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This nine-page article, originally published in the San Francisco Argonaut, is available at no charge via .pdf upon email request, or may be read here. Full credit to the author of this study, Conor Casey.
The area south of Islais Creek Channel (Third Street Drawbridge) was once a 4,446-acreMexican land grant in 1839 to Jose Cornelio de Bernal. It was named Rincon de lasSalinas y Portrero Viejo (Place of the Salt Works and old Pasture) and had been used forthe grazing of cows of Mission Dolores that roamed the area since Spanish days. It hadremained undeveloped except for a few shacks that cattle tenders used. In the late 1840s,two early land developers, Dr. John Townsend and Corneille de Boom, convinced Bernalto sell his land to develop the area. Robert Hunter and his brother Phillip became agents for Bernal but the venture failed to become successful. Robert and Phillip stayed on and ran a dairy on the land they purchased around Griffith and Oakdale avenues. Many feelthat the point, Hunters Point, was named for these brothers. The San Bruno Toll Road (San Bruno Avenue) had been constructed in the late 1850s to the west of Hunters Point and afforded a means of transportation of cows from the Miller and Lux Ranch in what was to become "South San Francisco.” Ironically, the area around Bayview was named "South San Francisco” in the 1800s but this name use was discouraged when Bayview became the designated name in 1909 when a commission in San Francisco was installed to change names of streets to clear up the confusion of identical or similar names that abounded in the city.
Miller and Lux began using the area when slaughterhouses closer to downtown San Francisco were ordered to move further south from the central populated area (Rincon Hill) due to the odor and sights they generated. Roth’s and Blum’s slaughterhouse at 1490 Fairfax Ave. was one of the first slaughterhouses to be built in the Bayview area. By this time, Railroad Street (later Third Street — built across Mission Bay) offered a solution to transportation to the area. Miller and Lux built a slaughterhouse to service their vast cattle empire. The four main slaughterhouses in the area that harbored 18 slaughterhouses were: Miller and Lux; James Allan and Son; the H. Moffatt Company; and J. G. Johnson. Most of the slaughterhouses were built over pilings on the Islas Creek to allow the water to wash out the foul by-products of their operations. The heyday of Butcher town was over by 1906 and the last slaughterhouse closed in 1971.
Hundreds of butchers were needed for these enterprises as well as cowboys who herded the cattle to the slaughterhouses. At one point, 3,500 people worked in the slaughterhouses. A close-knit community developed around the processing and distribution of meat products to the San Francisco community. Roth and Blum sold their business to Alpert Packing Company who later sold the business to James Allen. James Allen and Son Meat Packing Company was located at
Newhall and Evans streets. This became the largest slaughterhouse in the area. On Third Street, H. Moffat Company developed a meat packing plant and on Sixth Avenue (Kirkwood) and Quint Street, Dommique Legallet started the Legallet Wool Pullery and Tannery to process sheep. They later moved to 1099 Quesada Ave. Legal let started business in 1879 and remained in business until 1970. Next to the Legallet Wool Pullery was the site of the rodeo that produced entertainment for the developing community.
Associated with the slaughterhouses was the need to move the cattle from the railroad cars that they arrived in and from the barges that docked along the waterside in India and South Basin. Use of the barges from Oakland and points south in the Bay offered inexpensive travel from all points to the slaughterhouses.
Along with the slaughterhouses developed a number of businesses associated with the slaughter of cows: tanneries for the processing of hides, tallow houses to produce candles, etc., leather and saddle shops to work the leather into products, etc. In the surrounding area, the Hunters Point waterside attracted shipbuilders as early as 1866 when Munder’s boatyard constructed schooners. Dry docks were constructed for boat repair. The Union Iron Works graving docks were purchased by the United States Shipbuilding Corporation which in turn was purchased by Bethlehem Steel in 1905. The docks only a short distance from the slaughterhouses offered working opportunities of employment for hundreds of men.
It wasn’t until after the 1906 earthquake that the area attracted numbers of people who wanted cheap land for housing and a clean place to live and raise their children. Over a period of time, the slaughterhouses either quit business or moved further away from this developing area that was becoming overpopulated. Miller and Lux ceased to exist on the Peninsula when Gustavus Swift purchased the land south of San Bruno Mountain and the South San Francisco Land and Improvement Company began the business of developing the land of South San Francisco. In 1894, Western Meat was incorporated and the packing business began in the area which was named South San Francisco.