Heart of San Francisco Walking Tour
This short walk is located in a few blocks surrounding San Francisco's City Hall and includes a variety of museums and monuments as well as historic buildings, churches, and homes.
Built in 1911, the building that is now the Ambassador Hotel was, for its first several years of existence, known as the Ferris Harriman Hotel and Theater. The hotel gained fame, however, from the 1970s until 1996, when the owner, Hank Wilson, opened the hotel to patients with AIDS and cared for them without any public assistance.
Original site of the Admission Day Monument, also known as the Native Sons Monument and the Phelan Fountain. Erected in 1897 to celebrate California statehood. It was moved to Golden Gate Park in 1948. But lobbying from the Native Sons led to it being moved again to Market, Post & Montgomery streets in 1977.
In 1929, the Glide Foundation was created by Methodist philanthropist Lizzie Glide in memory of her late millionaire cattleman husband, H.L. Glide. Construction of Glide Memorial Church began that year and was completed on January 11, 1931. Beginning in the 1960's, the church became heavily involved in grassroots community outreach and activism- particularly centered around women's rights, LGBTQ rights, addiction, homelessness, and racial equality. Due to their progressive theology and wide array of social programs, Glide Memorial Church has been a lightning rod for controversy over the years. After years of contentious debate- much of which surrounded the issue of gay marriage- Glide Memorial Church issued a declaration of independence from its former parent church, the United Methodist Church. As an independent non-profit, Glide continues to operate in the same capacity as it always has, offering both lively church services and as many as 87 social services to the community today.
In August 1966, The Compton's Cafeteria Riot marked an important date in the civil rights movement in the United States. The conflict erupted into violence during an aggressive police effort to close the establishment of Compton’s Cafeteria, a popular, 24-hour spot frequented by LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) patrons. Though largely forgotten, and not holding the same place in queer history as events like the Stonewall Riots in New York a few years later, it was nevertheless an important moment in San Francisco gay history because of the patrons’ violent response. It can be seen as a flashpoint, an eruption after years of conflict, resentment, and community. Compton’s Cafeteria no longer exists. The building remains on-site and at one time housed the Oshun Center - a women’s clinic that offered free care.
Opened in 2015 by Uptown Tenderloin, Inc.- an organization dedicated to local historical preservation and education- the Tenderloin Museum unravels 100 years of the vibrant, hidden history behind one of San Francisco's most infamous districts. Interactive exhibits at the museum feature a wide variety of art, memorabilia, artifacts, documents, and photographs which all pay tribute to the unique neighborhood where the Grateful Dead recorded an album and one of the first LGBTQ riots in United States history took place.
In late 1964, several homophile organizations collaborated to organize a fundraising ball for the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH), an organization of LGBT activists, lawyers, and, progressive church leaders, which took place in the California Hall Building on New Year’s Day 1965. Despite a seeming agreement that the ball would go on undisturbed, a large police task force showed up to raid the event and harass the attendees. The event is noteworthy for the unprecedented cooperation among LGBT rights groups, and the public attention it brought to police mistreatment of LGBT people in San Francisco. It was a turning point in San Francisco's gay history, leading to several concrete changes in policing, a coming together of various organizations, and greater public awareness of police treatment of the LGBT community in the city.
Little is known about the original owner of this historic home, Frederick D. Stadtmuller, beyond his fortune which was made in the Nevada mining industry before he moved to San Francisco around 1879. Stadtmuller didn't mine for precious metal, his fortune came from selling goods and equipment to the miners. This home was constructed shortly after his arrival in the city and was designed by architect P. R. Schmidt. The house stayed in the family until the mid-1900s when it was converted into a boarding house. After a decade or so the property was converted back into a family residence and remains a private home to this day.
