Internet Article BackUp to SF North Waterfront - Non-Presidio

Palace of Fine Arts

It was the star attraction at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, but architect Bernard Maybeck never intended it to last. At the time, exposition buildings were meant to readily collapse after a year, and like the other PPIE structures, the Palace's Greco- Romanesque rotunda and colonnades were framed in wood and covered with a burlap-fiber mixture called "staff." But the crescent-shaped gallery behind it had a steel frame and concrete walls to protect the 11,000 works of art displayed during the Exposition. Mules, dragging scrapers, turned the adjoining sump into the lagoon which, in the 1850's, was known as Washerwoman's Lagoon, site of the city's first laundries.

The Palace's success and popular acclaim moved the Fine Arts League to try to preserve it through continuing art exhibits after the Exposition's close in December, but maintenance costs proved too heavy and funding fell short. In 1927, the Federal government deeded the 15 acres of Presidio land to the city of San Francisco for "educational, art, exposition and park purposes," and it was placed under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Park Department. Like other survivors of 75 years, it shows evidence of a colorful life.

Source: Various publications, San Francisco Library History Center.

Patchwork improvements in the 1930's produced 18 lighted tennis courts installed by Rec and Park and artwork by non-acrophobic WPA artists who restored the fading paintings on the rotunda ceiling. During World War II, the Army commandeered the Palace for a motor pool of jeeps and trucks and in 1945, it stashed the limousines of visiting diplomats during the founding of the United Nations. After the War, the Army returned the building to the city and to its saga of makeshift use and steady decay. In the early '50s, the gallery hosted the San Francisco Art Festival, drill practice teams from the SF Fire Department, and University of California architecture classes. It stored farm equipment and properties of the State Fish and Game, Civilian Defense, and School Departments. It served as a distribution station for telephone books and a center for sorting Christmas mail.

By the mid-fifties, the building and grounds were declared unsafe for public use and fenced off. Convinced that the Palace could only be saved for future generations by restoring it in permanent building materials, in 1957 the newly-formed, non-profit Palace of Fine Arts League and two powerful San Francisco advocates joined forces. Assemblyman Caspar Weinberger secured a $2 million matching grant from the State, and the League sponsored a $3.6 million bond issue that was narrowly defeated. Whereupon industrialist and League president, Walter Johnson, donated $2 million to the city, inspiring other contributions and the subsequent passage of a $1.8 million bond in 1960. Funding in place, architect Hans Gerson duplicated Maybeck's original plan and demolition and reconstruction began in 1964. Completion of the Rotunda in 1967 was celebrated in a week-long public festival mounted by the League and Rec and Park.

The '70s saw the Palace's north and south colonnades rise again-- thanks to a gift from Walter Johnson-- and the gallery become a permanent home for the Palace of Fine Arts Theater- to which Johnson had donated $250,000. Described, when he died in 1978, as "the patron who rebuilt the Palace of Fine Arts," Johnson contributed over $4.5 million to the building he called "a symbol of San Francisco." A plaque to "The Walter S. Johnson Park" graces a column inside the park's walkway at Bay and Lyon.

Fast forward to the problems and pleasures of the '90s. A study found unsafe bacteria levels in the lagoon and neighbors complained about a terrible odor. Rains caused a leak in the rotunda dome and a piece of concrete fell into the ground below, causing the central area of the palace to be closed for nearly a year. And a "Light Up The Palace" campaign added a golden nighttime glow to the rotunda.

Delays in repair and the need for more maintenance than two gardeners provide have driven Anna Pope to form a Friends of the Palace of Fine Arts group. On her daily park walk she observes, "No care is taken ´till something breaks," adding, "but with the active support of the neighborhood, I think we can make some changes."

Washerwoman’s Lagoon

The cliff line in Fort Mason still traces the old shoreline up to what today we refer to as gashouse cove. The intersection of Laguna and Bay was solid ground, well above the highwater line of the bay. The intersection of Fillmore and Bay was in the water and remained so even after the Fillmore pier was constructed in 1863. West of Fillmore and Bay tidal sloughs and mudflats alternated with small sand hillocks, some stabilized by vegetation. Mudflats actually crossed the line of Lombard near Divisadero.

Some of the old shoreline can be found today out near the St. Francis yacht club. The "little Marina Green" once held the hot and cold salt water baths of Rudolph Herman's Harbor View Resort.

Lombard does mark the south line of a long vanished Marina District geological feature--the Great Sand Hills. The sand hills extended from Van Ness to Pierce, approximately, rising abruptly at Lombard for 20 to 40 feet. Carelton Watkins' famous photo of the Golden Gate with Washerwoman's lagoon in the foreground is but one of many showing the extent and scale of the sand hills. The hills were graded down over a period of years. First, in the 1870s Lobos Square (Webster to Laguna, Bay to Chestnut) was graded. Then, in the mid 90s in conjunction with the construction of the Fair Seawall, the hills were graded flat. Much of the sand filled in the aforementioned tidal sloughs and mudflats. Perhaps the intention was to fill all the area behind the seawall, but that effort fell miserably short. 76 acres remained unfilled until 1912.

