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1955 San Francisco Footage Shows The City As It Once Was (VIDEO)

First Posted: 01/05/12 07:55 PM ET Updated: 01/06/12 01:40 PM ET

A recently unearthed amateur video gives a rare, full-color look at San Francisco circa 1955.

Shot by filmmaker Tullio Pellgrini, the 20-minute movie gives an up-close-and-personal tour of the city from Pellgrini's automobile. His narration is charmingly earnest in a way that's promotional of the city's virtues while never stepping over into being particularly phony or cloying.

Streetsblog notes some ways the city in the video has changed since the 1950s--the days when, as Pellgrini says, "the Bay Bridge was the longest bridge in the world":

Some differences are striking, like the additional vehicle lanes on streets like Market and the Great Highway and the lack of parked cars on others. One eye-catcher for me was seeing cars driven through the Powell Street cable car turnaround on what is now Hallidie Plaza. A friend also pointed out the since-removed mid-block crosswalk on Van Ness between City Hall and the War Memorial Opera House.

Other long-gone notable San Francisco landmarks seen in the video: the Central Freeway, the Sky Tram and Playland at the Beach.

The video was unearthed by Prelinger Archives curator Rick Prelinger from his legendary collection of "ephemeral" (i.e advertising, educational, industrial and amateur) films.

"It's the work of accomplished amateur filmmaker (and expert tinkerer) Tullio Pellegrini," Prelinger told Boing Boing, "who combined a 16mm Bell & Howell Cinemascope lens with the wonders of Kodachrome and made this homage to the city of San Francisco. You'll see Playland, our oceanside amusement park which was closed in 1972, very rare footage of the SkyTram (an extinct ride over Seal Rocks and Sutro Baths), and a brakescreeching ride down the Crookedest Street in the World."

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Filed by Aaron Sankin  |