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Fillmore Jazz Festival celebrates 35 years

SAN FRANCISCO’S ICONIC Fillmore Jazz Festival returns for its 35th year on July 6 and 7, promising a vibrant weekend of music, arts and community spirit. Spanning Fillmore Street from Jackson to Eddy, this year’s festival is back at full strength, presenting an impressive lineup across five stages and showcasing the talents of 25 local and nationally known artists.

Music enthusiasts can enjoy performances at three outdoor stages located on Fillmore at the intersection of California, Sutter and Eddy streets. Indoor concerts at Calvary Presbyterian Church and Jones Memorial Methodist Church offer intimate settings for more music.

This year’s festival — which attracts more than 100,000 people to the street every Fourth of July weekend — kicks off with a special concert honoring three Bay Area musical legends. “Remembering Calvin Keys, Bobby Hutcherson & Joe Henderson” takes place on Saturday, July 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Sugar Pie DeSanto Sutter Stage. The stage is named for a favorite performer from Fillmore’s days at the Harlem of the West, the theme of this year’s festival.

Renowned vocalists Paula West and Kim Nalley headline the Saturday lineup on the Mary Stallings California Stage, named for another longtime local with an international following. The Sunday lineup is a triple treat, with The Dynamic Miss Faye Carrol, Kenny Washington and Fillmore’s own Kim Nalley all performing. 

For a complete lineup of performances and more details, go to fillmorejazzfest.com.

Now it’s Camellia Salon

Yuki Matsui now operates the salon at 1724 Fillmore, named for a favorite flower.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

It might be called “The Little Salon That Could,” tucked away in the ground-floor retail space of an historic Victorian at 1724 Fillmore.

For decades it was called Citrine Salon, until the pandemic forced its closing. Beloved Citrine proprietor Rene Cohen, who had struggled to keep the business alive by adding racks of quirky fashion, shelves of high-end jewelry and outdoor haircuts — a complicated trick on cool San Francisco days — died during the shutdown and the shop was boarded up with sheets of plywood.

Enter Yukina Matsui, a soft-spoken hairstylist who moved here from her native Japan some 15 years earlier. “Yuki” saw the promise of the place. With the signing of a new lease a few months ago, Rene’s lively clutter metamorphosed into a spare, bright-lit salon now home to several stylists and Ukrainian nail artist Sofiia Pidlozna. The boards came down, a handsome wrought-iron fence went up, and a hand-painted — by Yuki — sign was hung announcing its resurrection as Camellia Salon.

“Rene had the camellia plant in the back yard,” Yuki says. “And my mom, who died over 10 years ago, loved camellias,” which flourish in Japan. It was a natural name for the new salon.

Its home has history. When veteran real estate agent Dona Crowder bought the three-level Victorian in the mid-1980s, the ground-level retail space housed a vacuum cleaner repair shop. A second-hand clothing shop followed before Citrine Salon opened in the early 1990s. The upper floors, also dark during the pandemic, continue to serve as office space for therapists.

Camellia is on the ground floor of Victorian Square in a building relocated there.

Crowder has been part of the metamorphosis — of building and neighborhood — for decades. Born into a storied Alabama family, she came west with her mother at age 16 and never looked back. Her mother, Dottie Crowder, the only daughter of a World War I widow, “knew one person in Burlingame,” according to her daughter. But she made up for any lack of California connections with wide-ranging intelligence, energy and determination. In the 1960s she founded an independent real estate business headquartered in the Fillmore neighborhood. Dona, after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, joined her mother in the business in 1976. 

Before its purchase by Dona Crowder the building and the block between Post and Sutter had metamorphoses of their own. “Carlo Middione had the idea of creating a Victorian Square here,” Crowder says. Before Middione became the celebrated chef and owner of Vivande Porta Via restaurant on Fillmore, he worked for the Redevelopment Agency. With the help of San Francisco Heritage, which was created in 1971, he engineered the relocation of 12 Victorian houses. Among them were the salon’s building and those nearby, one of which housed Marcus Books for decades — and before that was the home of the legendary Jimbo’s Bop City when it was in its original location on Post Street in Japantown.

