Forgotten San Francisco Neighborhoods: Where the Heck Is Fairmount Heights?

Over at 221 Chenery Street we’ve got a circa 1907 Victorian that was completely rebuilt in 2017, now seeking nearly $3 million for three beds and three baths–but that’s not the interesting part.

The new listing calls this a “contemporary Fairmount Heights residence.” Excuse me? “Fairmount Heights?” Surely this is Glen Park

Well, yes, it is–but it wasn’t always that way. Fairmount Heights was once a neighborhood here, or at least, it was according to the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project, a blog run by a grassroots historical circle fixated on the neighborhoods south of Twin Peaks.

“Fairmount Heights has been undergoing a transformation in recent years through loss of name recognition,” GPNHP writes. That’s putting it mildly; you probably couldn’t fill up a BART car with the number of people who could point to it on a map.

They add that it’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in SF, and accuse realtors of trying to “erase it” by calling it simply part of Glen Park…precisely as we’re doing now. Touché.

They describe the boundaries of Fairmount Heights as “San Jose Avenue to the east, 30th Street (originally Grove Street) to the north, and Castro Street to the west”–which is potentially confusing, since Castro runs for only a couple blocks south of 30th, after seemingly dead-ending at Billy Goat Hill. Essentially the neighborhood is (or was) the southeastern slope of Glen Park, above the College Hill area.

(Map circa 1861.)

Writing for Found SF, neighborhood historian Mae Silver says that Fairmount Heights dates back to the mid 19th century, then a mostly rural hinterland far outside the limits of downtown. The area saw several development bursts, one in the 1880s, another just after the 1906 earthquake, and a third after World War I.

It seems the Fairmount Heights name gradually fell out of popular use in the latter half of the 20th century, although you still run into it from time to time–see the above listing. Whether it remains distinct enough to be a neighborhood in itself anymore is a matter of opinion, but apparently be careful who you say that around.

For the curious, that 221 Chenery House last sold five years ago for over $2.6 million. That listing called it a “contemporary Fairmount Heights home.”

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