in 1942. In elementary school, Hendrix carried around a broom pretending it was a guitar. Hendrix’s family was too poor to afford a real instrument. Later, Hendrix found a one-stringed ukulele in the garbage and he taught himself to play by listening to Elvis records. At 15, Hendrix finally bought his own guitar and started playing for hours each day, inspired by blues giants like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. Hendrix’s musical career was put on pause, however, when he was arrested for joyriding in stolen cars. A judge gave Hendrix the choice between prison and the army, so Hendrix shipped off to Fort Ord and joined the 101st Air Division in 1961. After the army, Hendrix tried to make a name for himself in the Southern R&B circuit. Success eluded him until he was discovered by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Richards recognized Hendrix’s immense virtuosity and introduced him to producer Chas Chandler. Chandler heard Hendrix play “Hey Joe” at a club in New York and figured he could turn it into a hit single. Chandler brought Hendrix to London where together they formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In 1967, Hendrix returned from London and moved into this house near the corner of Haight and Ashbury. He played at the Monterey Pop Festival and many free shows in Golden Gate Park. His guitar skills were so great that he often seemed to be playing two instruments at once, creating sounds that no one else could manage. Perhaps the greatest moment of his tragically short career was his rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969. As he played, his guitar seemed to unleash not only the national anthem but also the sounds of exploding bombs, wailing sirens, rattling machine guns, and screaming planes. He did this to call attention to the continuing war in Vietnam - which the counterculture saw as a huge injustice and human tragedy. In 1970, Jimi Hendrix lost his life to drugs at the young age of 27. “Red House” was the name of one of Hendix’s greatest songs, and after his death this house was painted red in tribute. Now walk down Haight Street to the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.
1533-1501 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
You should now be standing at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury - the very epicenter of our tour. By now you’ve figured out that the area draws its name from these two cross streets. The streets themselves are named for Henry Haight (an exchange banker) and Munroe Ashby (an early member of San Francisco’s Board of supervisors). The two men were fixtures of 1800s era San Francisco - and we can only guess what they’d think about the modern-day neighborhood that bears their names. It should also be obvious that you, my friend, are not the first to tour this neighborhood. Ever since the Summer of Love (while the hippies were still here) curious locals and tourists have flocked to the Haight-Ashbury to experience the counterculture firsthand. The “Hippie Hop” was an early bus tour offered to curious outsiders. It allowed middle-class Americans to watch the hippies in their element all from the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle. Like a jungle safari for the un-hip. The tour even came with a handy glossary of hippie terms one might hear on the streets such as “stoned”, “speed” or “square.” Understandably, the hippies did not take kindly to the squares gawking at them and often pointed mirrors at the buses as they drove through so that the tourists saw only their own faces out the windows. The “Hippie Hop” buses served to further underscore the rift created in society highlighted by the counterculture. Ok, let’s head onwards before someone starts pointing mirrors. Cross Haight Street and walk uphill on Ashbury Street. Halfway along the block, you will come to a four-story pink Victorian on the right-hand side - #635. This is our next stop.
