San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark 228: City Lights Bookstore 26 May 2008
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San Francisco Landmark #228
City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Avenue Between Broadway and Pacific
North Beach
Built 1907

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz....

The beginning of Howl by Allen Ginsberg

Howl was first performed at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on October 7, 1955, by Ginsberg's friends and fellow poets Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure and Kenneth Rexroth. Soon afterwards, it was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore and the City Lights Press.

City Lights was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin. Although it has been more than fifty years since tour buses with passengers eager to sight "beatniks" began pulling up in front of City Lights, the Beats' legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the store, most evident in the selection of titles.

See City Lights website for the complete Short History of City Lights.

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