Windows into the Tenderloin

 Posted by on July 14, 2011
Jul 142011
Windows into The Tenderloin – San Francisco
Mona Caron
Wandering the Tenderloin area of San Francisco you will come upon this mural on the corner of Jones and Golden Gate by Swiss born, San Francisco based, artist Mona Caron.
The project was spearheaded by the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District. The design was inspired by research and meetings with neighborhood residents, communities and organizations over the summer and fall of ’08. The mural was painted in ’09, and dedicated in March 2010.
Standing on Golden Gate Avenue, this part of the mural shows a view looking North from Market and Jones Streets. This is one of the entry points to San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and it is the location of the mural itself.  It is sort of a documentary, showing how the artist found the area while she was working on the project. The ghost-like buildings that rise up into the sky represent the “ghosts of the past”, and each shows a building or a thing that actually used to exist in the location it is drifting from. Starting with the first one on the left, that was the Panorama, a 19th century place of Entertainment.  Apparently, there were several in the neighborhood, they consisted of round or dodecagonal buildings that housed 360 degree murals that people paid to view.  The large ghost in the right hand panel is the Paramount theater, an art deco building that was torn down in 1965.
This is a nod to the southeast Asian community of the Tenderloin.
On the Jones side of the building, the mural was painted right to left, so I will show the panels in that order.
This is another “ghost”.  The reference is to the Black Hawk Jazz Club that was at the corner of Turk and Hyde Streets from 1946 to 1963, it has its own absolutely amazing history, with all the greats having played there at one time or another.
The wisp of smoke is coming from a saxaphonist,  it ends up becoming the “ghost” hawk.
This parking lot still exists, and the painted sign on the brick wall is one of my favorites.  It belonged to the Hollywood Billiards parlor.  The tag in the far right hand corner is also, still on that building.
The front of that brick building now is covered with the Fear Head Mural.
The actual Hollywood Billiards Mural
This is the fantasy panel.  It is an exact copy of the one next to it, only this time, what the artists and locals would like it to look like.  Apparently, the artist was often asked why she was painting the same thing twice, and she told them the idea behind it and asked them what they would like it to be, she incorporated these ideas into this panel.
This is a garden.  The “seeds” are small tiles, painted by children at the Boys and Girls Club across the street.
It is difficult to photograph in places like this, the amount of people walking by coupled with the enormous amount of cars that go through that intersection all make it hard to do this piece of work justice. The details are just unbelievable, and the work is truly some of the very best.  I encourage you to visit Mona Caron’s website.  There you will find very, very close up photos, as well as some much better overall shots.  Also, take the time to go through the panels, she gives such a wonderful history of the Tenderloin.

  3 Responses to “Windows into the Tenderloin”

  1. What a fascinating post, thank you!


  2. The murals are incredible! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I lived in the Bay Area for about five years so these photos bring back memories! I liked the murals so much that I almost forgot to look for the reflections. In the end I saw the bars reflected in the windows. 🙂