Ferry Building

Location: east end of Market Street at East Street (now Embarcadero).

The current Union Ferry Depot, commonly known as the Ferry Building, was completed in 1898, replacing earlier ferry buildings at the same site (first images below). Architect A. Page Brown modeled its clock tower on a tower in Seville. The building survived the 1906 earthquake and was not burned in the fire, so it remained in use as ferry terminal immediately after the event. The tower sustained earthquake damage (but postcard caption "Tower Destroyed by Earthquake" below is incorrect) and its clock stopped; damage and repairs are shown in images below.

Before the bridges were built in the 1930s, most visitors came to San Francisco through the Ferry Building. In 1915 a large "California Invites the World / Panama-Pacific Exposition" sign on the bay side of the building welcomed visitors and electic lights lit the tower at night, including an illuminated "1915" at the top (see 1915 Keystone film).

In the 1920s and 1930s, Market St. streetcars looped directly in front of the building. From the early 1920s through the mid-1940s, a pedestrian bridge crossed Embarcadero over the congested plaza, connecting directly into the second story of the building (photos and last postcard below). In 1925, the tower had an illuminated "1925" for the Diamond Jubilee celebration.

The Embarcadero Freeway was built along the Embarcadero in 1958 (last photo and last postcard below), obscuring the view of the Ferry Building from Market St. The freeway was removed after it was damaged by the 1989 earthquake and the Ferry Building received a major restoration in 2003. The city celebrated the P.P.I.E. centennial in 2015 by installing a replica of the illuminated "1915" on the clock tower, confusing many visitors.


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See also:

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