When you walk by the nondescript tan building at 1336 Grove St., there’s not much reason to stop. San Francisco is full of architectural gems and this facade is pretty simple. There are no brightly painted colors, no Victorian flourishes, no splashy sign — just a small logo pasted on the glass front doors for a contracting company. But tilt your head back and glimpse the very top of the center of the building and you’ll see an ornamental horse head poking out.
This emblem is a nod to what this ordinary commercial building once was — a livery stable, one of many former horse stables that are hidden in plain sight in the city. These buildings were an important fixture of any San Francisco neighborhood in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the pre-car era, residents that wanted a private way to get around but didn’t have room to house their horses at home kept horses in communal stables called liveries that were centralized in neighborhoods.