Perspectives Pop Culture

The Moving Houses of San Francisco

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It’s moving day for MessyNessyChic. Today we’re carrying furniture up the winding Parisian staircase, unpacking boxes and settling into the first official MNC offices– or as I have taken to calling them, “the MNC headquarters!”  

Now usually, this whole moving malarkey is supposed to be impossibly stressful, even potentially disastrous they say; but late last night as I lay wide awake in bed, unable to sleep and aimlessly browsing the internet, I came across some photographs that helped me put things in perspective. Just one look at these surreal house movers of San Francisco and I realised, my moving day was going to be a piece of cake…

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These precarious moving houses were documented by photographer Dave Glass in late 1970s San Francisco. What we’re looking at is essentially the result of a thirty year urban renewal scheme for the Western Addition neighbourhood of SF, particularly the Fillmore District, which after the Second World War, had become a cultural centre for the city’s African American community. It was a center of jazz with grand Victorian architecture that had survived the 1906 earthquake, but due to overcrowding and a high proportion of low-income families, the area was considered a slum and targeted for redevelopment. A “nice new neighbourhood” was promised by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and in the mid 1950s and 60s, entire blocks were cleared, destroying up to 2,500 Victorian houses, along with the neighbourhood’s character.

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By the 1970s however, San Francisco started to wise up. Pioneers of historic preservation who had been tirelessly protesting for years against the destruction of the city’s heritage, finally began to win the battle. The Redevelopment Agency agreed to find new homeowners for the Victorians, who would agree to rehabilitate and help conserve the homes. The tired old Victorians could be purchased for one dollar– relocation and restoration costs not included!

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The victory was bittersweet. For every handful of houses saved, many others were destroyed (in fact, a lot of the relocated homes simply moved to lots where other Victorians had previously stood). For every handful of houses rehabilitated by upper middle class families in gentrified neighbourhoods, many more low-income families and neighbourhoods sunk further into poverty.

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In November 1974, Dave Glass, along with an imaginably large crowd of onlookers, witnessed the monumental task of moving twelve Victorian houses approximately one mile down the road (and around a few corners). They were moved in groups of four over three weekend, the majority joining the Beiderman Place Historic Area. Telephone lines were moved, trolley wires were cut, streetlights removed, thirty police escorts and thirty tow trucks were called to clear the path, all to make way for the Victorians. The sight was compared to watching great ships moving through an inland waterway.

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So in light of all that, I’d say my moving day is going quite swimmingly! I’m so incredibly proud and thankful to be moving into my first real home and hub for MessyNessyChic here in Paris. And you know what, I couldn’t have done it without you!

Discover the photography of Dave Glass on Flickr

Oh and here’s a little sneak peek of the new MNC digs…

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Moving day! Unpacking at the new MessyNessyChic HQ #Paris #movingday

View on Instagram

(And you can expect a full tour once I’ve settled in!)


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