For years the block was tended by nearby resident Zema Daniels, known in the neighborhood as “One Hand” for his talent for shooting pool with one hand, or sometimes as Mr. Hands. “For years, ‘One Hand’ kept the street clean,” says Crowder. “He would be out with his bucket and brooms, cleaning the sidewalks.”

“She was such a sweetheart,” Crowder says of her longtime friend and tenant Rene Cohen, owner of Citrine. Camellia owner Yuki and Rene never met. But so strong was the spirit of her predecessor that Yuki has taken pains to keep it alive. She moved Rene’s azaleas and other plants into freshly prepared new garden plots and relocated the lemon tree into a sunny corner where it now thrives. The backyard garden abuts a totally renovated parking lot, also managed by Crowder.

In early May, the block suffered a blow when a two-alarm fire broke out across the street in the Jones Senior Home building. That forced the evacuation of about 100 residents and shut down the Burger King on the corner. There were several injuries, but no fatalities.

Burger King quickly reopened, but no one is predicting when all of the apartments will again be habitable. Given the resilience of the renovated buildings in Victorian Square, however, and the quiet determination of Yuki and her friends at Camellia Salon and her nearby neighbors, the future of the block looks to be in good hands.

Revenge of the Victorians

The Van Bergen house on southwest corner of Fillmore and Jackson Streets in the 1880s.

NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY | WOODY LaBOUNTY

In the 1930s, the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project put unemployed authors to work on guidebooks. The contributor to the architecture section of California: A Guide to the Golden State, had some opinions on the architectural tastes of the moneyed classes in the late 19th century:

“[W]ealth meant even larger buildings with more and more architectural elements. An epidemic of the Victorian pestilence in aggregated form seized California.”

The author saw a benefit in the city’s greatest disaster: “In San Francisco thousands of Victorian horrors were destroyed in the earthquake of 1906; but many remain, their lines sometimes a little softened by shrubs and vines, sometimes stark and bare in their shabby decay.”

Make up your own mind. This Saturday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the public is invited into one of the city’s finest “Victorian horrors,” a magnificent survivor of the lamentable pestilence the WPA author abhorred, the Haas-Lilienthal House. San Francisco Heritage is opening the doors of its longtime headquarters to host a book sale.

Read more: “Victorian Comeback II

Farewell to one of Fillmore’s finest

David Johnson | Fillmore Street, circa late 1940s

DAVID JOHNSON, who took the most famous photograph ever taken on Fillmore Street, looking south from Fillmore and Post in the late 1940s, died on March 1 at age 97.

Johnson, a Florida native, first came through San Francisco on his way to serve in the navy during World War II. He returned after the war to become the first black student in a new photography program directed by Ansel Adams at what became the Art Institute. Adams encouraged Johnson to “photograph what you know,” which led him to Fillmore Street at a time when it was alive with jazz clubs and home to a vibrant black community.

Johnson’s photographs were rediscovered when KQED in 1998 began its award-winning documentary, “The Fillmore.” His work was featured in the book that followed, “Harlem of the West,” and in numerous exhibitions around the country.

MORE: David Johnson in the New Fillmore

David Johnson talks about his work at Marcus Books on Fillmore Street.

Calvary moved to Fillmore from Union Square

Calvary Presbyterian Church held its first service at Fillmore & Jackson in 1902.

By WOODY LABOUNTY
SF Heritage

The story: the imposing Calvary Presbyterian Church on the corner of Fillmore and Jackson streets — which seems like an ancient temple that has stood on its plot for time immemorial — was moved there from Union Square.

Let’s play detective and take a before-and-after look.

Read more: “One Million Bricks

A night at the Eclipse

IT WILL BE a night from the past, still relevant today. On Thursday, January 11, Sheba Piano Lounge will present “The Fillmore Eclipse,” a one-night evening of immersive theater that brings to life a familiar neighborhood story.

