San Francisco Financial District Walking Tour

This short walking tour includes over a dozen historic buildings in Chicago's famed Financial District surrounding the Transamerica Pyramid. The tour concludes at the original location of Ghirardelli's chocolate factory.

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William Alexander Leidesdorff Statue
On the busy streets of San Francisco, one may pass by a statue of William Alexander Leidesdorff without even knowing that those streets wouldn’t have been there today without his contributions. Leidesdorff was the son of a Danish Jewish sugar planter and a black plantation worker and migrated to California in 1841. While living there, Leidesdorff was a pioneer of growth in the city. Leidesdorff lived a brief time on the west coast before he passed away at the very young age of 38. With his successful merchant work and many business investments Leidesdorff is considered the first person of African descent to be a millionaire.
San Francisco Merchant's Exchange and Julia Morgan Ballroom
Construction of the Merchant's Exchange building began in 1904. This fifteen-story structure was one of the only structures to survive the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire that destroyed over twenty thousand buildings throughout the city. Of course, the building sustained heavy damage, and the city of San Francisco commissioned architect Julia Morgan to restore its interiors. The building's ballroom is known today as the Julia Morgan Ballroom and it has been host to some of the most important gatherings in San Francisco's history. The Exchange building's Julia Morgan interiors as well as the 1904 exterior by Burnham & Polk, are excellent examples of the Beaux-Arts style, which was popular in France and the U.S. between 1880 - 1920.
Bank of California
The Bank of California building is modeled after the Knickerbocker Trust Company building in New York City, and is San Francisco Landmark #3. Founded in 1864, the Bank of California is the oldest incorporated commercial bank in California, however this building was not built until 1906.
Old Federal Reserve Bank Building, San Francisco
Constructed in 1923, the Old Federal Reserve Building served as the headquarters of the San Francisco branch of the Federal Reserve until 1983. The San Francisco Federal Reserve is now located at 1st and Market Street, at a facility constructed to accommodate the growth of the branch. Also called the Bently Reserve, this historic structure has since been owned by several private companies. Although the building is not open to regular visitors, many of the boardrooms and other historic spaces are used for private and public functions.
What Cheer House
What Cheer House was established in 1852 by R.B. Woodward as a male-exclusive hotel. It was a dry establishment and was also the site of San Francisco's first free library and museum. Located in the Financial District of San Francisco, the building served as office space as well. Unfortunately, however, the building burned down in 1906. Today, the location of what was the What Cheer House is a state registered historic site, and an official plaque can be viewed on the side of the Wells Fargo building in Leidesdorff Alley.
Bank of Italy Building
The Bank of Italy building opened in 1908 and is located in San Francisco's Financial District. The Bank of Italy moved into this building after the San Francisco Fire of 1906 destroyed their building and many others throughout the city. This bank was first established to serve local working class citizens, especially Italians from the city's North Beach (Little Italy) neighborhood. It served for over 10 years as headquarters for the Bank of Italy and later merged with the Bank of America. It is now a National Historic Landmark and also known as the Clay‐Montgomery building.
Pacific Heritage Museum
The museum is housed in the historic US Subtreasury Building, dating from 1875 and built on the site of the original US Branch Mint. Recognized as a California State Historical Landmark (No. 87) in 1949 and as a San Francisco city landmark in 1970, the restored building now houses a historical exhibit documenting the history and significance of the Branch Mint and Subtreasury buildings over time. The Pacific Heritage Museum also displays exhibitions based on the broad theme of the artistic, cultural and economic achievements of the peoples of the Pacific Rim.
Transamerica Pyramid
The Transamerica Pyramid is the second-tallest skyscraper in San Francisco skyline at 853 feet and has stood since 1972. Despite its namesake, the building is no longer the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation as it moved its U.S. headquarters to Baltimore, Maryland. The building was designed by architect William Pereira and built by Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company. Construction started in 1969 and was completed three years later. On completion in 1972 it was the eighth tallest building in the world.
The Black Cat Bar