640 Ashbury St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Face toward the four-story pink Victorian at 635 Ashbury Street. This beautiful house was one of the several places legendary singer-songwriter Janis Joplin lived in during the late 1960s. Joplin was born in Texas. From a young age, she often found herself at odds with the rest of society. While attending high school in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin was bullied because she befriended black people. She was broad-minded, bookish, and artistic. She made friends with outcasts and idolized blues stars like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Lead Belly. Their records inspired her to pursue a career as a singer. She went on to attend the University of Texas where the school newspaper - in an article entitled “She Dares to Be Different” - described her thus, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levis to class because they're more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song, it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.” In 1963 Janis dropped out of school and hitchhiked to San Francisco to follow in the footsteps of the Beats & her blues singer idols. Here she met Jorma Kaukonen, the future lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane. They recorded blues songs together until Joplin was arrested for shoplifting. Over the next two years, Joplin became addicted to drugs. By 1965 she was dangerously underweight and her friends raised enough money to buy her a bus ticket back to Texas. There Joplin got clean but also feared that she could never have a successful music career without drugs and refused to settle down as an obedient housewife. Her obscurity & sobriety were short-lived. Eventually, her San Francisco blues recordings reached the growing hippie community in the Haight-Ashbury and drew the attention of the psychedelic band Big Brother and the Holding Company. The group recruited her and she returned to San Francisco as their phenomenal lead singer. They gained a large fanbase in the neighborhood and took the national stage by storm after Joplin stole the show at the Monterey Pop Festival. Her gritty, soulful voice and commanding stage presence electrified audiences across the country. She became a recording & touring sensation. Tragically, Janis Joplin’s addiction resurfaced and claimed her life in 1970 at the young age of 27. Her final recording, “Mercedes Benz,” voiced a critique of American materialism that equated happiness with wealth and possessions. It remained a hit long after her death and stands today as a countercountre anthem. For that matter, so does Janis Joplin - a genuine musical genius and a feminist hero who defied cultural expectations. Let’s continue up Ashbury. On the next block up the hill, on the left-hand side of the street you’ll find our next stop at #710.
710 Ashbury St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
You should now be standing in front of a dark green Victorian house at 710 Ashbury. We have seen the homes of several musicians on this tour but this house is the local favorite. Devoted fans come here to pay tribute to a band that symbolizes the Haight-Ashbury more than any other: The Grateful Dead. The Dead formed just south of San Francisco in Palo Alto in 1965. Their roots were primarily bluegrass music, but the group roamed far and wide across genres taking the best each had to offer and turning them into a vast psychedelic whole. They freely and expertly drew upon rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, blues, gospel, and psychedelic rock - combining them all in seemingly endless musical improvisations (their defining style). Rather than playing traditional setlists at their concerts, the Grateful Dead played unique pieces of music every time. This helped to create a special community amongst their fans who call themselves “Deadheads”. These superfans traveled with the band and made a living by selling cassette tapes of Grateful Dead music as well as memorabilia and drugs outside of every concert. Perhaps there are some Deadheads with you right now, come to see the house of their heroes. At the outset, the band was called the Warlocks, but they quickly changed the name after discovering it had already been taken by another group (curiously, the EXACT same thing happened to another would-be group of Warlocks who eventually renamed their group the Velvet Underground). The Dead’s bandleader, Jerry Garcia, found a new name for his group in the dictionary when he stumbled upon an entry which detailed the Egyptian Book of the Dead - an ancient text that contains the following prayer - We now return our souls to the creator, as we stand on the edge of eternal darkness. Let our chant fill the void in order that others may know. In the land of the night the ship of the sun is drawn by the grateful dead The Dead initially played shows at bars around the Bay Area. In 1966, they found their way to this house in Haight-Ashbury. The band honed their psychedelic improvisational style by playing at acid tests - these were neighborhood parties where hippies gathered to take LSD, listen to psychedelic music, and watch slow-moving light shows (think lava lamps). The Dead loved the free atmosphere of the Summer of Love and they were loved in return by their hippie neighbors. The Dead gained a reputation as pranksters and were once visited by the police for throwing water balloons from their roof. While the Grateful Dead house is an icon of the Haight-Ashbury, behind you is a lesser-known locale. Across the street at 715 Ashbury lived Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse who were known for their skill at designing psychedelic posters. They were the ones who created the skull and roses motif for the Grateful Dead. 715 Ashbury (and several other homes on the block) were also home to the local chapter of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. Reaching their zenith in the late 1960s, the gang’s leather jackets and tough-guy attitude clashed with the free-spirited, peace-loving image put forth by their hippie neighbors. The Hell’s Angels became infamous after several of their members beat a Rolling Stones fan to death as he tried to climb on stage at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Without further ado, let’s head to our next spot. Continue walking up Ashbury and hang an immediate left when you reach Frederick Street. As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, Haight-Ashbury is filled with Victorians. Lemme plug you in. Victorian architecture is ornate in nature. Victorian buildings often have decorative trim and are asymmetrical in shape. Typically, San Francisco Victorians are painted in vibrant colors, and built of wood or stone; some even have octagonal towers. They date from the late 1800s when Romanticism held sway and reflect a philosophy that things should be beautiful rather than practical. In many ways, it was a reaction against the Industrial Revolution which sought only greater efficiency. However, such houses could never have been built in such numbers without the technology that came from the Industrial Revolution. While many of San Francisco's Victorians were destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and subsequent fire, a good many remain. In fact, this is one of the best areas to see them. During the Summer of Love, rooms in these grand houses were very cheap allowing the hippies to live here en masse. It seems fitting that the hippies who rejected materialism lived in these houses that celebrate beauty rather than practicality.
