1940 WPA San Francisco Model 42x38 ft Now Online

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection:

For the first time since 1942, the entire immense 42 by 38 foot WPA built San Francisco Model can be seen assembled virtually. Digitally knitting together all 158 separate pieces with over 6,000 blocks gives the viewer a sense of the extraordinary accomplishment the model represents. Recently recovered after decades of dusty storage, [...] it is a 42 by 38 foot wooden replica of the city of San Francisco as it was in 1940 in 158 pieces at a scale of 1 inch to 100 feet. The pieces contain about 6,000 removable city blocks.

The model was built by The Works Progress Administration in the late 1930's, under the New Deal. It was first displayed in sections in the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in 1939. In 1940-1942 it was displayed in San Francisco City Hall. The model was used as an urban planning tool by San Francisco city agencies and departments through the 1960's. In 1968, the downtown portion of the model became a research and planning tool in the Environmental Simulation Laboratory in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. The model has not been on public view, in its entirety, since 1942. [...]

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8 Responses:

  1. MattyJ says:

    Well, there's a clickhole I will not soon find my way out of.

    Interesting to see the big pile of sand where my house now stands. I didn't realize that what they're calling 'parkside' today was developed so much earlier than central/outer Sunset. I found a little piece of a '53' license plate in our garage and I thought that maybe it was left by an occupant as I thought the Sunset was done by the mid-40's. Guess not! It was probably left as a memento from the construction workers as my block is just about dead-center in the vast wasteland that was the outer sunset at the time. Neato!

    • Tim says:

      IMHO it's always worth looking on old maps before you buy or long-term rent a house. Too many former industrial sites have been built on.

      • margaret says:

        Three other things you should check for:

        1) Major gas lines running right beneath you.

        II. Former bombing ranges in the middle of town:

        Three military practice bombs have been discovered at Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont, ...

        ... adding that it’s not uncommon for unexploded ammunition to be found in or around the Clairemont area, which was previously military-occupied.

        The area’s “potential contaminants of concern,” according to state records, include unexploded ordnance and munitions debris.

        According to Magee, six pieces of military explosives have been uncovered at Lafayette Elementary so far.

        C Indian burial grounds:

        • jwz says:

          C Indian burial grounds:

          I love how the shocker of that movie is "you moved the headstones but kept the bodies!!" and every person who lives in San Francisco or Manhattan is like, "Yeah, and...?"

        • tfb says:

          I'm sure there's a bad joke in here about C indian burial grounds tending to overflow.

  2. 205guy says:

    "scale of 1 inch to 100 feet" but how many is that in football fields? Can someone find and measure a football field on the model for me please? What's that, should you include the end zones? I don't know, these units are both screwy and uncertain.

    I get the whole divisible-by-2-3-and-4, but couldn't they just make the yard equal 1 meter then? Best of both worlds.

    • 205guy says:

      So I thought I just invented the metric inch, the 36th division of the meter, equal to 27.77777... millimeters. But it turns out the metric inch is defined by ISO 2848 to be 25 mm because the metric foot is set at 30cm.

    • Ben says:

      "Screwy" is your judgement call, but "uncertain" says you suck at math.

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