Vesuvio Café, San Francisco

The iconic exterior sign. Click on photo above to access the rest of our posts on the cultural heritage of Vesuvio.

“The secret of drunkenness is, that it insulates us in thought, whilst it unites us in feeling.”  
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Vesuvio Café (called “Vesuvio” for short) in San Francisco, California, is a full-fledged bar. However, is it only a place that serves alcoholic beverages, the occasional bag of pretzels, and raunchy conversation? Or is a deeper, more abstract presence at work here that turned a rough and ready, working-class business into a hub for Counter-Culturalists, art, tolerance, intellectual thought, and the formation of a rich, San Francisco‘s history? Working as cultural heritage management consultants, we bet on the latter. Interpretation at Vesuvio Café poses a unique challenge. Unlike most heritage sites that are gigantic, natural formations or old buildings that are often in ruins, Vesuvio is a living, working business; a bar with a firm grasp of its own identity. Since Vesuvio is not a typical heritage site, the analysis of its cultural impact cannot be conventional either. The interpretation of Vesuvio should be as dynamic and engaging as the bar itself, and while efforts should be made to celebrate and commemorate the bar’s rich history, preservation as if in a glass jar is not necessarily the goal. Though Vesuvio wants to remain as a place reminiscent of the past, it also wants to be an active participant in its present, and productively carry on into the future. Vesuvio’s identity has always been as a space that welcomes people from all walks of life and where individuality is respected inside the bar even if the rest of society outside disagrees. This manifesto, if you will, has been central to its historical significance as an iconic North Beach bar, and for its ongoing success as an invaluable San Francisco institution. Efforts should be made to celebrate and commemorate the bar’s rich history. We hope to both continue with the bar’s triumphs so far and expand on its possibilities.

Click on this link for a look at the PDF file of our complete Interpretive Plan for Vesuvio.

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A short film about the different types of cultural heritage of one of San Francisco’s gems in historic North Beach, and why it deserves a little more recognition and acclamation.

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The mural (photo below) on Vesuvio’s exterior wall in Jack Kerouac Alley was documented using an interactive photography technique called GigaPan that can be viewed by clicking on this link.

Click on this image to view in full screen.


Sarah DurkinSarah is an Anthropology major at The University of California. She is originally from the  Bay Area and loves a good plate of Pad Thai.

Zena Kruzick

Zena is and Anthro/Psych major at the University of California, Berkeley. She loves tribal art, is president of Village Relief Foundation, and is a founding member of SF Tribal.

Erica Pallo

Erica is a fourth-year Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies (focus on International Pop Culture) double major. She likes to travel, take photos, make videos, and eat good food then write about it all in her personal blog, and take her dog Miles to the park.

Caitlin Pritzkat

Caitlin is an Anthropology major at the University of California at Berkeley. She loves archaeology, English novels and cheese.

Music: “Captain Hugo” courtesy of Hugo ‘Droopy’ Contini.


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