204 Frederick St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
100 Delmar St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you turn left onto Delmar walk down the hill toward #32 (on your right-hand side). You’re approaching the onetime home of Sid Vicious, a British punk rocker who rose to prominence in the 1970s as bassist and lead singer for the Sex Pistols. Born John Ritchie, Vicious earned his stage name after being bitten by a friend’s hamster - named Sid. Ritchie was prompted to exclaim, “Sid is really vicious!” The name stuck. Sid Vicious (much like the hamster that bit him) was violent - a troubled man prone to anger, addiction, and self-destruction. Stop when you reach #32 and I’ll tell you the story.
31 Delmar St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Stop when you reach 32 Delmar Street. In 1978, this was the home of Sid Vicious. During his time here, Vicious would suffer a non-fatal overdose - just one of many dark chapters in his short, turbulent life. At this stop, we take a brief detour away from Summer of Love and hop a decade ahead to the late 1970s when hippies were on the wane and punk rock was on the rise. Much like Vicious himself, punk rock came from England and was defined by a fast pace, hard edge & rebellious spirit. As a genre, Punk scorned the idealism of the hippies and saw mainstream Rock n’ Roll as having gone soft. Cynical, abrasive, and unapologetic, in his personal aesthetic Vicious seemed to embody everything upon which punk was built. However, he was also inwardly and outwardly destructive. His music career began in England in 1976. Although a middling musical talent, Vicious had stage presence and charisma. After a stint in prison, he eventually joined the Sex Pistols. Both he and the band (led by frontman Johnny Rotten) would gain bad-boy prominence in Britain in the late 1970s. In 1978, they toured throughout the United States - a journey that ultimately resulted in the band’s dissolution. Vicious’ rising fame was paired with a deepening heroin dependency. He assaulted fans, disfigured himself with razor blades, and generally raised hell. By the time the Sex Pistols reached San Francisco, the situation had deteriorated beyond repair. Their final show was at the city's Winterland Ballroom. The sound was awful - a performance beset by spent voices, broken guitar strings, and frayed nerves. At the close of the act, Rotten famously asked the crowd, “Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?” and stormed offstage. The Sex Pistols were disbanded. Vicious landed here at 32 Delmar. While living here, he overdosed on heroin. Vicious survived and soon reunited with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen - an abrasive American groupie whom he’d taken up with in 1977 before the Sex Pistols’ ill-fated American tour. The passionate, combustible couple made their way to New York City and on October 11, 1978 they found themselves in New York City at the Chelsea Hotel. Although the exact events of the night and next morning remain unclear, the drugs and demons became too much. A bellman would discover Spungen dead on the floor of their hotel room - a knife wound to the abdomen. Clouded by barbiturates & booze, Vicious confessed and then recanted. He would spend weeks in Rikers Island prison before being released on bail. Within days Sid Vicious was dead - a final heroin overdose. He was 21 years old. Thus ends a tail too grim to be romanticized - a small portion of which took place at the house you see in front of you. Keep walking down Delmar. When you reach Waller, turn right.
