Greg Pabst has been conducting the Excelsior Stroll for 16 years. The Stroll is a walking tour of the Excelsior District that is offered twice a year in May and October through the San Francisco City Guides program. Greg is a specialist in Land Grant law, and the idea for offering tours of the Excelsior District came about over a dinner with Dennis Roselli, whose father owned Dino’s Pharmacy on Mission and Brazil. Greg’s expertise in early San Francisco history was complemented by Dennis’ extensive knowledge of the neighborhood from being born and raised here in the mid-twentieth century.
The Excelsior Stroll provides participants with a wealth of information, beginning with the history of the Bernal Family Land Grant from Mexico that delineated the boundaries of the district, to the murals of the present day which show the vibrant, multicultural Excelsior District we love.
On the Excelsior Stroll you can learn about the Italian farmers who inhabited the area and worshipped at Corpus Christi – which was an offshoot of Sts. Peter & Paul Church in North Beach. You’ll see the house on Harrington Street where Jerry Garcia was raised. And did you ever wonder (as I have) about the street names here? The Excelsior Development Company of the 1860s was made up of men involved in international trade so they named the streets after countries and capital cities - Persia, Italy, Russia, etc. Anti-Asian feelings that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 created pressure to change some street names. India, China and Japan Streets were changed to Peru, Avalon and Excelsior Streets.
Greg Pabst uses the Library’s SF History Center, including the Italian-American archives, to research the Excelsior District. You can read Greg’s history of the San Francisco Bernal Family on his website. Often people who take the tour contribute their own knowledge of neighborhood history which then becomes part of the tour. An old timer from the neighborhood told Greg that in times of drought in the past, well water was dispensed from the basement of Ferrera Hardware (where Kragen Auto is now). It was one of the last freshwater wells in San Francisco.
If you have knowledge about, interest in, and/or enthusiasm for the Excelsior District and would like to be trained to conduct tours of the neighborhood, please contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or see him at the next Excelsior Stroll this October.
In the Neighborhood features information about people and places in the Excelsior neighborhood that you may already know and love, or that might be new to you. Watch this space!