We depend on individual donations to survive. Please Donate any amount to help keep this non-profit effort going.

About OpenSFHistory

OpenSFHistory features scanned images donated to Western Neighborhoods Project (WNP) by a San Francisco photographer and collector active from the 1960s though the early 2000s. The individual wishes to be anonymous to the general public, and has long requested use of photos from the archive be cited "Courtesy of a Private Collector."

The Private Collector possesses a passion for historical imagery, and had long-standing relationships with city agencies, libraries, and institutions, as well as with other collectors. The collection grew through the purchase of original negatives (glass and film) and photographs, and also with the creation of copy negatives and copy prints from other collections.

OpenSFHistory therefore includes images that intersect with virtually every other San Francisco historical image collection, including the San Francisco Department of Public Works albums now at the San Francisco Public Library's History Center (SFPL); the Willard E. Worden negative collection at SFPL, the Marilyn Blaisdell collection at SFPL; the Martin Behrman Negative Collection at Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Park Archives and Records Center); and the United Railroads collection at the San Francisco MTA Photo Archive. Where possible, WNP's online display of images related to other collections will include weblinks to those related collections. Additionally, images will be sorted into contextual galleries, describing relationships to other collections identified.

The majority of photographs at OpenSFHistory were taken by commercial and amateur photographers, and the collection provide a comprehensive overview of San Francisco, its residents, and environs from the 1850s through the 1970s. Content includes infrastructural improvements as documented by the Department of Public Works, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority; residential and commercial architecture (existing and demolished), including amusement parks like Playland at the Beach; pivotal events in San Francisco history, such as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition; prominent San Franciscans, such as Adolph Sutro and John McLaren; as well as informal street scenes, and snapshots of daily life.

Help Using This Site


Use Search box at the top right of any page to search image titles, descriptions, neighborhoods, photographers, dates, keywords (i.e., dog, school, bulldozer, demolished), or WNP catalogue numbers. All searches in the search box are "AND" searches on individual words. use quotation marks to search for a phrase. (i.e. "Hot House")


Where we can, we have placed images at their locations on the Map of San Francisco located on the main navigation bar. (Locations outside of San Francisco can be found by re-sizing the Map.) From the Map feature, you can to zoom to an address or location to see if we have mapped any nearby images. Red markers indicate a single image at a specific site; yellow markers indicate that we have multiple images at that location.


We have assembled Galleries of related images based on subject, photographer, location or other criteria. Keep checking back as the Galleries update!


Where possible, we have assigned a neighborhood to images. Use the Neighborhood tab on the Navigation Bar to visit images by neighborhood.

Recent Additions

Pretty self-explanatory. This is a page that displays the most recently added or updated images. (As we learn new information about images, we add it to the record, those changes will show up here.)

How You Can Contribute

Send Us Feedback

The individual image display pages have a form for sending feedback about that image. Send us your comments or corrections and we will incorporate your suggestions.

Make a Donation

This huge archive is expensive to maintain. The costs of archivally rehousing and storing this historic material is great; from acid free enclosures and boxes to cold storage facilities to computer equipment and cloud backup services, our costs keep growing with the collection. Please make a donation to help keep us going.

Image Donations

This archive started as way to bring our Private Collector's images to the public and to preserve it in an archival way. We have, at times, accepted both with digital-only images and physical photographic material from other sources, both institutional and individual. Our primary goal is educational, but also we want to save historical material for future generations. If you have original photographic material that you wish to donate (prints, stereo views, snapshots, glass or plastic negatives, Kodachrome, or other, transparencies, 8mm or 16mm film) please contact us. We're unlikely to accept small donations of digital images, but we'd still like to see them, so let us know.


This digital and physical archive would not exist without the tireless help of the volunteers who keep it moving. Become one yourself. We have many needs, among them computer and photography-savvy individuals.


Thank You to our Volunteers and Donors

We have had much help over years.

  • The Bland Family Foundation
  • WNP Board Members David Gallagher and Nicole Meldahl
  • Jaime Borschuk
  • Jo Brownold
  • Barbara Cannella
  • David Chang
  • Emiliano Echeverria
  • John Freeman
  • Carol Gould
  • Judy Hitzeman
  • Eoin Hobden
  • Laura Isaeff
  • Paul Judge
  • Wendy King
  • Gabrielle Kojder
  • Bill Kostura
  • Andy Lee
  • Judi Leff
  • Dave Lucas
  • Pierre Maris
  • John A. Martini
  • Tim McIntosh
  • Beth McLaughlin
  • Greer Montgomery
  • Steven Pitzenbarger
  • Linda Pomerantz
  • Jef Poskanzer
  • Alex Prime
  • Tom Purcell
  • Grace Sargent
  • Eric Schaefer
  • Art Siegel
  • James R. Smith
  • Vicky Walker
  • Kyrie Whitsett
  • Leslie Woodhouse
  • Christine Yeager
  • ...and many online commenters helping to improve and refine our interpretation and a descriptions. (keep them coming!)

Thank You to our Colleagues

Susan Goldstein and Christina Moretta of the San Francisco Public Library

Western Neighborhoods Projectct

1617 Balboa
San Francisco, CA 94121
(415) 661-1000

On the Map (click map for full map and nearby images)