1303 Waller St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you make a right on Waller Street you’ll head toward the Masonic street intersection. On the right-hand side of the road you’ll notice four brightly painted Victorian houses. These local favorites are known as the Four Seasons because their exterior motifs suggest the changing seasons of the year. See if you can figure out which is which. Back in 2016, the ‘Winter’ house at 1315 Waller sold for $2.65 million dollars. At the intersection, turn left onto Masonic and walk until you see 1235 Masonic on your left-hand side - a three-story Victorian (painted green when last we checked). Stop when you find the address. While resistance to the Vietnam War was a cornerstone of the counterculture movement, not all the residents of the Haight-Ashbury prioritized peace and love. Between the ongoing war and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, some activists became disillusioned with civil disobedience and peaceful protest. In their minds, draft card burnings and marches were not enough to end the war and bring about racial equality. They became radicalized and chose to use violence as a political tool. So while the mid-1960s were characterized by peaceful mass movements, the late 1960s and 1970s witnessed a deepening rage. It was against this backdrop that California’s wealthiest heiress, Patty Hearst, was kidnapped from her Bay Area apartment in 1974. The Hearst family is California royalty. William Randolph Hearst, Patty’s grandfather, presided over a newspaper empire from the Gilded Age through the early 1900s. His papers were notorious for their sensationalism, yellow journalism, and (many would argue) even caused the Spanish-American War! Hearst’s flamboyant and luxurious lifestyle was typified by Hearst Castle - his palatial estate built along the California coastline in San Simeon. The exotic opulence of the home puts other gilded age millionaires to shame and is well worth the trip if you have the time. All this to say - Patty Hearst came from a family that attracted attention. As a student at UC Berkeley, Patty lived in an apartment just down the street from the headquarters of the so-called ‘Symbionese Liberation Army’ or SLA for short - one of the many domestic terrorist cells proliferating in America during the 1970s. The group consisted of around a dozen middle-class Berkley students led by an escaped convict named Donald DeFreeze who insisted on the title of field martial. Their slogan was: “Death to the Fascist Insect That Preys upon the Life of the People!” Their aim was a communist revolution that would end capitalism and racism in America. Their main method: Violent bank robbery. On February 4, 1974, the SLA arrived at Patty Hearst’s apartment with a machine gun. They beat her unconscious, shot off guns to scare the neighbors, and took Hearst captive. In the ensuing weeks, the SLA took their prisoner from safe house to safe house trying to stay one step ahead of the police. The home you’re now standing in front of at 1235 Masonic was one such safe house. Although the Summer of Love ended seven years prior, this neighborhood remained an outpost of the counterculture and a hotbed for protest. In short, it was a good hiding place for youths on the run from the law. The SLA would use Patty as a hostage for ransom. They demanded her father distribute $70 million worth of food to needy Californians. Hearst’s father complied and took out a $2 million loan to finance food deliveries to hungry Bay Area families. To maximize the amount of food, much of the money went to buy cheap blocks of American cheese. These cheese blocks were then put on trucks and driven around the city to be randomly deposited on street corners. It was a surreal sight. Patty’s kidnappers, however, were not appeased by the cheese and continued to hold her hostage. Concurrently, the SLA began to brainwash Patty Hearst and recruited her to their cause. Soon she took the name Tania, after one of Che Guevera’s followers. Two months into her captivity, the SLA released a video in which Hearst announced that she had joined the SLA. 12 days later, Hearst participated in an SLA bank robbery in San Francisco's Sunset District during which two people were shot. Patty went on to commit a slew of crimes with the SLA. She fired a machine gun at a shop owner in Inglewood, California, hijacked cars, and robbed banks. She even helped build a bomb intended to kill police officers. All the while, the media covered the saga of the rogue heiress in a way that would make her yellow journalist grandfather proud. The law finally caught up with Hearst in September of 1975. At her booking, Hearst reported her occupation as “urban guerilla.” At her trial, Hearst’s lawyers argued that all her crimes had been done under duress; nevertheless, the judge sentenced Hearst to 35 years for armed bank robbery. However, public doubts persisted over the Hearst case. Many psychologists believed that Hearst had been brainwashed and could not be held responsible for her actions. In 1979, Hearst was released from prison at the intervention of President Jimmy Carter. In 2001, Bill Clinton granted Hearst a full pardon on his final day in office. Hearst’s strange case continues to fascinate and mystify to this day. So what do you think? Willing accomplice or brainwashed victim? More importantly, would you have eaten the cheese? It’s now time to start making your way to our final stop. Return to Waller Street by heading back up to the intersection with the Four Seasons houses and then turn left onto Waller. Continue walking and I’ll meet you at the corner of Waller & Central.
