What’s In A Stub?

Dogpatch holds the ever-quieting ghosts of Irish Hill’s raucous past.

San Francisco Maritime Museum

In the middle of a parking lot, Pier 70 construction sites, and Pacific Gas & Electric facilities, sits a curious and rocky hill — more of slope, really — that’s easy to miss but which was once the talk of the town.

Now a vestige of its former glory, Irish Hill in the 1800s was a district of about 100 shacks and cottages filled by largely working-class Irish immigrants. It was one of the first residential areas of the Dogpatch — then called Dutchman’s Flat — filled with industrial workers.

In the Dogpatch at that time, Irish-born residents made up nearly half of the population, and Germans made up about another quarter, according to architectural historian Christopher VerPlanck. Locals would flock to Illinois and 22nd streets for saloons or grocery stores that were often owned by locals who lived in residential spaces above the store or nearby.

Locals would flock to Illinois and 22nd streets for saloons or grocery stores that were often owned by locals who lived in residential spaces above the store or nearby.

The area had recurring encounters with fire, experiencing a major one in 1887 that brought down more than 30 structures and left poor families homeless. Firefighters were stuck waiting for fireboats to spray bay water due to the lack of hydrants in the area.

After rebuilding, Irish Hill saw bitter gang wars — later known as the “Blue Mud Wars” — over competition for rent and trade that happened in saloons. The San Francisco Examiner often documented these fights, describing men knee-deep in the mud, attacking each other with clubs and sticks.

Non-gang-related fights also took place, such as in November 1897, when The San Francisco Call reported clashes with police that were supposedly started by a whisky-induced ruckus. About a dozen police officers attacked the crowd with clubs and took 22 prisoners.

Alas, Charles Schwab played a role in handing control of the Union Iron Works to Bethlehem Steel, which set off the demolition of Irish Hill in 1916. It was eventually flattened to accommodate ship-building for the World War I effort.

Today, some neighbors have expressed concern about a 28-acre mixed-use development project that could effectively hide Irish Hill — which will soon have a playground named after it. The project is expected to add up to 2.3 million square feet of office space, between 1,645 and 3,025 residential units, and almost 500,000 square feet of ground-floor spaces for retail, arts and industrial purposes.

The commission approved the Pier 70 project at the end of September and the Board of Supervisors is tentatively scheduled to review it Oct. 24.

Check out more stories in our feature on the Dogpatch here:

YIMBY-Land: Change Comes to the Dogpatch
But it has to be done smartly to keep the neighborhood livable, according to one activist who champions high levels of growth.

Infinite Appetite, Finite Budget: Where to Eat in the Dogpatch
This industrial quadrant is heavy on the artisans and dense with dining options.

A Dog By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet
Of all the city’s neighborhoods, the Dogpatch may have the weirdest name origin story.

Urban Freeways in Question
City planners weigh whether S.F. might be better off without Interstate 280.

Better Late Than Never?
In the next 10 years, the Dogpatch’s population is expected to quadruple.

A Knotty History
Hella rope was made in the Dogpatch back in the day.

View Comments