Do you know the origin story of Forest Hill Station?
You might have zoomed by this station a hundred thousand times and not realized that it is actually the oldest subway station west of Chicago. We found the website OriginSF, whose authors chose Forest Hill Station as their latest case study of San Francisco history. According to OriginSF, Forest Hill Station was built with a dose of foresight:
Forest Hill Station was opened in 1918. It began thanks to the former mayor of San Francisco, Aldoph Sutro, who owned real estate all over the city. Twelve years after his death, A.S. Baldwin, a real estate agent from Baldwin & Howell, was hired to allocate Sutro’s real estate assets. At the time, the Forest Hill area of San Francisco was underutilized, with space composed of sand dunes and grassy land; it was not a desired lot to purchase. But Baldwin, showing foresight, developed a corporation to buy the forest and then sell the land. Newell-Murdoch bought that land and then deeded 21 lots to the City of San Francisco for free, in order for the Forest Hill station to be built. Why? Because Newell-Murdoch was banking on Laguna Honda to be the next big development once a train was built to bring people there. And they were right.
Interesting tidbit: scenes from Dirty Harry and Milk were shot in this station. If you like history as much as we do (see: Muni Time Capsule), you’ll enjoy browsing through OriginSF.
Photo by OriginSF
That picture above is how Forest Hill looks now. Before it was remodeled for Muni Metro, it looked quite different. There were no tiles, it was just painted cream and looked like an enlargement of the the tunnel. There were only elevators on the outbound side (to get from the elevator to the inbound side you had to get off at a mezzinine stop and walk through a tunnel to the stairs to the platform. Also there three elevators. In the 1960s they were one automatic elevator, one manual elevator with an automatic door and one manual elevator with a manual door. See Dirty Harry if you want see what it looked like.