1200 Waller St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
771 Buena Vista Ave W, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
As you turn right onto Buena Vista, a short walk up the hill will bring you to our final stop at 737 & 731. They’re neighboring homes and you’ll be able to identify 737 (the Spreckels Mansion) by the prominent chimneys, and the abundance of plant life decorating the exterior of the home. 731 is immediately next door (to the left) with an ornately wrought gate guarding the front door.
771 Buena Vista Ave W, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
You should now be looking at 737 Buena Vista - also known as the Spreckels Mansion in honor of the home’s original owner, Richard Spreckels. Last sold in 2014 for a cool $10 million, the Spreckels mansion has a storied history. At the dawn of the 20th century, American novelist Jack London wrote his famed novel “White Fang” while living here. More recently, it was home to the actor Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon fame. In terms of this tour, you’ll be interested to know about its temporary use as a recording studio in the 1960s, when the owner, Gene Estribou, converted the mansion’s 5th-floor ballroom into a sound studio. Eager to break into the record business, Estribou convinced The Grateful Dead to use his space for their second-ever-recording session under his Scorpio Records label. Unfortunately, the 45 rpm albums The Dead cut for their tunes “Don’t Ease Me In” & “Stealin’” only sold a handful of copies (today they’re collector’s items). Moreover, the band members later recalled the discomfort of having to haul their equipment up four flights of stairs. Other artists to record in this space would include Beautiful Day & the Steve Miller Band. Next door - 731 Buena Vista West is a home with a musical pedigree of its own. It was once the residence of Graham Nash from the band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - a group known for their protest anthems of the Vietnam era, including the song ‘Ohio’ recorded in the aftermath of the 1971 Kent State shooting. The home was later owned by singer Bobby McFerrin, who would drive countless American radio listeners insane during the 1980s with his maddening earworm “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. Lastly, turn around and face Buena Vista Park - the oldest park in San Francisco. The name Buena Vista translates to ‘good view’ in English, aptly named as it affords you a number of sweeping city vistas. It was in Buena Vista park where a mock funeral was held in October of 1967. The event was entitled, “Death of Hippie” and the organizers hoped it would bring a symbolic end to the Summer of Love. The group organizing the event called themselves ‘The Diggers’ as a nod to the forgotten proto-socialist agrarian movement in pre-industrial England (how trendy!). The Diggers were tired of all the media attention being paid to Haight Ashbury’s hippie community - moreover, they resented the creeping commercialization of the movement and the notion that being a hippie made you part of any movement at all. So they decided to bury the term. As part of the event, they burned hippie clothing & underground newspapers and even staged a mock funeral procession along Haight Street (with coffin & all) which ended here at Buena Vista Park. Despite their best efforts, however, the rest of the country kept on calling them hippies and today the Summer of Love still lives on in American memory. The events of that summer were an epic in the progression of 20th century American culture. The generation who came to the Haight-Ashbury to build a new world certainly left their mark. However, their work remained unfinished. As the experience of Diggers might indicate, when the Summer of Love drew to a close the idealism began to sour. When the actual summer of 1967 turned to fall, the drugs got harder and tensions began to rise. One day the hippies woke up to find themselves not in a utopia but in an increasingly squalid slum. Many became disillusioned with their bold experiment and left. Yet there is a special type of person you can still find in this neighborhood. They came in 1967 and never left. In many ways, they are still waiting wistfully for the revolution to come. For them, that summer is more than a memory. It is their life’s work. I hope you enjoyed your journey through the strange and wondrous world of the hippies! Remember to visit our website at www.historicamerica.org and use the #historicamericatours for all your groovy pictures and social media posts. We look forward to taking you on another historic adventure soon! Until then, turn on, tune in, drop out!