The Tenderloin Museum – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

The Tenderloin Museum

A walk down memory lane in the heart of one of San Francisco's most notorious neighborhoods. 


The Tenderloin Museum, which opened in June of 2015, is an unlikely slice of culture in one of San Francisco’s best known neighborhoods.

The museum was opened by the Uptown Tenderloin, Inc., and an assortment of dedicated community members who wanted to create a special institution celebrating the history of their neighborhood.

The museum resides in a corner of a single-room occupancy apartment complex called the Cadillac Hotel. Inside, ornate black and burgundy wallpaper adorns the walls, reminiscent of a speakeasy or flapper bar. The look is intentional, as the Tenderloin neighborhood has a scandalous history of prohibition, prostitutes, and overall promiscuous behavior. Photographs and newspaper clippings line the walls, and are accompanied by videos and sound clips that help to convey a full sensory history of the neighborhood.

The gift shop sells the work of local artists on a rotating schedule instead of selling the usual gimmicks. On their tours, neighborhood secrets are revealed such as the best places to view drag on the weekends, and murals containing portraits of the neighborhood’s residents.

For anyone who wants to dig deeper into the history of San Francisco, the Tenderloin Museum should not be missed.

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