The latest fun project from Thinkwalks

Tick Tock Backdrop

Tick Tock Backdrop is a Time Travel DIY postcard station and mini-museum at 860 Divisadero St. in San Francisco. The first display to be installed at the site is about the first building known to have been in the neighborhood. It was a property purchased and resold numerous times in 1850 until it landed in the hands of William Fell, After whom Fell Street is named.

Picture of the display

Here's approximately what it looks like.

The large (eight foot square) image on the left is a perfect backdrop for taking photos of yourself. Take your picture in front of it and post it to the Thinkwalks facebook page wall!

Amy in front of it

Here's a sepiatoned photo from the first day, with Amy Farah Weiss testing the system.


Down the hill to the right (south on Divisadero) when you look at the display, you’ll see a low, flat area. According to accounts from the 1860s, there once was a small lake there in the flat space between Fulton and Hayes streets. The lake may have been seasonal, from recent storms, or it may have been continually fed by the springs that are still present in Alamo Square today.

Beside the lake was the first known building in this neighborhood (1850). It was called Sans Souci Roadhouse (or San Souci, which was either a typo or a pun). “Sans Souci” means, in French, without concerns, carefree. The roadhouse was famous for milk drinks (likely with alcohol) served to folks making their way across these sandy “outside lands.” It fronted where Kate’s Cat & Dog Salon is today.

This photo shows the roadhouse 74 years after it was built, right before it was torn down in the 1920s. During those seven decades, the Wiggle (a.k.a. Lower Haight neighborhood) and Panhandle area were sometimes known as San Souci Valley.

In the 1700s, the broadly curving Devisadero street was a Spanish trail connecting the Mission Dolores to the Presidio, probably following a trail that had been used for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. The north end of that trail is still a marked foot path in the Presidio: Lovers’ Lane.

The name “Divisadero” probably came from the fame of a viewpoint near the trail, as the term (in Mexican Spanish) means “viewpoint.” On the Backdrop, I speculate using a different spelling based on one historian’s remark that it was parsed “De Visadero”—an archaic syntactical construction, which is still possible. Spelling it “Devisadero” was common at times in English texts in the 19th century, but then all sorts of misspellings and word plays were common then.

Soon after the roadhouse was established, a second road was built connecting Hayes Valley with the Ocean House at the beach west of Twin Peaks. The neighborhood streets we know today were built around 1870, after dunes had been leveled and San Souci Lake filled.

More information will be posted here very soon.

If you print a postcard from your photo, you’ll want the below info text on the back, pretending to be from 1924, when the backdrop photo was taken!


The old roadhouse on Fulton Street is all that remains of the extensive outside lands property which William Fell developed during Gold Rush land speculations of 1851. Now surrounded by storefront additions, the entire complex is slated for demolition.
      1924                                   Photo by Jesse Brown Cook

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