The Marina was dramatically changed over the years. Washerwoman's Lagoon disappeared and the exact location can't be pinpointed to this day. It lies somewhere between the Marina and Cow Hollow (once full of cow pastures), probably very near Lombard Street. The myth which I hear is untrue is that the Marina was filled with debris from 1906. This is widely publicized but is just wrong. The time frame doesn't make sense. The debris was sent on a temporary rail line through SoMA and not disposed of in the Marina. The people hadn't even decided to put the World's Fair there yet. The truth is that the Marina was filled with dredging from the Bay. This is why the buildings fell; our old friend liquefaction. Despite much damage there was great irony. The irony was that the buildings that were destroyed by the '89 quake were built on an area that held an event to celebrate the rise of San Francisco after the 1906 quake.

A smaller event of shoreline change lies in Lake Merced. Lake Merced had an outlet to the ocean, but part of the lake shore collapsed in a bizarre ground movement (not an earthquake); thus forming a seawall.

A simple two-story cottage that is a rival of the Phelps House at 1111 Oak for the title of the city's oldest intact house (Gebhard 1985:46). In the 1860s, Pacific Heights' northern slopes were a network of nurseries, small vegetable farms and open fields called Golden Gate Valley. A great sand bank separated Black Point ( Fort Mason) from Washerwoman's Lagoon, bounded by Franklin, Lombard, Laguna, and Filbert Streets, and useful not just for laundry but also as a source of fresh water for livestock.

The oldest house still standing in this area--dating to the early 1850s, and thus a rival of the Abner Phelps house for the title of oldest dwelling in San Francisco--is the two-story Black cottage. This modest frame house with a cantilevered balcony stands at the end of a little cul-de-sac known as Blackstone Court, opening on the west side of Franklin Street, just half a block south of Lombard. The house once stood on the bank of Washerwoman's Lagoon. Early records concerning land disputes in this area show a man named Black as the owner of the property before 1852 (Alexander and Heig 2002:290-91).

In the darly days when only three roads ran out of San francisco, one connected Portsmouth Square to the Presidio. It’s path along Blackstone still exists and in fall of 1849 jounalist Bayard Taylor came this way to fill a donkey cart with water casks and wrote, '‘everal tents were pitched on the lagoon margin; the washmen and gardeners had established themselves there and diligently plying their occupations... the washerwomen had established themselves on one side of the pond and washmen on the other.'’ It was on the shores of this lagoon that Anza party camped March 28, 1776 while searching to select Presidio and Mission locations. It was amoeba shaped and largest of three SF freshwater lakes. It was shot off from Bay by a sand dune and bounded by what what became Filbert, Lombard, Franklin and Laguna or lagoon streets.

Even befor Gold Rush, adjoining land seemed choice as William Eddy surveyed the area in 1847 and laid out 24 double lots looking to Golden Gate rather than East-West. Blackstone’s end is where the full block Abraham nursery lay, much of it filled in by wheelbarrow. No. 11 is servant’s home of Blackstone who lived at 7. The two story gothic may be oldest house in SF, moved as a cottage from Diza rach running west to Point Lobos. 11’s stable is now a garage and 7 is long gone. Still there over 30 is enclave of small homes including original Abraham house, who gave us apricot and where 50 plants from his mursery survive, including Australian Peppermint tree towering over gate. But the original five glasshouses, tall glass palm conservatory, water tower, tank and windmill are gone.

1649 Greenwich would have been center of lagoon before sewer was completed to drain it to Bay in 1879. At Octavia and Greenwich would have been O’Connor Grading Camp, handy to lake bottom he was filling. With other Victorians along former Greenwich shoreline and down Greenwich to Harris Place, where geraniums and trees may date to Abraham nursery.

Gas House Cove

1896 Peter Roe's Calif. Electric Light Co., (later incorporated as Edison Light and Power Company to block competition) merges with Peter Donahue's San Francisco Gas Light Company to form the new San Francisco Gas and Electric Company

1870 San Francisco's City Gas Company is created, headed by powerful financial figures including Alvinza Hayward. One of the most important of San Francisco's great institutions is the San Francisco Gaslight Company, whose equipment, plant and utilities are the largest of all the lighting companies west of the Missouri river. This company, during the year, moved into its handsome property on Post street near Powell, where its offices are now located. the manufacturing department is located at the foot of Laguna street, and having sufficient water front and dock privileges to permit the largest vessels to lie at its wharves. At that place also are the big petroleum tank and retort house located. The company has really a double plant–the one at the pointed named, and another–an older one–at the Potrero.

This large expenditure was made in order that in case of the destruction of one of these plants, the other would afford all the service the company's patrons would require. The efforts of the company have always been to furnish to private individuals and the city the best quality of illuminating gas possible and at the lowest cost. That this had been done the excellent quality of the gas furnished, and the low rate of interest paid to the stockholders, readily attest.

The use of this illuminant has steadily increased, and gas is now largely employed for cooking as well as lighting purposes. It is much better than coal for the culinary department, because it is always ready, is clean, and is a great deal more economical, for the company make its cost as low as possible. The large and steady increase of gas for this purpose demonstrates the wisdom of this policy–4 per cent is a very low rate of interest on an investment of this character, and yet this is about the average earnings of the San Francisco Gaslight Company.

