You may not have realized it, but if you’ve ever walked down Potomac Street to Duboce Park, you’ve passed a house with a very unique history.
At 51 Potomac is a plaque that reads:
“IN EARLY DECEMBER 1939, THE MEETING OF THE FIRST GROUP OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS ON THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES WAS HELD IN THE KITCHEN OF 51 POTOMAC STREET.”
According to an alcoholism awareness group called the Hindsfoot Foundation, the story goes like this.
Alcoholics Anonymous began in the 1930s as a loose association of groups, primarily located in the New York City area and the Midwest. Together they compiled a book, Alcoholics Anonymous, but were unsure of how to distribute it to a wider audience.
Fortunately, one of their members knew a prominent radio commentator named Gabriel Heatter. He got Heatter to tell his listeners the story of the book, and how it could help those struggling with alcoholism.
One person who heard the radio broadcast was named Mrs. Gordon Oram, who ran a boarding house at 51 Potomac here in San Francisco. Concerned for one of her boarders who clearly had a problem with alcohol, Mrs. Oram ordered a copy of the book.
Later that year, members of the New York group visited San Francisco. They reached out to local residents who had made contact with the organization, including Mrs. Oram’s boarder. The handful of men met up in a room at the Clift Hotel, but soon realized that they would need to form an official San Francisco A.A. group and find a regular location where they could gather.
Mrs. Oram offered up 51 Potomac, and in December of 1939, the first official meeting of the A.A. on the West Coast was held in her kitchen.
According to A.A.’s website, there are now more than 700 meetings happening on a regular basis in the Bay Area alone. But the first one ever happened right here in the Lower Haight.
Now that’s what we call secretly awesome!