The Saloon is the oldest bar in San Francisco. Established as Wagner's Beer Hall in 1860 by Alsatian immigrant Ferdinand E. Wagner, The Saloon is now a thriving blues club, and still uses the original wooden bar counter. After changing hands and names several times, the establishment became "The Saloon" in 1984, when Myron Mu re-opened the bar his father had purchased in the 1950s. For its 150th anniversary in 2010, the descendants of the Wagners attended a live music celebration at The Saloon.
Backstory and Context
Wagner operated a fruit store in the building for two years before applying for a permit to open his beer hall. Nine years later Ferdinand's son, Edward Wagner, took over the business, eventually selling it in 1884. By 1906, the first floor of Wagner's Beer Hall was still a saloon, but the second and third floors operated as a small brothel frequented by the U.S. Navy and the police and fire departments. During the fires resulting from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, according to Saloon legend, the building was saved precisely because of this alliance--either that, or because of the firefighter and Navy efforts to save the Barbary Coast (America's first red-light district) as flames neared the highly explosive Hotaling Whiskey Warehouse, the largest West Coast repository of whiskey.
During Prohibition, the Saloon was known as The Poodle Dog Cafe, returning to its status as a beer garden in 1933. After changing hands and names several times, the establishment became "The Saloon" in 1984, when Myron Mu re-opened the bar his father had purchased in the 1950s. For its 150th anniversary in 2010, the descendants of the Wagners attended a live music celebration at The Saloon.
Historic Marker Inscription:
Here before you is the oldest saloon in San Francisco. Alsatian immigrant Fredinand E. Wagner ran a fruit store in this building from 1858 to 1859, later transforming it into “Wagner’s Beer Hall” in 1860. Taking over for his father in 1869, Edward Wagner successfully ran the establishment until its sale in 1884.
This saloon has had numerous owners over the years, surviving the 1906 earthquake with the help of San Francisco firemen and/or Navy crews. It then survived Prohibition by being renamed from “The Poodle Dog Saloon” to the prohibition name “The Poodle Dog Cafe”.
With the repeal in 1933, this establishment was once again a beer garden, changing names a few more times until it became just simply and rightly so “The Saloon” in 1984.
Erected 2014 by E Clampus Vitus, Yerba Buena Chapter No. 1.
Marker series. This marker is included in the E Clampus
Vitus marker series.
Huet, Ellen. The Saloon, S.F.'s Oldest Bar and Live Blues Venue, Turns 150 This Weekend. SF Weekly. October 07, 2011. Accessed April 01, 2017. http://archives.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2011/10/07/the-saloon-sfs-oldest-bar-and-live-blues-venue-turns-150-this-weekend.
N'amara, Leila. 5 Historically Badass Places in SF you can Still Visit Today. Upout. June 29, 2015. Accessed April 01, 2017. http://www.upout.com/blog/san-francisco-3/sinful-then-and-sinful-now-5-historically-badass-places-in-sf-you-can-still-visit-today.