Welcome to the future! Or at least to San Francisco in the 1960s.

You’ll soon be able to stream video of the city in all its glory, thanks to a new website called SF Riots, featuring vintage footage from the height of the hippie era. The videos are an amazing blend of performance and fashion, and they feature some of the hottest artists of the era, including Robert Pattinson, Jefferson Airplane and Mott The Hoople.

San Francisco is often credited as the epicenter of the hippie movement in the U.S. It was certainly a hub, with famous communes such as the Fillmore Area attracting people from all over the world. It was also one of the first major cities to enact some of the most progressive drug policy laws in the country. In October 1966, the mayor declared a total marijuana moratorium, and only a few miles from where you’re reading this, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was filled with hippies smoking ganja and listening to some of the greatest rock music ever recorded.

The Fillmore district, home to the famous San Francisco Renaissance music festival, continues to this day to be a mecca for live music and art, attracting international audiences as well as locals who want to indulge in some nostalgia. Artists, performers and visitors can all enjoy modern-day San Francisco within the Golden Gate Bridge’s golden mile.

On the other side of the bridge, Alcatraz Island has become a world-class tourist destination and a permanent home to several dozen Native Americans. Its dark history, as a maximum security prison and an experimental relocation site for high-profile criminals, still resonates with many who live in the area and with visitors to the city. It was during a school trip to the island that journalist Ben MacLeman realized that he had found his calling- he had to tell the story of Alcatraz Island in a book. The result was The Rock: San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Birth of an American City, published in 2008.

But back to the 1960s and the streets of San Francisco- the center of it all was Market Street, the city’s main drag, which still has some of the greatest restaurants, cafés and shops in the country. There were places to buy clothes, shoes and accessories as well as the staples like food and medicine. And don’t forget about the hotels! In an era when travel was more expensive but more luxurious, hotel rooms were a top priority for many.

What happened was inevitable. With the dawn of the modern age, people wanted to capture the city’s unique environment, beauty and vitality for themselves. Tourists became ubiquitous, snapping photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city’s famous landmarks. Some companies, like Lonely Planet, even compiled entire guides to cities around the world, dubbing them “blue books”- travel guides printed on heavy paper and sold only in travel stores. It was evident that something had to be done, and in 2012 a Kickstarter was launched to raise funds for a website that would bring together photos and videos of San Francisco, organized into a time-line exhibition. The resulting website, SF Riots, now features over 450 videos, ranging from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, documenting the transition from the dark shadow of the Alcatraz prison to the Summer of Love.

The Early Years

The idea for SF Riots came from Lonely Planet’s senior editor, Rebecca Lieb, who wanted to capture the unique atmosphere of the city during a time when everyone and everything was changing. When she first heard about the project, she knew she had to be a part of it. The first step was to find the footage, which was stored at studios and archives all over the world. The research and filming for the project took over a year and a half, and involved traveling to all five continents (well, almost).

The first videos, which featured clips from the mid-1950s, showed the city as it was becoming increasingly multicultural, with people of different nationalities and colors living alongside each other. The city’s famous rainbow flag, first adopted in the 1960s, was waving proudly from many a rooftop. The area around Civic Center now features Victorian-era storefronts, blending perfectly with the classic San Francisco architecture.

The market for vintage photos and movies increased tenfold after the release of the 2005 movie Batman Begins, when it became apparent that cinematography of that era was extremely valuable, and not always easy to find. Many photographers and filmmakers began to see the potential of the material, and the sale of stock footage from the early 1960s doubled after the movie’s release.

The Summer of Love

The story behind the Summer of Love is well-known: in the middle of what turned out to be the most destructive wildfire in the city’s history, events were shifted to the Summer of Love, which ran from June 12 to August 12, 1967. But that was only the beginning. The real fireworks began on August 6, when San Francisco mayor Joseph Alioto banned all motorcycle riding, leading to widespread protests and mayhem. In the days that followed, motorbikes were everywhere, and even kids were getting on two wheels. On August 8, the Summer of Love was officially declared to be over, but the damage had already been done. More than 100 people were arrested at the peak of the protests, and businesses lost billions of dollars as a result of the riots. In many ways, the Summer of Love still resonates today, not only with the original fans of the movement but with anyone who was there at the time. It was a turning point in the city’s history, and something that will never be forgotten.

The Summer of Love not only had a profound effect on San Francisco, but as well on the nation as a whole. Hippie culture completely changed the face of American media, music and fashion, and many believe that San Francisco’s “Summer of Love” was a catalyst for the larger cultural revolution of the 60s. On June 14, 2019, the 50th anniversary of that historic event, many of the city’s iconic landmarks came together to pay homage to the movement that changed America. Some of the city’s most recognizable structures were dressed in festive, rainbow-colored garb, and thousands of fans gathered outside to celebrate.

It was a magical time, and the highlight of that year was the infamous “Human Be-In.” On March 25 and 26, thousands of fans gathered in Golden Gate Park, with many more travelling to the city for an impromptu happenings along the parade ground and in the alleys behind the plaza. It was a coming-out party for a nation that was just discovering music, art, and counterculture. The event, which lasted all weekend and into the early morning hours of Monday, March 27, had a lasting influence on San Francisco, art and music, and even changed the course of U.S. history.

The “Summer of Love” Years (a.k.a. The Dark Age)

Many of the city’s iconic businesses closed down during the height of the hippie movement, and what were formerly luxurious hotels and department stores became veritable warehouses, as fans stocked up on supplies for the many concerts and gathering spots that popped up around the city, including the famous Golden Gate Park.

While some businesses adapted and began to embrace the new culture, others were wary of the changing social climate, and the city’s elite began to flee. By the beginning of the 1970s, with the nation deeply in the grip of the counterculture, it was time for many to hang up their sandals and heels, and flee to warmer climates. In the years that followed, as the backlash from the ’60s evolved into something akin to a mainstream movement, people began to dub the decade of the ’60s the “Dark Age” for San Francisco. There was still beauty and creativity in the city though- as the ’70s began to emerge, so did an art scene, which continues to thrive. Today, the signs of the counterculture remain prevalent in the city, which continues to attract tourists and young people searching for that unique experience.

The Rise Of YouTube And TikTok

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the “Summer of Love” was Twitter, which debuted in 2007 and went massively viral in the summer of that year. The following years were a whirlwind as the microblogging platform evolved into a full-blown social media star, helping to invent the “tastes of Instagram” trend that persists to this day. In many ways, the invention of TikTok, which became one of the most popular apps on the planet, marked the beginning of the end for the golden era of San Francisco. While many had anticipated the rise of TikTok and its competitors, like Musical.ly and YouNow, few could have predicted how quickly and how profoundly the app and the video platform would change the world.