J.B. Monaco Photography

The photography studios unlike the other businesses of the early 1900s, were located on the top floor of buildings rather than either in the generic ground floor commercial space or on their own lot. In the early days of still photography, studios required unobstructed light for studio shots and outdoor space to dry prints. In dense urban settings, these were only available on the top floors and rooftops of buildings. In 1913, there were at least six Italian -owned photography studios identified on the Sanborn maps in North Beach, all fitting this pattern: 678-696 Filbert Street; 201 Columbus Avenue (the former studio of J.B. Monaco). The Swiss-Italian immigrant Giovanni Batista (J.B.) Monaco and his brother Louis opened their photography studio to San Francisco in 1888. The building still exist today with the original skylights. Notably, the historic images captured over the span of 70 years by J.B. Monaco, known as the dean of North Beach photographers, left his imprint on Italian culture. Although he was well-known for his studio portraits, he was also one of the photographers that captured the 1906 disaster as it happened.


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