Monday, October 29, 2012

The unauthorized and abridged history of Clooney's Pub

 If you like the Mission, drunk middle-aged men, and the Giants, you probably already love Clooney’s.   You’ve probably gazed at the picture above the bar at some point which depicts “Clooney’s, 1936” and imagined yourself a legacy of Irish pubs.

Like most drunks in the Mission, though,  that picture may be a wee bit of a liar.  And before I got any farther, I shall say that I live directly above the bar (the jukebox nuzzles my spirit), and the owners are fantastic. That said, it's a Mission institution, no?  Everyone who, upon learning that I live upon Clooney's guffaws loudly before saying, "Oh, really?"

Anyway. Clooney's has been a pub in the current owner's family (more on the Clooney clan over another drink), yes. But has it always been in this location? And how did it morph from the plank-like bar depicted in the picture into the cavernous horseshoe of modern debauchery?

You already can guess that this tavern did not always look like a brick-front prison with faux-Italiante apartments awkwardly perched – no, no jauntily placed! – on top.  Looking at the Sanborn map of  1889, we can see  2 properties in this corner location (1401 and 1403) both with 1 saloon and 1 flat We can see that adjacent was 1405 and 1407 Valencia,  attached by some sort of wrap-around veranda (a porch? A faux railing? ) likely on the 2nd floor.  The footprint is the same size as the current building, with 2 outbuildings (I’m sure the outbuildings are the precursor to the recycling bin corral and hipster moped parking slot), and just across Osage Alley was a bootmaker on 25th.

The earliest wisp of history of the location is 1884, when Thomas Brady leased the lot to  J. O'Reilly for the lot  (35x117.6), for a period of 7 years at $15 and $20 a month. Jeremiah O’Reilly was listed simply as “liquor saloon, SE corner of 25th and Valencia.”  Jeremiah is listed on the water records around 1888 when the pipes were probably re-tapped, and as the proprietor of the saloon in various directories, until 1912 (he lived over at Guerrero and 25th with his wife Mary and daughters).  There is mention of "Jack Flynn's saloon" at this location in 1892 (someone was assaulted outside, of course), but Jeremiah is listed in every year of the directory.

Fascinatingly, there was a Jeremiah O'Reilly listed as a shoemaker and later a foreman at Buckingham and Hecht, dwelling not on Guerrero Street, but at Twenty-Eighth and Dolores. But  looking for Jeremiah O'Reilly in census records, I came across someone looking for a relative who was a cobbler AND a saloon owner in San Francisco. Will the real Jeremiah O'Reilly please stand up?

In 1891, a real estate agent named J.F. Plumbe was advertising the  property of 1401, billing it as a “candy, cigar, variety” with three living rooms.  And then in 1892 to 1893, there were regular advertisements in the San Francisco Call seeking various positions for “a small restaurant” at 1401.  They needed dishwashers, a “good woman to cook” and some waitresses. We see a lone help wanted ad for a baker at 1401 Valencia in 1894, and then little help wanted, needed or sought after that.  Was it a restaurant? Was it a variety store?   A saloon that sold food? A cigar  shop that sold biscuits? Someone was selling “a lot of Roller canary birds” from the building in 1903, and selling horses in 1907. (Were the horses here? Or were they in one of the nearby liveries?) 

So far, it seems all Irish all the time.  But the restaurant lists Michael Skanca as the proprietor starting in 1896.  Skanca doesn't sound Irish! His waiter was Lazar Radovich in 1897, his cook was John Vojdich in 1898, and in 1899, his steward was Peter Bokariza. All of the workers were listed as residing with Michael Skanca over at 1316 and 1312 Valencia (maybe this is why  May Skanca was granted a divorcefrom M Skanca in 1904, as she told the judge it was "cruelty.")  In 1899, Skanca must have been doing well because he was listed in a partnership “Skanca and Josich” at a popular restaurant venue at 520 Sacramento Street, which seems to be a parking garage now right across from Irish Times, getting us back to Jeremiah O’Reilly, full circle.  Oh, Eire.

