San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark #227: Castro Camera and Harvey Milk Residence
29 May 2003
(Click Photo to Zoom)
San Francisco Landmark #227
Castro Camera and Harvey Milk Residence
573-575 Castro Street Between 18th and 19th Streets
Built 1894

Castro Camera has nationwide significance as one of the most important buildings in the country to be associated with the modern gay and lesbian rights movement.

From 1973-1978 the storefront served a dual purpose as Harvey Milk's retail photography shop, Castro Camera, and as Milk's headquarters for his four campaigns for public office. The fourth campaign resulted in Milk's election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and changed the tenor of politics in San Francisco. For the first time, gay candidates for public office became widely accepted in an American city, and the gay population became a powerful political constituency.

Harvey Milk also used his retail storefront as a basis for reviving the dormant Castro Village Association, becoming its first president, and launching the first Castro Street Fair.

From 1975 to 1978 the upper flat in this building was also Harvey Milk's residence. No other building in San Francisco is so closely associated with Harvey Milk, his political career, and his efforts toward establishing gay rights.

To a lesser degree, the building also has significance as a Victorian-era retail storefront building on Eureka Valley's main commercial street. It was built by Fernando Nelson, one of the most prolific builders in Eureka Valley and Noe Valley at the end of the 19th century.

From 1894 through 1943 the storefront housed hardware stores and blue collar tradesmen (a plumber, a carpenter and builder, a tinsmith, and sheet metal workers). The building thus represents the beginning of Eureka Valley's commercial strip and the blue-collar origins of the neighborhood. It is one of several Victorian-era commercial buildings on the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street that survive to the present.

From City Planning Commission Resolution 14992 dated February 24, 2000.

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