Old Buildings, Jackson Street, Jackson Square Historic District

The Financial District has plenty of the type of  modern buildings that you would expect to find in such a prestige area, but if you know where to look there is still history to be found surprisingly close to the modern buildings. The Jackson Square district was constructed on landfill in the 1850s to provide a new waterfront. The building in the centre of this picture is the Mouline Building built in 1852.

Union Square

During the US Civil War, big pro-Union rallies were held in San Francisco. The rallies were instrumental in  California joining the war on the Union side. The site of the park where rallies were held is commemorated in the name Union Square. Nothing remains from the days of the rallies as the 1906 earthquake levelled most of the original buildings around the park, construction of a giant underground car park in the 1940s saw the park turned unto a roof garden and the 1990s saw most of the garden paved over.  This is the area to stay if you want o be close to the shops and theatres.

City Hall

The magnitude 8.2 earthquake that struck San Francisco on April 18, 1906 and the subsequent fires destroyed around 28,000 buildings. Among the buildings destroyed was San Francisco City Hall and the pictures of the old City Hall in ruins are very symbolic of the scale of devastation.  It was replaced by the current City Hall completed in 1915. Designed by John Bakewell and Arthur Brown Junior  its 90 metre (307 foot) high dome was modelled on Les Invalides in Paris. City Hall survived the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 but suffered some  damage including a twisted dome. This suggested that it  would be vulnerable to a larger earthquake so major work was instigated which inserted special isolators into the base of the building to reduce the transmission of an earthquake to the structure.   

Ferry Building from Embarcadero

Until the bridge building era of the 1930s, travellers heading for San Francisco from the east or north had to complete their journey by ferry. The Ferry Building was completed in 1898, replacing a wooden Ferry House built in 1875. It prospered until 1936 when the Bay Bridge killed the ferries and made the Ferry Building obsolete overnight. Much of the decoration was ripped out to convert it into a shop and office complex. Ferry services began to return in the 1970s and the building has now been renovated to house a food marketClick Tab 2 to see the food market.


At the heart of downtown San Francisco is the shopping, theatre and hotel district around Union Square. It sits between the two contrasting parts of the downtown area, the high rise Financial District to the east  and the more formal Civic Center to the west.  The roots of the Financial District go back to the Gold Rush when miners came to Montgomery Street to have their gold weighed. Montgomery Street was originally on the waterfront, but Gold Rush boom    created pressure for more land so in-filling progressively moved the waterfront to the east until it reached its modern position at The Embarcadero. 

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Donahue Mechanics Monument, Market & Bush Streets

Peter Donahue was a  Irish blacksmith who arrived in San Francisco in 1849. He opened a small blacksmith shop at the corner of Mission and First Streets then built a fortune by growing his business into the first foundry on the Pacific Coast, the Union Ironworks. The Mechanics Monument was completed by sculptor Douglas Tilden in 1901 as a tribute not just to Peter Donahue but also to the many people who toiled for him to build the Union Ironworks and create his fortune.



Transamerica Pyramid from Columbus Street,

After the 1906 earthquake San Francisco was rebuilt in a hurry so many buildings were constructed to a lower standard that those destroyed in the earthquake and subsequent fire. Fearful of a repeat of 1906 the city authorities initially kept San Francisco  a low rise city. Better understanding of earthquake resistant design allowed this rule to be relaxed and the Financial District has now become high rise. The most famous high rise building is the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest structure in San Francisco and for a short time was the tallest west of the Mississippi. Opened in 1972 it is 260 metres (853 feet) tall including the spire. Its ability to withstand earthquakes was proved in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake - the top floor swayed more than 30 cm (1 foot) but the building was undamaged.

 Union Square, San Francisco, CA, USA
 City Hall, San Francisco, CA, USA
 Ferry Building from Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA, USA
Tab 1
Tab 2
 Transamerica Pyramid from Columbus Street, San Francisco, CA, USA
 Old Buildings, Jackson Street, Jackson Square Historic District, San Francisco, CA, USA
 Donahue Mechanics Monument, Market & Bush Streets, San Francisco, CA, USA
- Not the most memorable part of the city, but nevertheless worth exploring.
- Nothing to report.
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