This company is progressive, and is constantly extending its mains and increasing its service–often going to heavy expense in order that remote districts may have the benefit and convenience of its lights long before any return can be expected. It is progressive, and in its courteous attention to the wants of its customers, the quality of service rendered, and determination to give the best light and best possible for the least money, are seen [as] evidences of a liberal and just policy toward all.

The San Francisco Gaslight Company is not only one of the largest of the corporations doing business in this city, but, as well, one of the most progressive and useful.

The Company has a full line of gas, cooking, and heating stoves, ranges, broilers, and gas grates for private, hotel, and restaurant use, with water backs complete. A large number of these gas heaters are in use, and information concerning them will be cheerfully given at the Gas Stove Department, 226 Post Street.

Fort Mason

The military value of the point was admitted as early as 1797. That was when "Bateria San Jose" was constructed at the tip of the point. It was also known as " Battery at Yerba Buena." Five brass 8-pounder cannon were put in earthworks that were hastily dug and covered with brush wood fascines. Instead of a permanent garrison, a sentinel was to visit the place every day. By 1806 this practice must have stopped. An inspection by the governor noted that the battery had been neglected. "There was not even a hut for the gunners and the guns were rendered useless by exposure," it pointed out. The sand hills and scrub brush gradually reclaimed the area. By the time that Mexico took over San Francisco in 1822, the site was known as Black Point because of the dark underbrush that covered everything.

Nine points of the law or not, possession had little effect in 1863 when the Army decided that it needed Point San Jose. Squatters who had moved into the reservation within the past decade, building, renting, mortgaging, and selling the property without regard for legal titles, were told they would have to go. Although the United States quickly asserted its ownership of the Point as early as 1850, nothing in the military line was done to use it. An 1856 report on Bay defenses suggested that a permanent battery should be constructed at Point San Jose.

This recommendation was repeated in 1862, but it was with some hesitancy that the Army took action. Large, well-built residences had been erected by citizens on Black Point, shrubbery and fences had been laid out, and taxes had been paid to the city in accordance with their assessments. Even John Fremont had paid an estimated $40,000 for a frame cottage and 12 acres on the Point. He had rented the place to a friend in 1861 when be went East for Army service. Then at 6 a.m. on October 3, 1863, General George Wright received a telegram from the War Department. "The Secretary of War directs that you take military possession of Point San Jose," it said, "and erect the battery proposed for its defense. The question of ownership will be determined later." A few days later a company of the 9th Infantry was ordered to Point San Jose to "take and hold military possession of such land as necessary for the erection of batteries. Almost immediately complaints were heard from occupants. The first was that the soldiers had destroyed some shrubbery.

Shrubbery removal was not the least of the Army efforts, however. The houses were commandeered and those in the way of the engineers' plans were removed or leveled. Fremont's cottage was razed, touching off a series of legal disputes that went as far as the United States Supreme Court. When the Court determined that the property belonged to the United States "whether or not they were by sufficient authority appropriate for public use," the Fremont family brought suit for damages. From a $250,000 claim in 1866, the suit was refiled for a million dollars in 1893. When nothing was done on it for 14 more years, it was thrown out of court.

The 12-gun battery was placed on tile western brow of the point, in position to intersect the fires from Alcatraz. An estimated need for 100 artillery-men to man them was made in 1864. One company of infantrymen from the 9th Regiment was the garrison until late in 1864 when a battery of the 3rd Artillery was transferred from Alcatraz. In March, 1865, the post became the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Regiment, a non-artillery role that was to hint of the future. Along with the other Bay forts, San Jose's troopers devoted more of their attention to settling civil problems than with defending the harbor from Confederate attack.

Called Fort Mason since 1882, the Post at Point San Jose is on Van Ness Avenue at Bay Street. Although its transportation depot functions were closed in 1964, its historic residences have been retained by Army, and later the National Park Service, and have been marked. After the fort's artillery functions ended, it became quartermaster depot, then a supply and transportation center through 23 million tons of cargo and a million troops were deployed in World War II. In 1906 it was a refugee camp for victims of San Francisco earthquake.

As Post Point San Jose, and Fort Mason after 1882, this ground plan remains basically correct to modern times. An 1870 report said, ''The officers' quarters are five frame cottages of citizens before the point was taken up as a government post." It noted that above battery "are built two sets of company quarters, of which only one at the present time is occupied. " Reservation included 67 acres with a small parade ground on the crown of the point. Before the Spanish American War, half of Fort Mason was sand dunes. As America's influance radiated across the Pacific the Army filled in a shallow cove and constructed three piers and four concrete warehouses. Fort Mason became the Army's supply and transportation center for the Pacific.

