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San Francisco: Tales of Minna Street | by Greatest Paka Photography
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San Francisco: Tales of Minna Street

Now almost totally hidden by the highrises that surround it, Minna Street in downtown San Francisco has a most unusual history. The street was named for Minnie ("Minna") Rae Simpson (1860-???), a preteen prostitute who lived and worked in this area in the second half of the 19th Century.

 

Left as an orphan at the age of nine, Minnie turned to prostitution in order to make a living. A year later she traveled to England where she met J. M. Barrie (who later wrote 'Peter Pan'). She became pregnant and claimed to be Barrie's wife. The character of 'Wendy' in Peter Pan may have been based on Minnie Rae. Returning to San Francisco she became friends with Emperor Norton I (Joshua A. Norton, 1818-1880). Both lived on the streets of San Francisco in the 1870's with Norton referring to her as "The Little Countess". The fate of Minnie Rae is unknown. She disappeared in 1873.

 

Minna Street is more of an alley today. In many places, shaded by the highrises that surround it, the sun never settles on the street below. In this recent photograph, the building seen in the background is the new Salesforce Tower. Immediately in front of the Tower is the '100 First Street Building' and, in front of that (marked "Trulia") is the '535 Mission Street Building'. On the right of the photograph is the 'Salesforce Transit Center' or, 'Transbay Terminal', a new 21st century transportation hub that will oneday serve the entire Bay Area and beyond.

 

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Taken on January 9, 2020