The Black Cat Bar or Tavern was the site of a riot between the police and the customers who were gathered together to ring in the new year, on the night of December 31st 1966. Undercover police entered the establishment and attacked gay customers who were celebrating the new year. Without identifying themselves, they proceeded to beat customers and file charges against them. Additional violence took place at a bar across the street in which a woman was pushed to the ground by the police and left bleeding. A man, who was a bartender, was badly beaten and required hospitalization and surgery. This police violence against the gay community resulted in a riot. This event in history is an important marker in the LGBTQ civil rights movement. This site is documented by the Cultural Heritage commission of the City of Los Angeles as the first LGBT civil rights demonstration in the nation.
Transamerica Building (Old Fugazi Bank Building)
Constructed in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, the Fugazi Bank Building is designed in the classical revival style and faced with terracotta. The building was originally two stories high, but a third was added sometime before 1914. The Transamerica Corporation was founded in 1928, and owner A.P. Giannini used the Old Fugazi Bank Building as a headquarters for his financial services companies, with the building taking on the name of the company. Today the building is occupied by the Church of Scientology.
Belli Building (Langerman's Building)
The Belli Building was originally built in 1849 or 1850 but was destroyed by fire in 1851. The building was immediately rebuilt, using the old walls and foundations, which were themselves built upon the original raft of planks in the mud of what was then Yerba Buena Cove. It was first known as Langerman's Tobacco and Cigar Warehouse before becoming the Melodeon Theatre. In the early 1870's the building housed a Turkish bath and in the 1880's it housed a medical establishment based around hydrotherapy. From the 1920's onward it was used as a paper warehouse and also as a garment factory. Melvin Belli acquired the building in 1959 and converted it into law offices for his firm.
Genella Building
Built in 1849, the foundation of this three-story brick building was constructed of the same heavy timbers as is its neighbor the Belli Building. The original building burned down only a year after its construction and was rebuilt by Joseph Genella for his china and glassware business as well as his home. By 1860 Genella had moved but retained ownership of the building, renting it to multiple tenants including bullion dealers, merchandise brokers, a Spanish newspaper (La Voz de Chile), and offices for a mining company.
Bank of Lucas, Turner & Co.
Built in 1854 the Bank of Lucas, Turner & Company was located at 800-804 Montgomery in Jackson Square, San Francisco. Designed by Reuben Clark in the Italianate style typical of early San Francisco, the classical building faces Montgomery Street, which was the city's main commercial street at the time. The ground floor is built from well cut and fitted granite blocks. The granite is not from California- some claim that the granite was imported from China while others claim that it arrived from the eastern United States. Originally three stories high, the building cost $53,000 to construct- a large sum for the day.
Solari Building
One of the oldest buildings in the city, this structure was built in 1852 by Nicholas Larco, a prominent member of the city's early Italian community. The building also held a store that offered fine imported wine--a popular item for many of the wealthy residents of the city. The building served as the headquarters of the Italian Benevolent Society, a fraternal organization for Italian immigrants that provided a space for social interaction, cultural preservation, and economic assistance for newcomers and widows of members. The building later became the headquarters of La Parola, an Italian weekly newspaper. At various times in the 19th century, the foreign consulates for Chile, Spain, and France were all headquartered in this building. The famous chocolate maker Domingo Ghirardelli also used the building for several years before starting his own factory across the street in 1853.
Hotaling Building
The Hotaling Building is a historic building in San Francisco located at 451 Jackson Street in Jackson Square. Built in 1866 by Anson Parsons Hotaling the building was originally intended to be a hotel. However, Hotaling later switched over to the whiskey business. It was also one of the few surviving buildings after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, thanks to a mile long fire hose that stretched through Fisherman's Wharf and Telegraph Hill. After the earthquake and fire, the Hotaling business started to decline. However, it was revived in 1952 when Henry Lawrence and his wife purchased it and turned it into a wholesale decoration and design firm.
Ghirardelli's Chocolate Factory, 1853-1893
Ghirardelli's Chocolate Factory was originally built in 1850 on the corner of Broadway and Battery, but burned down in a fire a year later. By 1853 Ghiradelli was able to reopen the Chocolate Factory at this location, on the corner of Jackson and Mason Streets. The company diversified from chocolate and began to sell coffee and spices in the US, China, Japan, and Mexico. Ghiradelli retired in 1892 and his three sons took control of the business.

This tour was created by Clio Admin on 05/21/17 .

This tour has been taken 570 times within the past year.

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