On December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor brought America and Fort Mason into World War II. Fort Mason served as the headquarters for the San Francisco Port Embarkation (SFPOE) which funneled supplies and troops to the Pacific Theater of war Over 1 ½ million passengers and 23 million ship tons of cargo (one ship ton equally 40 cubic feet) left the SFPOE, Fort Mason was a scene of constant activity with buildings squeezed into every available space. Liberty Ships lined the piers as they were stuffed to capacity for their Pacific voyage. These same "ugly ducklings" brought home our soldiers and supplies at the end of the war. Today, the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien, docked at Pier 3, is a proud reminder of the past and is open to the general public. Fort Mason's piers were also active through the Korean War and the eraly 1960's.,50&Title~=F&cmd=all&Id=149

Located in Upper Fort Mason, behind the Youth Hostel, this bluff offers views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. The authentic Civil War Rodman cannon here lends a sense of history to the setting. Although Fort Mason was originally established as a coastal fortification in the 1860s, it is best remembered as headquarters of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation between 1910 and 1963. During World War II, Liberty ships built in Bay Area shipyards were constantly ferrying troops to the immense pier and dock system at Lower Fort Mason, ultimately transporting 1.6 million troops and 23 million tons of cargo to the Pacific theater through the port administered facilities.

Lower Fort Mason is a large complex of warehouses and piers, built between 1910 and 1914 to supply Army bases across the Pacific. Their red-tiled roofs and white stucco facades evoke Spanish Colonial architecture on a grand scale. By contrast, Upper Fort Mason features dozens of smaller-scale historic buildings, among them the former Port of Embarkation Headquarters (1902), now Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Headquarters; the Mission Revival-style Chapel; Civil War-era barracks now occupied by the San Francisco International Youth Hostel; and McDowell Hall (1855), once home to commanding officers and, until very recently, the Officers' Club (1943-2003). The Construction Quartermaster's Office and the Post Headquarters building (FM101) was constructed on the eve of America's entry into World War II, and amidst other changes, an additional group of seven sets of officers' quarters was added to the southern portion of Fort Mason around 1941.

Pioneer Woolen Mill

San Francisco Woolen Factory at Black Point is the pioneer of woole manufactories in this State, having been erected in the year 1859. The main structure is constructed of brick, and one hundred and twenty-five feet in length, fifty feet broad, and two stories in height. Contiguous to this are storehouses and lodging-rooms, the whole eligibly situated for manufacturing purposes on the beach, and commanding a magnificent view of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and the heights of Marin county. In front of the main building, and situated just at the edge of the water, is the wash-house, to which every fleece after being assorted, from the finest Merino to the coarsest Mexican, is brought. Here the cleansing process is gone through with, the wool being thoroughly rinsed in pure Artesian water, there being a well sunken on the premises, seventy-four feet deep, which yields forty thousand gallons per diem. Even this large quantity is insufficient for the various wants of the factory, so that Bensley water and hill-side springs are also called into requisition.


After washing, the wool is spread in great vats, on the beach and on the hill, and dried, which process consumes some twenty-four hours. In the rainy season the wool is taken into a drying apartment, where, by artificial heat, it is prepared for the picking process. This is very complete, and owing to the great improvements in the works of the factory, the wool is as carefully and thoroughly assorted from impure substances as is possible. But loud complaints are justly made against the quality of the wool sent in from California sheep-growers. There has been a carelessness practiced as regards their feed, which, with the lack of care exercised by their owners, in their habits, etc., have rendered their wool inferior to that of much of the imported product.


After picking, the wool is put through three sets of cards, the refuse matter dropping below. By this process, the wool is wound on spools, each holding three and a half pounds. A novel and ingeniously devised waste cart, in the back room, metamorphises the refuse matter, and turns out as handsome wool, as that composing the finest blankets.

On the second story of the factory, are four spinning-jacks, two hundred spindles each, weft and warp, and then visiting the dresser and warping wheel, is rolled to the beam, through the thirteen looms, and woven. In the looming room ten females are employed, and their nimble fingers are better adapted to this delicate and active work, than are the clumsy paws of masculines.

The black wool, of which there seems to be an unusually great proportion of the stock on hand, it should be stated, is only manufactured into the gray blankets, which are commonly known as the two and a half point blankets. The spinners are paid by the pound and the weavers by the yard. The blankets having been brought from the upper to the room below, are put in the fulling machine. A rotary fulling mill, soap and water, completely changes the complexion of the blankets, and when they issue therefrom they are fit for the scourer, and meet the gigs, which give them their nap. They are then taken out, dried, and conveyed to the furnishing room, packed, and prepared for market.

The dyeing room is a curiosity. Here blankets to the number of fifty pair a day change their hue, and the color as changed warranted to stand. The factory is now capable of manufacturing over one hundred pairs of blankets daily. The prices range from three dollars and a half to fifteen dollars each. The engine which keeps so industriously in motion all this complicated machinery, was turned out from the Vulcan Iron Works of this city. It is of forty-five horse power, with thirty-six inch stroke. It is a very powerful and complicated piece of machinery, and answers admirably for the manufactory.

Both foreign and Mount Diablo coal are used for heating purposes. The former cost $15 50 per ton, and the latter $10 per ton. However, it takes one ton and a half of the latter to furnish the heat thrown out by a ton of Sydney. But the engineer, notwithstanding, speaks favorably of our slate coal, says it leaves little clinker, and with artificial draft gives out an intense heat. The proprietors of this woolen establishment, Messrs. Heynemann, Pick & Co., are certainly deserving of infinite credit for their enterprise and public spirit which they have exhibited in perfecting an establishment of this character, which must prove of real service to the entire State. Our wool growing interest, in a very short time, will be perhaps the most prominent and valuable of our agricultural pursuits; and this branch of home industry, in all its multitudinous ramification should receive the hearty and substantial support of our citizens.

