Civic Center

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Old San Francisco City Hall, Larkin St. near Grove, c 1898

Owing to corruption in city government, Old City Hall was built over a period of 27 years from 1871-1898 at a cost of $6 million. Its poor engineering and piecemeal variety of architectural styles earned it such nicknames as "the Cyclops" and "the ruin".


San Francisco City Hall circa 1890 which was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake was improperly engineered and some say the victim of corruption by Boss Abe Ruef and Mayor Eugene Schmitz


City Hall, from the corner of Ninth and Market, after the Earthquake, 1906

The new $6m building, which had been under construction for 20 years, was considered by some to be more noble as a ruin. Entire walls crumbled and massive stone columns fell into the street, leaving the relatively intact dome oddly perched above the twisted debris.


Old City Hall and the Hall of Records, Larkin St. near Grove

After a brief tenure in a small room above a Barbary Coast theater, the new San Francisco Public Library moved into the Larkin wing of Old City Hall in 1888. It was hoped that these more glamorous accommodations would raise the status of the library in public opinion.



Civic Center Plaza, c1913

Civic Center Plaza across from from the temporary City Hall, now Ramada Plaza Hotel, after the original City Hall was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake.

Civic Center — begun in 1913 and heavily influenced by the City Beautiful movement — is in an area of San Francisco that was originally sand dunes. Yerba Buena Cemetery had occupied the land since 1850 until it had to be moved after shifting sands uncovered some of the graves.



Shriners exhibit in front of the new City Hall, c1920

Mayor and Governor Sonny "Jim" Rolph
Pictured here with pet lion c1920

Civic Auditorium and Plaza, c1920

Adjacent to San Francisco City Hall is the Civic Auditorium, later remained the Bill Graham Auditorium


The City Hall of San Francisco California, opened in 1915, in its open space area in the city's Civic Center, is a Beaux-Arts monument to the brief "City Beautiful" movement that epitomized the high-minded American Renaissance of the period 1880-1917. The present building is actually a replacement for an earlier City Hall that was completely destroyed during the 1906 Earthquake.
The architect was Arthur Brown Jr., whose attention to the finishing details extended to the doorknobs and the typeface to be used in signage. Brown also designed San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House, Veterans Building, Temple Emanuel, Coit Tower and the Federal office building at 50 United Nations Plaza.

The original San Francisco City Hall in ruins following the 1906 Earthquake.
The building is vast, totalling over 500,000 square feet (46,000 m²) and occupying two full blocks of San Francisco. Its dome, which owes a lot to Mansart's dome of Les Invalides, Paris, is the fifth largest dome in the world, rising 307.5 feet (94 m) above the Civic Center national historic district. It is fourteen inches (356 mm) higher than the United States Capitol.

Les Invalides, Paris, 1679 President Warren G. Harding lay in state at City Hall after dying of pneumonia at the Palace Hotel in 1923. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married at City Hall in 1954. Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated there in 1978, by former Supervisor Dan White.


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