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Hale Brothers Department Store, San Francisco
In the 1906 earthquake, the Hale Brothers' dry goods store was severely damaged. So in 1912 a new store was opened at 901 Market Street called Hale Brothers Department Store, it was one of San Francisco's largest. The Hale Brothers Francis, Marshall and Reuben installed an experimental radio broadcast transmitter in the store. KPO was built at a cost of just $2,400, and made its debut at 9 AM on April 17, 1922.

Note that the antenna is a series of parallel wires strung between two towers. The station was soon sold to NBC, and, in 1933, the studio was moved to the 21st floor of 111 Sutter St. There, KGO and KPO (renamed KNBC) were in NBC's Red and Blue networks. In the early 1960's, NBC wanted to move the KNBC call letters to its Los Angeles TV station KRCA, to commemorate their move from the Hollywood Radio City building to new studios in Burbank. As a result, the call letters of its San Francisco radio station were changed once again, this time from KNBC to KNBR.

Later the building housed a Marshall's Department Store, then was registered in 1986 on the National Register of Historic Places and remodeled.


The photo to the right shows the original 1922 radio studio on the sixth floor. A piano and a phonograph were provided as a source of program material.

The transmitter is the large black panel in the rear, and a light bulb above it indicated when the station was on the air. To the right of the transmitter is a carbon microphone, a Westinghouse RC receiver, which was used to monitor for ships in distress, and a Victrola for the DJ.

This photo shows the fancy, new amplifier installed in 1925. If this looks primitive to you, remember that this was after the beginning of the classic era of Lionel Standard Gauge.

Actually the Lionel "Department Store Special" that prompted me to post these web pages was likely sold in 1925 or 1926. It was at a time when Lionel no longer used hook couplers. In the photos of the train set, you can see that the factory swapped out hook couplers from the #19 Combine and replaced them with combination/latch couplers.

At one time, the train set and this amplifier, and likely this serious guy, were in the same building on Market Street in San Francisco!

Here is the Hale Brothers building today. In 1986, it was remodeled into an office building with shopping stores at the ground level.

Anshen + Allen, a national architectural firm, was one of the first occupants of the building after the remodel and occupy the upper floor, which is an addition to the original building. Not really noticeable in this view except for the fringe of foliage at the top of the uppermost cornice.

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