One of my map-obsessed friends recently pointed me in the direction of David Rumsey's collection of aerial photography of San Francisco taken in 1938. As Rumsey's blog points out, most of the photography is of such quality that you can actually see stripping on basketball courts and rails embedded in the streets. In some instances, the resolution and quality of the imagery is better than what we're subjected to with modern Google Maps. What the photography shows is pretty incredible:
Not only is it Seals Stadium (which sat at the corner of 16th and Bryant until the late-50s; currently home to Safeway), where the Giants played their first two seasons prior to moving to Candlestick, but there's actually a game in play. If you zoom in real close, you can see the players on the field:
There it is crossing 24th at Capp St (the ghost of those tracks can still be seen at the ZipCar parking lot on the northeast corner of the intersection). And, of course, BART was still decades away, so all four corners of 24th and Mission have reasonably tall buildings.
Speaking of Dolores, Dolores Park pretty much looked the same as it does today, albeit with a bigger playground and a second bathroom building at the corner of 19th and Dolores. Also, there's only a few people hanging out.
But, for the best stuff, you have to leave the Mission and head out to the outskirts of the city. As seen here, the Sunset was still predominately sand dunes awaiting boring stucco housing.
And then there's Playland at the Beach, the old amusement park that sat between Ocean Beach and the Richmond. Should you zoom in far enough, you can feast your eyes on the old coaster:
It's good to know Toxic Beach was also a trash-filled shithole some 70 years ago.
Finally, should you care to really nerd out, David Rumsey took the time to overlay the 1938 maps over Google Earth so you can match up the maps up to their current aerial view.