Last week, the National Trust For Historic Preservation officially declared the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street in San Francisco a “national treasure.” As the Trust explained in their announcement, “San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood contains an awe-inspiring amount of impeccable Victorian homes, but it’s best known for its ties to the counterculture revolution of the 1960s.”
While the physical street corner has remained a go-to attraction for tourists more than half a century after its brief period of true cultural prominence, the new designation aims to preserve one of the neighborhoods main landmarks: the Doolan-Larson building, former home to Mnasidika, the area’s first hippie clothing boutique. Run by Peggy Caserta, a close friend and eventual lover of Janis Joplin, Mnasidika was an important site in the neighborhood during its peak. Caserta is credited with starting the trend of bell bottom jeans at Mnasidika, eventually approaching Levi’s about producing them on a more widespread scale. The store was also the site of a notable Grateful Dead photo shoot, and is said to be where Jimi Hendrix picked up his first pair of bell bottoms.
The Washington D.C.-based National Trust For Historic Preservation, a “privately funded nonprofit organization [that] works to save America’s historic places,” defines “national treasures” as “nationally significant places where the National Trust is taking direct action. … Together, we’re raising needed funds, building coalitions to prevent demolition, fighting in the courts to save sites from deterioration, and making sure that the icons of the past remain with us in the future.” In line with the proclamation, the National Trust revealed plans to preserve the nearby Doolan-Larson building as “a center for interpretation and preservation” of the neighborhood’s rich cultural history.
More so than virtually any neighborhood in the country, the Haight was truly an iconic destination during the “Summer of Love” in the mid to late 1960s. As the hippie counterculture began to take hold, Haight-Ashbury became the de facto epicenter of the movement, with kids from around the country flocking to the area to take part in its free-loving ethos. In addition to being a countercultural mecca, the area was home to many of the most influential musical acts of the time, from the Grateful Dead to Janis Joplin to Jefferson Airplane.
Spurred by the mainstream success of Scott McKenzie‘s hit song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair”, Haight-Ashbury became a favorite topic of national media coverage, drastically increasing the influx of young people to the area. However, much like the “Summer of Love” itself, the Haight grew at an unsustainable rate and the neighborhood quickly began to suffer the consequences. Homelessness, drug addiction, crime, and overcrowding plagued the neighborhood by the end of the summer of ’67, prompting the people of the community to pronounce the neighborhood dead.
Today, six retail storefronts are on the ground floor of the Doolan-Larson Building (now owned by San Francisco Heritage), including one family-owned and operated T-shirt shop that has been a tenant at the corner of Haight and Ashbury since 1980. With this new “national treasure” designation, the National Trust will make specific efforts to ensure that this historic site is preserved and honored as a culturally integral location for generations to come.
View this post on Instagram
Have you heard the news? Today we announced our newest National Treasure: the Corner of Haight and Ashbury. San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood contains an awe-inspiring amount of impeccable Victorian homes, but it’s best known for its ties to the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. This period in American history is more than an aesthetic: its complexity, its dedication to social justice, and its impact on music, popular culture, the environmental movement, and technology make the 1960s a key part of our national identity. ⠀ ⠀ The Corner of Haight and Ashbury National Treasure represents an opportunity to connect the past and present. Our work centers on creating a vision for the Doolan-Larson Building—located at the northwest corner of the famed intersection—in partnership with its new owner, @sfheritage. Head to the link in our profile to learn more about our work at this site and keep an eye on our stories for a look inside the Doolan-Larson Building. 📷: Scott Hahn/@sfheritage⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #savingplaces #historic #preservation #haightashbury #sanfrancisco #california #counterculture #history #architecture #cornerofhaightandashbury #doolanlarson #announcement #igstories #linkinbio
[H/T Curbed San Francisco]