The western end of the wharf started to boom just before the turn of the century when the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory moved into the old Pioneer Woolen Mill, which had made blankets and uniforms for the Union army in the Civil War. The West Coast was famous for its wool, and the blue uniform cloth, underwear, and blankets, which the Clothing Depot procured from the Pioneer Woolen Mills of San Francisco and from other mills of California and Oregon, were the real thing, and not "shoddy", as was so much of the misnamed "woolen goods" supplied to our soldiers in the Civil War. Like California gold, California fleece played its part in winning the war. The Coast contributed leather goods also, in shoes and various articles of equipment.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory and Square

Ghirardelli Square conjures up visions of luscious chocolate and a huge illuminated sign that can be seen clear across the San Francisco Bay, but it also represents a century of history as rich as the chocolate that bears its name. The specialty retail and dining complex, which houses more than 50 shops and restaurants, was originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico "Domingo" Ghirardelli of Rapallo, Italy. With his entrepreneurial spirit and the lure of gold in California, Ghirardelli came to San Francisco in 1849 to make his name as a purveyor of chocolate, mustard, spices and coffee. In 1865, Ghirardelli discovered how to manufacture "broma," the ground chocolate for which the firm became famous. And, by 1885, the Ghirardelli Company was selling 50,000 pounds of broma a year.

To accommodate an ever-expanding business, in 1893, Ghirardelli and his sons purchased an entire city block of property overlooking San Francisco Bay, consisting of the Woolen Mill, the Wood Frame Box Factory, an apartment building, a horse stable and a few houses along North Point Street. The property served as the company's manufacturing facility and headquarters for more than 60 years.

Records show the Ghirardelli sons began construction almost immediately, converting the Woolen Mill into their chocolate-making facility. The Mustard Building followed in 1899 where Ghirardelli produced all of Schilling's mustards and for many years sold mustard paste under the label Ghirardelli Pioneer Mustard Company. As business grew, they opened the Cocoa Building in 1900 and the Chocolate Building in 1911. Sadly, Domingo Ghirardelli did not see the result of his sons' efforts before he died in Italy in 1894. In 1923, the huge electrical Ghirardelli sign was mounted atop the factory, measuring 25 feet high and 125 feet long. Every night the two-sided sign glittered a welcome to ships entering San Francisco, until the start of World War II when it went dark for defense reasons.

The sign remained off until November 29, 1964, when Ghirardelli Square was renovated completely and unveiled to the public as a multi-level restaurant and retail destination. The $10 million renovation was the brainchild of Karl Kortum, a native Bay- Area resident, who feared the buildings might be demolished and replaced by 1,500 apartments. He contacted two prominent San Franciscans, William Matson Roth and his mother, Mrs. William P. Roth, who purchased the Ghirardelli block in 1962. Dedicated to the preservation of the historic buildings on the square, the Roths insisted upon retaining and restoring as many of the original structures as possible.

All of the major original buildings were preserved except the old Wood Frame Box Factory, which was replaced by an elegant new structure named the Wurster Building in honor of William Wilson Wurster, the architect in charge of the conversion. Pledging to maintain the integrity of the property and its history, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Capital & Counties, USA, Inc. bought Ghirardelli Square on January 4, 1982. Later that year, Ghirardelli Square was a National Historic Register, making it a city, state and national landmark. It continues to delight visitors and Bay Area residents with its mix of unique shops, international cuisine and landscaped plazas. Its concept and design pioneered a restoration movement and served as a model for Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Harbor Place in Baltimore.

1817: Domenico Ghirardelli is born in Rapallo, Italy. He moves to Genoa as a boy to become an apprentice confectioner.

1837: Ghirardelli marries, sails to Uruguay and takes a job in a "coffee and chocolate establishment."

1838: Attracted by opportunities in Lima, Ghirardelli sailed around Cape Horn to Peru. Fatefully, Ghirardelli opens a confectionery store next to a cabinet shop owned by an American, James Lick.

1847: Lick leaves for San Francisco, taking 600 pounds of Ghirardelli Chocolate with him. Ghirardelli continues to operate his store, replacing his Italian name with its Spanish equivalent, Domingo.

1849: Following the death of his wife and his remarriage, Ghirardelli learns of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill and sails to California. After prospecting in the Jamestown-Sonora area, Ghirardelli once again becomes a merchant, opening a general store in Stockton. Located in a tent, it’s one of the first shops in the area.

1852: Ghirardelli forms a new confectionery company called Ghirardelli & Ghirard. Business grows, and Ghirardelli sends for his family, changing the company name to Mrs. Ghirardelli & Co. Records show the company imported 200 pounds of cocoa beans during the year.

1865: Around this time, someone in the Ghirardelli Company makes an important observation - by hanging a bag of chocolate in a warm room, the cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground chocolate. This technique, called the Broma process, is now generally used in the manufacture of chocolate.