It’s a recreation of a 1950’s underground jazz club, called the Eclipse, at a time when Fillmore Street was alive with music but threatened by redevelopment. In the Eclipse, modeled after the legendary Jimbo’s Bop City, the music runs all night, but there is also a sense of impending doom for the club and the neighborhood. Actors mix among the audience and tell the story of the club, the music and emerging ideas about how to save the neighborhood — ideas that still shape the Fillmore today. 

To learn more, visit “The Fillmore Eclipse.”

It’s still his square

A bench in Alamo Square now honors a beloved neighbor.

JUST ABOUT THIS time of year, for decades, Joe Pecora would be throwing open the doors of his beautifully maintained Victorian home near Alamo Square for his annual Christmas pot luck. The house would be brimming with friends and neighbors and decorated from top to bottom with his collection of antique ornaments and Christmas cards.

Joe died in 2020. But he is remembered as the author of “The Storied Houses of Alamo Square” and a true friend of the neighborhood. Now he has a permanent presence in Alamo Square. Friends came together at the park in high style on Sunday afternoon, December 10, to dedicate a new bench in his honor.

Read more: “A photo report from Ron Henggeler

Joe Pecora’s book debuted in 2014 where it should have: at Alamo Square.

The murals at Jimbo’s

Harry Smith with one of his murals at Jimbo’s Bop City, circa 1950.

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that a photo from the neighborhood is published in The New York Times. But today is that day. Alongside a review of Cosmic Scholar, a new biography of anthropologist/artist/filmmaker/mystic/music collector Harry Smith, is a photograph of Smith before one of the murals in the legendary Fillmore jazz club Jimbo’s Bop City.

Wikipedia confirmed: “The painter and filmmaker Harry Everett Smith painted the walls with abstract motifs and created a light show that ran to the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.” The entry added: “Admission was only $1, and musicians came in for free, but Jimbo Edwards always chose who he let in and who he did not: “We don’t allow no squares in Bop City. If you don’t understand what we doin’, then leave and don’t come back.”

MORE: The Art of Harry Smith at the Whitney

Artistic circles in the Fillmore

Jay DeFeo’s “The Rose” being removed from the Painterland apartments in 1965.

By GARY KAMIYA
San Francisco Chronicle

The most famous event in the history of avant-garde literary San Francisco was Allen Ginsberg’s reading of “Howl” at the Six Gallery at 3119 Fillmore Street on Oct. 7, 1955. That frenzied reading, the subsequent publication by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books of “Howl and Other Poems,” and the arrests and obscenity trial that followed launched Ginsberg’s career, put City Lights on the map and made the Beat movement nationally famous.

The site of the Six Gallery is one of San Francisco’s literary shrines. But few people realize that an unremarkable-appearing apartment building just eight blocks up the hill at 2322 Fillmore Street was the quasi-communal home of many of the city’s cutting-edge artists and writers from around 1950 to 1965. 

The Painterland era came to an end on Nov. 9, 1965, when Jay DeFeo’s “The Rose” was removed by forklift from the building and shipped to the Pasadena Art Museum. One cutting-edge artistic circle faded away, but another one sprang up at almost exactly the same time and place. A few young people were living in an apartment on 2111 Pine Street, just a few blocks away from Painterland. They called themselves the Family Dog.

Read more: “Painterland: the forgotten apartments of San Francisco’s avant-garde

Photographer of the Fillmore

IT TOOK A FEW YEARS for David Johnson’s photographs of Fillmore Street during its jazz heyday as the Harlem of the West to be appreciated. Quite a few.

But it happened half a century later with the premiere of the highly acclaimed public television documentary in 1999, called simply “The Fillmore,” and the book that followed. And it’s continuing still, with an exhibition of 65 photographs from Johnson’s vast archive — now in the collection of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley — at San Francisco’s majestic City Hall.

A reception on May 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. launches “David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965).” The photographer, now 95, will be on the scene, as he has been for most of the last century. The exhibition continues through January 6, 2023.

EARLIER: “David Johnson in the New Fillmore