The Neighborhood Through Time
The Depression Years and Beyond:
From Working Class Community to Industrial District
After the 1906 Earthquake, more and more industry moved into South of Market. Zoning codes and post-quake fire regulations limited the construction of new housing to brick hotels and apartment buildings. The population of South of Market plummeted from 62,000 in 1900 to 24,500 by 1910; 80 percent of whom were single men. The character of the neighborhood became one of industry, cheap hotels, panhandling and poverty.
The Depression hit the Bay Area and particularly South of Market very hard. The neighborhood, already a bleak community of factories and transient men living in cheap hotels, attracted people searching for work. Charities and the City of San Francisco set up soup kitchens and resources to help the unemployed survive from day to day.
The South of Market's identity as “Skid Row” persisted long after the Depression had faded. Even when the war years brought a flood of jobs and Chicano, African American and Filipino war workers, South of Market largely remained a transient community. The construction of the Interstate 80 freeway from the 1930s to 1950s cut a swath through the South of Market neighborhood, dividing streets and lots where immigrants once came to live and work, children once played, and workingmen once talked politics in corner saloons.