1884: Ghirardelli’s sons have become partners in the business, which now has 30 employees and ships products all over the West, to the Eastern US, China, Japan and Mexico. The company drops its line of wines, cordials and liquors and sells only chocolate, coffee and spices.

1893: Needing additional space, the Pioneer Woolen Mill building is purchased and manufacturing is moved to that location, on San Francisco’s Northern Waterfront.

1915: To meet the energy needs of the emerging manufacturing complex, the Power House is built. Two buildings complete the handsome, block-square collection of plants and offices. The Apartment Building provides housing for a number of employees. The Clock Tower, beautifully designed in the style of Chateau Blois in France, stands prominently at the corner of North Point and Larkin Street.

1923: Two floors are added to the Cocoa Building and the four-story structure becomes the base for 15 foot, illuminated letters spelling "Ghirardelli." Visible for miles, the sign becomes a familiar welcoming sight to ships passing through the Golden Gate.

1964: Ghirardelli Square undergoes a renovation, and officially opened as a festival marketplace on November 29, 1964. The renovation included shoring up old buildings during construction of the underground garage and strengthening the buildings structurally.

1967: Production facilities move to San Leandro, California.

1998: Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate out of Switzerland acquire Ghirardelli Chocolate Company

DelMonte Cannery – Haslett Warehouse

1858 – Francis Cutting in SF is first to can fruits and vegetables on West Coast

1875 – California Fruit Packing Corp is started by former Ohio physician Dr. James Dawson

1886 – Del Monte brand first used on coffee for prestigous Del Monte hotel in Monterey

1899 – California Fruit Canners Assn. Formed from 18 firms, including Francis Cutting’s

1916 – California Fruit Packing Corp. and other join with CFCA to from CalPak

Robert Irving Bentley Jr. founded a fruit canning company in San Francisco. Charles Harvey attended the University of California at Berkeley, and following his graduation in 1891, he joined the company. Both brothers lived in San Francisco. In 1899, their company merged with seventeen others to form the California Fruit Canners Association, which used Del Monte as one of its brands.

Between 1907 and 1909, the California Fruit Canners Association built the Haslett Warehouse, a four-story, timber and solid brick structure located on Hyde Street between Beach and Jefferson Streets. At about the same time in an adjacent brick building Marco Fontana formed the California Fruit Canners Association. Once the largest canning operation in the world, it shipped with the Del Monte label until the 1920s.

It was once the largest fruit and vegetable cannery in the world. After changing hands several times, the Haslett was transferred to the National Park Service in 1978, and later included in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, established in 1988.

Another player in the "Emporium of the West" was Marco J. Fontana, who worked at the famous Colombo Produce Market on the Embarcadero and in 1899 created the world's largest canning operation with methods he devised experimenting at home. In 1907 Fontana built the Cannery building near Fisherman's Wharf at Jefferson and Leavenworth streets, where tons of California fruits and vegetables were canned for shipping across the country and around the world, under the world famous Del Monte label. Canning operations continued there until 1937. In 1963 the Cannery was turned into a shopping center by Manchurian immigrant Leonid Matveyeff, who changed his name to Leonard Martin. Martin's son Chris taught penguins to skateboard -- an amusement that harked back to the card- playing pig on Meiggs Wharf. The pigs and penguins are long gone, but Chris Martin is still there, running the Cannery.

The exact origin of “Del Monte” is lost to lore. What’s known for sure is that the name was used in the 1880’s by an Oakland, California, foods distributor to designate a premium blend of coffee prepared especially for the elegant Hotel Del Monte on the Monterey peninsula. In 1892, the firm expanded its business and selected Del Monte as the brand name for its new line of canned peaches. When eighteen West Coast canning companies merged in 1898 to form California Fruit Canners Association, Del Monte was one of several premium brands marketed by the new company. Then, in 1916, when CFCA consolidated its business with three other large canners to create California Packing Corporation, the Del Monte brand took center stage. The new company’s strategy was to offer one high-quality brand, advertise nationally, and distribute products across the country. These were breakthrough concepts at the time. And they worked remarkably well.

During the company’s first years, a large Del Monte print ad hung on a wall in the company’s San Francisco headquarters lunchroom. Entitled “Out of the Spirit of ‘49”, the painting depicted early California pioneers amidst the abundance of the state’s fabled fresh fruits and vegetables. The ad was designed to build brand awareness in consumers and elevate the image of canned foods. But it also served another purpose to remind employees daily that the company’s success depended on their adopting that vision, initiative, determination and

The Del Monte promise of quality has remained unchanged over the past 100 years, but the corporate umbrella under which this brand has prospered has undergone significant modification, especially during the last 25 years of intense merger and acquisition activity within the U.S. food industry. In 1979 the Company was acquired by R. J. Reynolds Industries (later RJR Nabisco). In the late 1980’s, RJR Nabisco divided the company into several pieces, selling off the fresh fruit portion of Del Monte, now known as Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. The remaining core domestic company—today’s Del Monte Foods, which owns the Del Monte name and trademark—was sold to a Merrill Lynch investor group in 1989 and subsequently acquired in 1997 by the Texas Pacific Group. TPG took the company public again in 1999. Del Monte Foods shares trade under the DLM ticker symbol on the New York and Pacific Stock Exchanges.

