Haight-Ashbury: The Hippie Epicenter

By | November 29, 2016

Iconic Haight and Ashbury Street Corner

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Haight and Ashbury, the iconic street corner that stands today as San Francisco's hippie counterculture district derived from the 1960's. From humble beginnings to a psychedelic mindset that would sweep the nation and eventually change the world forever. It's bright colors and intricate Victorian homes stand as a historical testament to the times, the hippie culture still abundant. 

In the 1800's it began as an undeveloped area consisting of modest sprawling farms and sand dunes. It wasn't until 1883 that the area connected to the Golden Gate Park and downtown San Francisco with the construction of the Haight Cable Car Line. In 1886, an amusement park called The Chutes was completed. With the completion of California League Baseball Grounds stadium in 1887, the area had slowly become a thriving entertainment destination. The street name's original roots came from pioneer and exchange banker as well as San Francisco neighborhood planners; Henry Haight and Munroe Ashbury. 

With the aftermath of The Depression and the 1950's proposal for a freeway to run through the neighborhood, the housing market took a plunge providing cheap rooms for rent and vacant properties.

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Influenced by The Beat Generation; a literary group defying the social norms of the 1950's, the 1960's would bring an influx of hippies to the neighborhood. The colorful homes and cheap rent would attract young people from all over America, excited about the counterculture ideals of drugs and music. Deemed "Hashbury" by Hunter S. Thompson in The New York Times, the area quickly became a mecca for the hippie community. The renowned Psychedelic Shop was opened in January of 1966, providing the community with easy access to drugs by selling marijuana and LSD. Considered a community unifier, the Psychedelic Shop and neighboring coffee shop The Blue Unicorn brought together freaks, heads and hippies alike. Rock star legends such as The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane gave immense recognition to the intersection through their music and song lyrics and would play often as they lived close by. A street theatre group known as The Diggers also made history with their ideas of a free society and the good in human nature. They created a free store and would supply free meals as well as a free medical clinic, the first of its kind.

In 1967, what is now known as "The Summer of Love", the enlightened, psychedelic period would peak. It was Haight Ashbury that would attract over 100,000 people to the area, quickly becoming an epicenter for free thinking, creative expression, free love, free drugs and free food. The Monterey Pop Festival that June would attract 60,000 people and the song "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" would take flight on the charts. With explosive media coverage and the song by Scott McKenzie sweeping the nation, more and more people were loading up their cars and showing up to San Francisco to be apart of the movement. With a complete lack of police authority and rise of hard drugs, the area quickly began to suffer from homelessness, hunger, drug abuse, overcrowding and crime. Hippies were forced to leave, bringing the spirit of Haight Ashbury in their hearts and to their hometowns spreading their love of free thinking around the world.