These 100-Year-Old Bars Are Aging as Well as the Whiskey

They've outlasted earthquakes, fires, Prohibition and more

By Diane Rommel

These 100-Year-Old Bars Are Aging as Well as the Whiskey
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13 March 2017

It's no mean feat surviving 150 years in San Francisco: fires, earthquakes, locusts, etc.

But if you know where to look, a second-to-none urban history beckons. (Question: Where's our version of  The Knick? Who's got the HBO take on the Barbary Coast?) 

Easiest way to experience it? 

Beer in hand. At one of these five bars: our favorite watering holes — that are over a century old (with most of them clocking in closer to a century and a half).

Here's to looking back with all the enthusiasm we usually reserve for looking forward. 

Bar: The Saloon
Founded: 1861, as Wagner's Beer Hall
Vibe: City's best blues bar (arguable but credible)
Amazing historical tidbit: "Drunks who stumbled out of this tavern risked being 'shanghaied' for nasty and ill-paid ocean voyages."
Go: 1232 Grant Ave.

Bar: The Old Ship Saloon
Founded: 1851
Vibe: Neighborhood watering hole just transferred to new, preservation-minded owners
Amazing historical tidbit: "It is built atop the ruins of the Arkansas, a Gold Rush ship that ran aground on Alcatraz in 1849. After being towed to shore, the ship got a second life as a bar in 1851."
Go: 298 Pacific Ave

Bar: House of Shields
Founded: 1908
Vibe: After going perhaps too far in the dive bar direction, this now rather gleaming after-work spot benefited from a wholesale reno in 2010 courtesy of a new owner — who insists on no TVs and no clocks
Amazing historical tidbit: "Though the official story is that President William Harding died at the [nearby Palace] hotel from food poisoning, others will whisper confidently that he did, in fact, die at the House of Shields, with a woman who was not his wife."
Go: 39 New Montgomery St.

Bar: The Little Shamrock
Founded: 1893
Vibe: Cozy college bar
Amazing historical tidbit: This is an Inner Sunset survivor, of the 1906 earthquake (a now-antique clock on the wall has experienced "no tick since April 18, 1906," according to a sign beneath it) — and of Loma Prieta, when the lights went out but the drinks kept flowing.
Go: 807 Lincoln Way

Bar: Elixir
Founded: 1858
Vibe: A cocktail drinker's bar and Mission institution
Amazing historical tidbit: "Destroyed by the tragic earthquake of 1906, the tenacious then-owner was one of the only barkeeps to rebuild his bar in the same exact spot."
Go: 3200 16th Street

Photos: The Saloon by James Carroll. The Old Ship Saloon via Flickr. House of Shields by Jessica Stout

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