Twenty years ago, the thought of finding one of San Francisco's ultra-chic corridors in Hayes Valley would have been considered absurd. Like New York City's Times Square of old, the area, bordered by the Van Ness performing-arts district and the Western Addition around Laguna Street, was a seedy reminder for opera and symphony patrons of the city's homeless and drug problems. But over the past decades, Hayes Valley has developed into a haven for haute couture.Where the terms "ladies of the street" and "gentlemen of the street" once identified those who conducted an illegal exchange of various earthly sins for money, today they refer to the street's myriad window shoppers and restaurant-goers. Where the crack houses and tenements once stood, now there are trendy fashion boutiques, SoHo-style funky art galleries, high-end interior-decorating shops, top-notch restaurants and hip nightspots.Hayes Valley came to prominence when film director Erich von Stroheim chose the corner of Hayes and Laguna for the filming of his 1924 epic "Greed." His affections were for a 19th-century Victorian that had been built in the early 1880s by Col. Michael Hayes as an amusement pavilion, though word has it Hayes constructed the building to lure an extension of the streetcar line to Hayes Valley. The building survived the 1906 earthquake and fire and at the time of filming was occupied only on the ground floor, by a French laundry and the Hayes Valley Pharmacy, which remained in business until the 1960s. Stroheim created signs for a dentist's office and a photographer's workplace for the movie, which fooled some locals into believing they were real. The film included numerous shots from the top floor of the building looking down on Hayes Valley. He also used 595-597 Hayes, a building that acted as a storeroom in the 1920s, as the site of the saloon in the film.
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