Iconic San Francisco Cable Car turns 150 years old. Here's a look at the celebration

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, August 3, 2023
Iconic San Francisco Cable Car turns 150 years old
Cable Cars are synonymous with San Francisco and recognized around the world. It all started in 1873 with an idea to navigate the city's hills.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Cable Cars are synonymous with San Francisco and recognized around the world. It all started in 1873, with an innovative idea to navigate the city's hills. Wednesday, San Francisco celebrated 150 years of the iconic mode of transportation.

It's a bucket list experience to ride on a cable car.

Some are unaware that they've been rescued from near oblivion a few times.

"Right now, the cable car exist in the City and County of San Francisco and let me tell you why, because of women," expressed San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

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To honor their history this year, San Francisco is celebrating 150 years of cable cars and opening the doors of the carpentry shop to the public.

When city leaders wanted to embrace new cars and freeways in the 1940s and 50s, San Francisco socialite Friedel Klussmann and her women-led group campaigned to preserve the cable cars.

They were so internationally known, that celebrities like Mick Jagger stepped in help then Mayor Dianne Feinstein raise money to refurbish the old fleet.

"We've done it! Alright, thank you Mick Jagger," That was Feinstein after thanking Jagger for doing a photo-op with her on a cable car. It brought a lot of attention.

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Without Feinstein's campaign in 1982 to raise $60 million from the private sector and from the federal government, the cable cars would have likely disappeared.

Citing health issues, Senator Feinstein was unable to attend Wednesday's celebration in downtown San Francisco.

"In tribute to her, that we wouldn't be here if she hadn't made that strong step when she was mayor of San Francisco to save the cable cars," explained House Speaker Emerita, Nancy Pelosi.

Another woman who muscled her way to become, in 1998, the first female cable car grip was Fannie Mae Barnes. She was at Wednesday's event.

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"Growing up in a small town in Georgia my mom told me, baby you can do exactly what you want to do. You just have to put in the work and that's exactly what I did," said Barnes.

"When you walk down to Powell and Market and you see 250 people standing in line, six cable cars, to pick them up, you know that Tony Bennett was right," added former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

As a tribute to Bennett, a cable car will now be named after the also iconic singer who recently passed.

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