Speaking of O’Reilly, in 1904, his saloon was  burgled. The saloon had been closed for polling hours while the country was electing Teddy Roosevelt.  Two men were initially arrested, but later, two youths who were named “the worst in the Mission” by the San Francisco Call were arrested and charged.  They had also burgled a woman on nearby Folsom street by dropping into her bedroom from a hole in the attic while she was out shopping, thieving a gold stick pin.  (A hole in the attic! Really!)

In 1906, shit got real. Not only was San Francisco in the grips of post-earthquake trauma (O’Reilly got his liquor license restored in June), but the railroad depot for the Southen Pacific railroad line was located right across the street from O’Reilly’s saloon, bringing a variety of people down Valencia on the streetcar and from the SP depot at Townsend and 4th.  The line cut diagonal across the intersection (coming from what’s now the Synergy School and through the ugly (sorry!) building housing the chiropractic clinic (an oasis amidst the ugly angles) and the Siron Norris gallery (also an oasis, dude).

One night in 1906, a patron was drinking at O’Reilly’s, waiting for his train to head home to Redwood City.  Reports go that he had gotten paid for a job on Howard Street earlier that afternoon and had made his way from saloon to saloon, eventually perching himself on the (I’m only imagining) fine-grain walnut stool to drink some spirits with ol’ Jeremiah. Around 2 in the morning (guess he missed his train?), two patrons lured the carpenter outside under the pretense of getting him a hotel, and then on Bartlett street, savagely attacked him, lacerating his face and breaking his shoulder. He limped to nearby Bethany church and got help there. Sounds kind of like Clooney’s right now, minus the train to Redwood City. 

In the 1910 Pacific Telephone directory, we see the saloon at 25th and Valencia listed as Donohoe’s Saloon, but never again does that name appear.  Jeremiah O’Reilly disappears from the directories by 1912 (Mary is listed as a widow on Guerrero Street in 1915), and PJ Manning’s name appears at this location all the way through until 1944.  An E.W. Lee (Mr Mayor? Is that you?) appears briefly in 1920, but PJ Manning is back selling “refreshments” in 1923.  There is a Cornelius Donohoe listed as proprietor of a saloon on Minna Street, and another Cornelius Donohoe listed as a teamster; similarly, another P.J. Manning appears as a teamster as well.  Do all Irish saloon-owners have alter-egos as teamsters?

In 1951, the electricity was wired (the label is still on the box downstairs) to Luke’s Tavern, listed until at least the 1970s with Luke Normandy and Mary Kilgannon.  Then it was Clooney’s Pub, though the current owner says that his grandfather used to own a saloon (I believe named Clooney's) when it was on Second and Minna.

I had previously believed "Clooney" to be an elusive, fictional character who has been boozin’ it up since 1886, eternally red-cheeked and smiling.  And the Clooney's were real, but now knowing they're real and in the family, I've found myself much more fascinated with Jeremiah O'Reilly, and even Thomas Brady.  How did one start owning a saloon way back when, and please tell me everything about the pants and cravats they wore.  I also want to know about the taps, how often they washed glasses at saloons and if the saloon ever had shuffleboard.

Next installment:  The apartments that were moved to the building in 1924,  all the single ladies who have lived in them, and the time a crab shell got stuck in one of the toilets in the building.


Anonymous said...

HOW did I not know about this post, or you? Most excellent, both research and style!

You've got to let me know more on the 1924 apartments! How were they added? We're discussing it (and other buildings) over on Bernalwood.

Urbane Libertine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Urbane Libertine said...

I thought I tweeted this at you; maybe I forgot? Maybe I don't follow you on Twitter and am a blog fan only (my name is Ivy). Thank you for the compliments!!!

ZOMG, all of your updates are amazing. I am obsessed with this building and the entire area