San Francisco Landmarks

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San Francisco Landmark #180
Geneva Car Barn
AKA San Francisco & San Mateo Railroad Company Office Building
2301 San Jose Avenue Near Geneva
Built 1901

The San Francisco and San Mateo Railroad Company Office Building complex served San Francisco's first electric line. San Francisco's street railway system opened the City's outlying areas for development. The yard housed San Francisco's historic private cars during the operation of the Market Street Railway Company (1921-1944).

The San Francisco and San Mateo Railroad Company was incorporated in 1891 by Isaac and Berend Joost and other other investors. The first line opened on April 27, 1892 providing service from Second and Market Streets to Daly's Hill - now Daly City - with a branch line up Eighteenth Street to Golden Gate Park opening November 25, 1894.

Forced sale through foreclosure and subsequent reorganization as the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railroad Company in 1896 put the organization in control of A. B. and J. D. Spreckels. Original facilities at Sunnyside Avenue -now Monterey Boulevard - and Joost Street proved too small as the company expanded. The existing Car House site was purchased, and construction on the office and powerhouse complex began July 14, 1900, completed April 22, 1901. The Spreckels interests sold to the Baltimore Syndicate headed by Brown Bros. of New York. With the purchase of the San Mateo Line, the nucleus of United Railroads was formed. During United ownership, the 1906 earthquake damaged the car house, still visible in areas of the building. United Railroads operated an unusual funeral service. Specially equipped cars carried the coffin and mourners directly to the cemetaries via spurs off of the San Mateo line.

This period was also marked by a number of bitter labor disputes, notably 1906, 1907 and 1917 carmen strikes. The large social hall at the rear of the top floor provided space for company sponsored entertainment in times of labor peace. But when a strike occurred, the space could quickly be converted to dormitory space for live-in strike-breakers. The intensity such situations generated is evidenced in the second floor conversion of a window to a doorway for stairs (since removed) that provided direct access to the yard of the complex, thus avoiding contact between strike-breakers and striking employees.

Adapted from LPAB City Planning Commission Resolution 306 dated 5 June 1985

The complex has continued in use under the Municipal Railway system, with recent renovations to the yard to accommodate Light Rail Vehicles.

The load bearing masonry building, designed by the Reid Brothers, survived the 1906 Earthquake with minor damage.

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