Recently I came across an article in a 1960 issue of the Saturday Evening Post that featured Scottsdale, Arizona. Titled “The Town Millionaires Built,” it had a “lifestyles of the rich and famous” emphasis. Though my experience growing up in Scottsdale was far more modest, I enjoyed the article and the photos.
The other day I got an email from Historic Aerials with a couple of cool aerial photos of San Francisco. They showed aerial photos of the city taken in 1906 (just after the big earthquake), and again in 2006.
So how was the 1906 photo taken? Turns out, it was a camera mounted onto a kite! According to Historic Aerials, George R. Lawrence had invented the world’s largest camera in 1900 to take a photograph of the Alton Limited Train, owned by the Chicago & Alton Railway. The camera weighed over 1400 lbs and used a 4.5 ft. by 8 ft. glass-plate negative. The photograph was taken for the Paris Exposition of 1900 and won, “The Grand Prize of the World.”
But the innovation here is that Lawrence pioneered camera-carrying kites. One of Lawrence’s world-renowned photographs was taken just three weeks after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, California. “San Francisco in Ruins,” shown above, is a 160-degree panorama taken 2000 feet in the air from a kite above the San Francisco Bay. Lawrence was able to capture the entire city on a single 17-by-48-inch contact print made from a single piece of film.
Each print of “San Francisco In Ruins” sold for $125 and Lawrence made at least $15,000 (today the equivalent of $427k) in sales from this one photograph. The camera used in this photograph weighed 49 lbs and required a train of Conyne kites to get airborne.
In 2006, Juneau-based photographer Ron Klein built a working replica of Lawrence’s camera and used it to rephotograph San Francisco by helicopter, from approximately the same location, 100 years after the earthquake. The rephotograph was actually taken by Mark Walsh, George R. Lawrence’s great-grandson, who rode in the helicopter, held the camera, and clicked the shutter.
Thanks to Historic Aerials for sharing this narrative and photographs!
I recently was in Long Beach for a conference. Downtown Long Beach has lots of cool art deco buildings, and some good examples of newer buildings that draw inspiration from the older deco ones. Here are some photos I took during one of the breaks in the conference.
This gallery contains 70 photos.
From 2007-09 we worked on the Downtown Plan for Scottsdale, Arizona. This was a particularly special project since I’d grown up in Scottsdale, twenty years earlier. The downtown was going through a resurgence and people were excited to work on the plan. Like the rest of our projects, there were lots of photos. This third set […]
In 2010-2011 we assisted the City of Foster City with the existing conditions analysis for the Land Use & Circulation Element of its General Plan. This involved lots of photos. Foster City is a master-planned “new town” founded in the 1960s on engineered landfill in the marshes of the San Francisco Bay. The city was named after T. Jack […]
This gallery contains 65 photos.
Through the years of the consulting business we compiled a lot of photos, so an aspect of this site it to provide a venue for pulling those out of the archives. Here is a handful of photos produced for a proposal for Williams, California. The photos were taken in September 2009:
This gallery contains 35 photos.
Through the years of the consulting business we compiled a lot of photos, so an aspect of this site it to provide a venue for pulling those out of the archives. Here is a handful of photos produced for a proposal for a housing revitalization strategy for the Greenbush and Vilas neighborhoods in Madison, Wisconsin. The […]
Eichler was one of several builders in the initial single family neighborhoods in Foster City. As shown in these field photos for Neighborhoods 1 and 2, and Neighborhoods 3 and 4, the neighborhoods had a deliberately eclectic mix of architectural styles; in order to lessen the sense of tract-house uniformity, the Fosters selected several builders […]
I discovered Bel Marin Keys on one of my regular drives up to Sonoma County, and instantly became entranced. This is one of the most extraordinary, offbeat places around, and I’d stop by whenever I had the opportunity. Despite being in Marin County, land of redwoods and hot tubs and mountain bikes, Bel Marin Keys has an altogether other-worldly presence. Approaching the community one passes through characteristic Marin woodsy scenery, but things soon change radically. The community was carved out of the wetlands starting in the early 1960s, with house styles evoking the latest design trends of the time. The community has a Florida-esque “keys” layout with houses lined along finger-like streets, interspersed with navigable waterways. Streets are lined with every kind of palm tree and have tropical names like “Bermuda Harbor” and “Montego Kay.”
Besides the striking aesthetics, two things really strike me about the place. First, the edges give way to vast expanses of flat marshland nothingness, creating an “edge of the earth” feeling, like you might just drop off by mistake. The second is the complete, utter silence… despite all the houses out there, there is no commercial activity and very little traffic, so it is quiet in a way I haven’t experienced in very many other neighborhoods.
Since I first published this page on my old website I have received some correspondence from Bel Marin Keys residents. They have been able to fill me in on some of the historical background. There are a total of 2200 acres of farmland that were converted in the development into a little over 700 homes, developed from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. The original developer, Jack West, dreamed of having a Caribbean like “feel” to the development, patterned on his extensive trips to that region (hence the Caribbean street names). He envisioned a larger community with a golf course and even a shopping center on an island in the middle of one of the lagoons, but this never came to be. The last phase of development was abandoned for environmental reasons, and is now owned by the California Conservation group. It is being converted back into wetlands for native birds.
There are five lagoons, all man-made, but the water in them comes from San Pablo Bay, and there is outlet to the larger San Francisco Bay and the ocean from all the homes in the area. Locks control access. The water is flushed regularly, to maintain its quality, and is also checked chemically. There are large fish in the lagoons, including bass. There are also lots of herons, owls, raptor birds, swans, pelicans and many other birds. There are even otters.
There also used to be horseback riding. A boating magazine article from the 1960s mentioned “miles of riding trails,” and that riding was one of the popular activities.
Many of the original residents purchasing in “The Keys” came from the military base across the wetland region called Hamilton Air Force Base. The base is no longer active, and has been developed for non-military use now, though some of the original hangers and an old airfield strip remain. Bel Marin Keys also attracted executives from San Francisco because of its vacation-like atmosphere. Today there is a mixture of well-established older residents (many of whom have children and grandchildren living in the area as well) combined with younger more affluent families whose children usually attend private schools out of the area.
Bel Marin Keys has its own Yacht Club, and it is a big part of the social life in the community. There are traditions such as “Santa on the Sea” where several volunteers dress up their boats with Christmas lights, deer, and other decorations and put on Santa costumes. About one week before Christmas they tour the lagoons on their boats and stop at docks handing out candy canes and such to the kids. There is also Icicle Day on January 1st on which day people can jump into the main lagoon (freezing cold!) and are rewarded with free chili and drinks. Finally, there is a 4th of July “Sailabration” involving a competition for the most well decorated and patriotic boat. They serve all kinds of good food and have all kinds of activities for both kids and adults, including a parade. Some of these traditions date back more than forty years.
I am particularly grateful for the historical information provided to me for this page, including images in the gallery below (click on the images for captions). As with the other pages on this website, if you have additional material to contribute, please send me an email!
This gallery contains 41 photos.
Once upon a time when people came back from vacations, they’d invite friends and neighbors over to view a slide show of their travels. This could be interesting, but also very tedious – particularly if there was a large quantity of slides. On the other hand, it could be fun to see some slides. The hard […]