For people living on the edge of the western frontier, we San Franciscans sure do love history. Or, at least, we pretend to. In the mid-20th century, while Los Angelenos were taking to the highways, subsisting on newfangled diets of burgers and fried apple pies, San Francisco offered a faux-European experience, a place to travel by cable car, sip cappuccinos and argue about poetry. To this day, antique and vintage-clothing stores crop up regularly in almost every neighborhood, and all manner of historical societies abound, from the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society to the St. Francis Hook & Ladder Society (dedicated to preserving firefighting apparatus). But nowhere is our affection (some might say affectation) for being in touch with the past so evident as in our passion for old houses. Tim Kelley, a tugboat captain and former member of the merchant marine, made this observation one day as he was walking through Noe Valley with his son, then a graduate student in history. "I th...
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