If San Francisco was the center of the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960's, the city's Haight-Ashbury District was the heart and soul. The cheap rent and distinctive personality of the area, with its old and ornate Victorian homes, attracted many free spirits and bohemian types, and it wasn't long before the Haight had become famous across the country as a hippie haven until the movement crumbled in the late 60's. Nowadays, a lot of the neighborhood has softened its once-edgy vibe into a more touristy feel, but you can still catch the occasional glimpse of the way "Hashbury" (as Hunter S. Thompson called it) was back at the height of the hippie movement.
You can still walk among the homes and shops and spot the places where 60s icons lived, played, and worked (and by "worked", I mean "partied".) Here's our self-guided walking tour of the most important spots in the Haight.
This humble home once played host to OG Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. He spent a part of the 60s writing a book called "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang" and this is where he lived while he spent time getting to know the members of the notorious gang. His neighbors were reportedly not thrilled to have Hell's Angels stopping by at all hours of the day and night, but Thompson was able to hold his own with the rough and tumble motorcycle gang members. Thompson drifted apart from the gang and moved out, although the book launched him to fame and success.
So how did a motorcycle gang like Hell's Angels wind up living alongside a bunch of hippies, anyhow? We have the Grateful Dead to thank for that. The rockers hired the gang to serve as their bodyguards, and the Hell's Angels took to the neighborhood... might have had something to do with the fact that they were able to unload some illegal substances on the hippies.
Hashbury has been attracting stars even beyond the psychedelic 60s. In 1978, notorious rock star Sid Vicious overdosed (but survived the ordeal) at this Haight-Ashbury Victorian after the last Sex Pistols show at the Winterland Ballroom. Kind of a creepy stop, but not as weird as the next house on the tour.
If you don't know the full saga of the Symbionese Liberation Army, it's worth a Google. The radical revolutionary activist group committed murders, bank robberies, kidnappings, and other acts of violence, all in the name of peace and equality. Their most famous crime? Kidnapping heiress and socialite Patty Hearst, who became a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and was reportedly brainwashed into committing a bank robbery with the group. She and other SLA members hid out in this house on Masonic Avenue for awhile, before they were found, arrested and sentenced. Hearst was later pardoned for her role in the robbery.
After Janis moved out of her home on Ashbury, she moved into this building on Lyon Street, and this is where she was living when she shot to stardom at the Monterey Pop Festival. Imagine what the Haight was like right at the edge of the counterculture movement... it seriously must have been a crazy place to be at that moment.
The next famous person's house you can see is the former home of Charles Manson. Before he moved to LA to make it big as a musician, he lived in this San Francisco Victorian with some of his earliest followers. He found it a little tough to compete with the other cult leaders in the SF area to gain followers and influence, so he moved to LA, where he and his band of drugged-up hippies went on their famed Helter Skelter killing spree, driving the final nail into the coffin of the counterculture movement.
What ever happened to predictability... if that line got you thinking of the theme song to the popular 90s sitcom "Full House", then the last stop is for you. It's a little further out of the Haight, but the home that was used for exterior shots of the Tanner family's abode is pretty famous in its own right. It's been repainted since the show was on the air, but the home is unmistakable. If only Uncle Jesse still lived here...
Keep in mind that all of these are private residences now, so be respectful, take your pictures from the sidewalk, and don't be loud or rude. If you want to burn off some steam or mingle with the locals, head to Golden Gate Park or one of the many bars in the hood!
Just a Civil War beard enthusiast, writer at Roadtrippers, and aspiring astronaut reaching for the stars.