Montgomery and Clay–the history of our intersection

We’ve been doing a little bit of research on our new neighborhood, specifically our intersection, and found a few tidbits:

— The intersection of Clay and Montgomery (then water) is where Captain James Montgomery landed the Portsmouth in 1846 to claim California for the US. “About eight o’clock on the morning of July 9th, Montgomery landed with seventy men at the foot of Clay street, marched to the music of fife and drum up Clay to Kearny, thence to the plaza, where he hoisted the American flag on the pole in front of the custom house.”(1)

— Across the street on Clay, from 1853 to 1959 was the Montgomery Block, also known as the Monkey Block. At four stories, it was the first office building in the American West. It hosted people like Mark Twain and Jack London, and it is claimed that the Pisco Punch was invented in its bar. Despite its legacy, it was demolished in the mid-20th century to make way for…

— The Transamerica Pyramid. Opened in 1972, the height and pyramidal shape of the building has made it an SF icon.

— About 50 years before Bank of Italy arrived on the block, the first baseball games in San Francisco were discussed at Dan’s Oyster Saloon (Montgomery, btw Clay and Commercial). A leaugue was organized there, though its reported that a game was never played.(2) However, the Bank of Italy was part of an intramural Bay Area Bankers league that played games at the Presidio of Oakland during the summer of 1911. (They finished the season a disappointing 3-10.)(3)

This 1846--47 map depicts the shore as Montgomery St., with the main thoroughfares Washington (right) and Clay (left).


















John B. Montgomery, the street's namesake.


























An 1857 advertisement for Dan's Oyster Saloon, the disputable birthplace of Bay Area baseball. (4)










The Bank of America building, prior to its 1921 expansion.






















A Daily Call article written in appreciation of the Italian community's efforts to revitalize post-quake San Francisco, e.g. A.P. Gianinni's Bank of Italy building. (5)


















Eldredge, Zoeth Skinner. The Beginnings of San Francisco. 1912: San Francisco.
San Francisco Call, Volume 109, Number 122, 1 April 1911 pg:21
4 California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences, Volume 7, Number 3, 30 January 1857
5 San Francisco Call, Volume 104, Number 42, 12 July 1908

Be Sociable, Share!


David is Wingtip's storyteller. In addition to editing the Modern Gentleman's Blog, he has written for Wax Poetics, The Source, SF Weekly, and the East Bay Express, and others. His inspirations include Rumble Fish, Paul's Boutique, and Balzac. He studied English at the City University of New York at Hunter College and journalism at the University of Southern California. He lives in Berzerkeley with his wife and daughter.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *