Rick Prelinger shows us U.S. Geological Survey maps of San Francisco from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. The successive maps depict changes — Seals Stadium disappeared, as did an airfield at Crissy Field. But compared with the rest of the state, we're an island of stasis. San Franciscans refused to accommodate population growth, and forcing Bay Area newcomers to seek homes elsewhere. Successive maps of the San Jose area show hundreds of square miles of farmland transformed into housing tracts.

Urban planners have long known that San Francisco's resistance to change has driven development to outlying communities. These USGS maps prove it.

For someone keen on experiencing a more nuanced view of the past, the Prelinger Library is a treasure trove.

The kids on field trips, for instance: "They come in here, pull books off the shelves, and read to each other," Shaw Prelinger says. "One time one got out a guitar and they made up and sang a song about the library."

Perhaps they could be a model for the rest of us. In the 1939 city guidebook San Francisco: West Coast Metropolis, author William Saroyan credited San Francisco with a childlike willingness to give anything a try: This is "the city which does everything, and is always forgiven," he wrote.

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Megan Shaw Prelinger
Megan Shaw Prelinger

Thanks Matt, for these kind words. Readers please note that our open hours are posted online: http://www.prelingerlibrary.or... We are closed once or twice a year including NEXT WEEK October 5, 2011. Otherwise most every Wednesday 1 - 8, plus one or two Sundays per month.

 
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