Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: When Did We Start Saying “Inner/Outer” Richmond?

In the past, we’ve written about the history of the Richmond name and the sometimes sticky distinctions between the Inner and Outer neighborhoods, but do you ever wonder how old these terms even are?

To sort out this history, we looked way back into SF’s oldest newsprint archive, and it turns out the answer is…it depends.

The earliest print reference to the phrase “outer Richmond” appeared in the San Francisco Examiner in 1893, but this was just an unrelated aside about Richmond, Virginia.

It’s not until 1909 that the Examiner referred to “the new residential territory in the outer Richmond” in San Francisco. You’ll notice they opted not to capitalize “outer,” though; so is this just a quirk of historical news writing, or are they referring not to the Outer Richmond as a distinct neighborhood but simply to Richmond as a neighborhood that has an outer area?

Either way, this seems to have been the standard way to refer to the area near the Sutro Baths in papers like the San Francisco Call and the Record up through 1933, when the Examiner finally printed a reference to the “Outer Richmond district,” full caps.

(The story in question was a four-sentence space-filler telling us that it barely rained in the neighborhood the previous day–a real barn burner, that one.)

(The Richmond, circa 1907.)

But this was apparently not consistent, as the same paper would waffle back and forth on whether “Outer Richmond” should be treated as a proper noun well up through the 1940s, by which time we know the term had been everyday parlance for some time.

The phrase “inner Richmond district” first appeared in the San Francisco Call in 1908, but for decades afterward “inner Richmond” was used only to refer to a contentious land deal in the city of Richmond.

In 1936, an ad for real estate in the Examiner finally offered apartments in the “Inner Richmond district” (again, full caps), as well as in “Glenn [sic] Park” and the “Panhandle district.”

Across all San Francisco newspapers, “Inner Richmond” appeared just 18 times in the ’40s, but 498 times in the ’50s and then nearly 2,000 times in the ’60s. For some reason “Outer Richmond” nets only a fraction as many references most decades.

By the way, as much as some people won’t like to hear it, the phrase “Central Richmond” appeared in SF real estate ads as far back as 1901–argue amongst yourselves as you may.

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