Late in 2002, the Company completed its largest ever transaction by acquiring the U.S. StarKist seafood, North American pet food and pet snacks, U.S. infant feeding, College Inn broth and U.S. private label soup businesses from the H. J. Heinz Company. Merging these businesses into the Company more than doubled its size and elevated its preeminence in the food and pet products business. Over 75% of Del Monte's North American revenues are branded--two-thirds of which are number one brands.

Dolphin Club

1877 John Wieland and his brothers, along with the Kehrlein brothers, all immigrants from Germany, found the Dolphin Club. Membership is limited to 25, and a small shed at the foot of Leavenworth Street is used as a clubhouse. The first "Ladies Day & Rowing Regatta" is held. 1879 Dolphin Club rowers win the first "Pacific Amateur Rowing Association" Regatta.

1896 The two-story clubhouse at the foot of Van Ness is completed. 1915 The concept for Aquatic Park is approved.

1917 The first Golden Gate group swim is organized by the Dolphin Club.

1923 Hyde Street Pier built by Southern Pacific for its car ferries. Charles M. Farrell is instrumental in getting the Pier built. Ferryboats take autos and passengers to Sausalito and Berkeley from Hyde Street Pier for several years.

1925 Black Point Cove becomes the property of the City of San Francisco. In exchange, produce exchange property is given to Pacific RR.

1927 Clubs are moved from the foot of Van Ness to the foot of Larkin Street. 1931 The first pilings for the new pier (Muni Pier) are driven.

1937 The clubs are jacked up and moved on rollers from their site at the foot of Larkin Street to their current site at the foot of Hyde Street. The clubs still own their buildings and pay nothing to the City. The city agrees to pay $3,800, the cost of moving the clubs, in return for the clubs' deeding their buildings to the city and signing tenancy agreements with the city. 1939 Aquatic Park opened to the public.

1939-45 Aquatic Park serves as a military headquarters 1950 The Aquatic Park boathouse is leased to the Maritime Museum. 1953 The " Fort Sutter", an old riverboat built in 1912, is pulled up next to the South End and the Dolphin Club. 1959 The Fort Sutter is burned to the waterline, allegedly by disgruntled members of the South End Rowing Club.

Fisherman’s Wharf (1/2)

From the days of the Gold Rush until the turn of the Century, the San Francisco fishing fleet was composed of lateen-rigged sailboats. They were copies of the craft which the Italian fishermen knew in their native land. Green was the prevailing color of the tiny boats, and the name of a patron saint appeared on the hull. The fishermen themselves were as colorful as their craft. Their natural talent for song was to be heard in renditions of arias from Verdi, lusty if not always true to the ear. In the fog-shrouded waters outside the Golden Gate, the singing was a means of communication. You could not see a companion boat, but you knew it was there.

The "second-generation" of fishing boats came with the introduction of gasoline engines; small but dependable "put-puts". What became known as the Monterey Hull boats came into general use. The gas engine made it possible to fish more days of the year, gave a wider range for their operation in the ocean water and provided power to haul in the nets or lines. Even today, several hundred of the Monterey-type boats remain as a part of the fishing fleet. Often likened to the "vintage" automobiles of the Model-T era, the Monterey Hull craft ride at harbor alongside a "'third generation" of commercial fishing boats; diesel-powered craft which overshadow them in size; cruising capacity and are often equipped with two-way radio telephones and "sonar" depth-finders.

In those older days the fishermen got their news about the weather from Nature instead of a radio report. If the moon was in the east, the tide was coming in; or if in the west, the tide was flowing out the Golden Gate. A circle around the moon meant rain. Porpoises playing around the boat indicated a bad wind was brewing.

Old timers around Fisherman's Wharf have other tales to tell, recalled from the period of the last sailboats. It was hard work. If the boat was becalmed, they waited long hours for a breeze, or got out the oars and rowed. Sometimes they would throw a grappling hook into the rudder chain of a passing steamer and get an easy ride home. When the steamer crews called out imprecations against these marine hitchhikers, the Italian fishermen screamed right back in words that soon became a part of waterfront "lingo".

In those earlier periods the favorite fishing spots were outside the Golden Gate, just beyond the waves breaking on the rocks and sandy beaches. It took great skill to manage the boats so they did not drift ashore and be wrecked. In terms of money, the rewards were very low, if today's standards of value are to serve as a measure. The average fisherman made $2 or $3 a week, sometimes as much as $5. But, on the other hand a loaf of bread could be bought for less than five cents, and good red wine came from grapes that could be purchased for $5 a ton.

A century ago, Chinese fishermen and the early arriving Italians with their lateen-rigged Genoese sailboats, found crabs in plentiful supply from the Straits of Carquinez on the inland reaches of San Francisco Bay to the sandy shorelines off Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda. Over the years, clams, the natural food of the crab, disappeared from the Bay. The best crab catches were then made just outside the Golden Gate. Today, the "crabbrs" must drop their crab pots far out near the Farallon Islands in 18 to 35 fathoms of ocean water.