The San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center (SFWMPAC) is one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States. Comprised of the War Memorial Opera House, the War Memorial Veterans Building, and the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, it covers 7.5 acres and totals 7,500 seats among its venues. The Opera House and Veterans Building were built in 1932; the Davies Symphony Hall was built in 1980. The "War Memorial" name commemorates all who served in the First World War, which had ended seven years earlier. Architect Arthur Brown Jr. designed the Opera House and Veterans building and were one of the last Beaux-Arts style structures erected in the United States.
Built as a replacement for the original City Hall building that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, construction on San Francisco's City Hall began in 1913 and was completed on July 28, 1916. The 500,000 square foot space is notable for its architectural grandeur- drawn from the Beaux-Arts style popularized during the American Renaissance period of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Over the years, City Hall has been the location of many historic events ranging from the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978 to San Francisco's first same-sex marriages in 2004.
Constructed in 1916 as the city’s main public library, the beautiful beaux arts building was transformed into the New Asian Art Museum and opened to the public on March 20, 2003. The Asian Art Museum is one of San Francisco’s premier arts institutions and home to a world-renowned collection of more than 18,000 Asian art treasures spanning 6,000 years of history. Through rich art experiences, centered on historic and contemporary artworks, the Asian Art Museum unlocks the past for visitors, bringing it to life, while serving as a catalyst for new art, creativity and thinking. As you explore the museum, you’ll be greeted by the Loggia with its barrel-vaulted ceiling and stately columnns overlooking the grand staircase, which leads you to the stunning Beaux-Arts architecture of Samsung Hall. From there you can wander through the many galleries that will give you a window into ancient India, a trek through the Himalayas, a tour of traditional China, and all the cultures in between.
This monument was created in 1894 by Frank Happersberger and is one of the landmarks of the Civic Center Plaza area. At the time of its creation, few residents were concerned about the way the monument depicted Native Americans as subservient to European Americans. In recognition of the monument's biased interpretation of history, residents petitioned for an additional plaque that would provide historical context related to the creation of the monument. In September 2018, that portion of the monument was removed, leaving its pedestal empty.
Currently occupied by the civic buildings and the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, this site was the home of the original San Francisco City Hall, which was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. It is also the site where the Riot of 1877 started, igniting a 2-day pogrom against the city’s Chinese immigrant population. The new library was built between 1993 and 1996 and replaced the previous main library that had been damaged by the 1989 earthquake.
Designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca for theater-circuit owner Alexander Pantages, the Orpheum first opened in 1926. The interior features a vaulted ceiling, while the facade was patterned after a 12th-century French cathedral. It can seat up to 2,203 guests. In 1998, $20 million was invested in renovating the theater to make it more suitable for Broadway shows. The theater has hosted a number of Broadway shows, and from April 30 to May 4, 2007, hosted Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Pioneer Monument by sculptor Frank Happersberger erected on this site in 1894 in front of San Francisco's new City Hall. It was moved in 1993 to make space for the new public library building. That move was protested by preservationists who wanted to keep it in its original location and by groups that opposed its depiction of Native Californians.
Joseph, Earle, Harry, and Herbert Miles filmed this footage of Market Street four days before the 1906 earthquake. The film is shot from a streetcar and starts at 8th and Market, travelling Northeast to The Embarcadero along the water. Recently, an anonymous user took the 1906 footage and added sound effects such as trolley bells and street sounds to enhance the video. The first video is that enhanced version (please remember that this footage was recorded in the era of silent films, so the audio you are hearing is a modern reconstruction). The second video includes footage of Market Street and other places throughout the city shortly after the earthquake and fires. Notice the complete destruction along parts of Market Street and the bread lines.
Hotel Whitcomb was completed in March of 1912 and while designed to be a hotel, its first use was a temporary location for San Francisco's City Hall, which had been destroyed in the infamous 1906 earthquake and fires that destroyed much of the city. The building served this purpose for four years, and during this period, the city jail operated within the basement. Upon the completion of the new City Hall in 1916, the building fulfilled its original purpose as a hotel.