Tides of Change: Fisherman's Wharf 1870-1930 by John Muir

Amid the dramatic transformations of the San Francisco waterfront in recent years, one classic San Francisco locale has resisted change: Fisherman's Wharf. The primary tourist attraction of the city, with its rows of colorful street vendors, seafood restaurants and sport fishing boats, seems a timeless fixture of the waterfront landscape.

History, however, tells another story. From the earliest days of the San Francisco waterfront, Fisherman's Wharf has been evolving. Both its location and its layout were shifted repeatedly between 1870 and 1930 to make way for the almost constant construction of the city's shipping wharves and seawalls. The boats that lined Fisherman's Wharf also changed, reflecting the dynamic nature of the San Francisco Bay fisheries. Fortunately, the one thing about Fisherman's Wharf that has remained constant is its picturesque allure. Hundreds of photographs of Fisherman's Wharf from all its different eras survive today and provide a valuable chronicle of its transformation.

Commercial fishing along the waterfront grew with the burgeoning city of San Francisco. From the days of the Gold Rush, the city's markets and restaurants have been supplied with fresh seafood by a growing hodgepodge of boats and newly-arrived fishermen from around the world. As early as 1856, a small village of Chinese immigrants along the southern waterfront provided for themselves and Chinatown's fish markets using sampans and small junks built at the water's edge. European immigrants and Americans from the East Coast pursued salmon, flounder, crabs and herring using a panoply of small boats such as sloops, whitehalls, sailing smacks and modified ships' boats.

By the late 1860s, successive waves of Italian immigration brought hundreds of fishermen from the coastal villages near the city of Genoa into San Francisco. They also built fishing boats in the tradition of their native land, called "silenas" by the fishermen, but later more widely known as "San Francisco feluccas." The seaworthiness of these small, lateen-rigged vessels was a perfect match for the rugged waters of the San Francisco Bay and contributed to the success of their skilled owners. The felucca quickly became the principal vessel in the fishing fleets moored along the San Francisco waterfront.

The earliest recorded site of the growing fleet of feluccas was located at the India Dock at the foot of Vallejo and Green Streets. Here, in the inside basin of a small rectangular pier, the fleet shared pier space with a variety of larger vessels. With the practice of photography still in its nascence, there are only a few existing images of this multi-use wharf, and all of these were taken from far enough away to obscure the details of the fleet tucked in behind its sheltering piles. Not until after 1884, the year the fleet was moved to the new state-owned wharves at the foot of Union and Greenwich streets, are the familiar views of fishermen gathered together on their boats mending nets and drying sails captured on film.


As the first wharf built specifically for the fishing fleets, the Union Street Wharf was an impressive all-service facility. Jutting out from the shore on a north by northeast angle, the new Union Street Wharf comprised a long narrow rectangle about 450 feet long and 150 feet wide, with an entrance along the leeward eastern side. The easternmost pier featured a long shed for maintenance of fishing equipment, including

Fisherman’s Wharf (2/2)

four large boiling vats for tanning nets and sails. Tucked into the northwest corner of the wharf was a small boat slip, or ramp, which, combined with the davits lining the outboard face of the wharf, allowed the fishermen to haul out their boats for painting and repairs. Along the inshore pier, and facing the Embarcadero (then called East Street) was the Market House, where the daily catch of fish and crabs was deposited and sold in the early morning hours for resale by fish markets, hotels, restaurants and street vendors.


In 1900, the continued construction of the new seawall and the booming shipping industry of San Francisco forced the fishing fleet to move again. The new Fisherman's Wharf was located at the westernmost extension of the seawall, at the intersection of Jefferson and Taylor streets. Its long and rectangular shape mirrored the Union Street wharf. Its orientation was westward, however, and its entrance on the westward side open to San Francisco's roaring westerly winds. The rock seawall just outside the new wharf's entrance and along its northern edge served to break the Bay wind and protected the fleet of little boats moored behind its pilings.

The infamous old Market House did not move with the boats to the new locale. A new one was constructed, as was a new net tanning shed. A larger ramp angled down into the water from the boat shop along the easternmost edge of the wharf. The ornate Victorian U.S. Army Barge office also shared the Taylor Street wharf and was positioned out towards the offshore end of the seawall. Two boat-building shops occupied the banks of the interior basin, soon to become the westernmost extension of Jefferson Street.

While photographs of the wharf in its early days along Jefferson Street still feature some superb images of the steadfast feluccas and hardy sailing gillnetters, there are subtle indications of irrevocable change. Gone for instance are the sailing crab boats. By this time, the marine engine was beginning to replace the traditional sailing rigs of the fishing fleet, and new hull shapes were introduced to accommodate the weight and the drive of the engines. The little sprit-rigged crab boats were the first to disappear, replaced by a small but attractive fleet of fantail, plumb-stemmed gasoline launches. The profits made from the paranzella fishery were reinvested in a fleet of large steam tugs, whose power and efficiency far outweighed that of the large sailing feluccas, thus further securing the offshore dragnet fishery for their owners. Feluccas without masts, with cutaway sterns and propellers rising out of the water, also began to appear at the turn of the century, poignant illustrations of the desire to adapt to new technologies while holding on as much as possible to time-tested traditions.


By 1930 the marine engine had completely taken hold of Fisherman's Wharf. The universality of its acceptance by then is reflected in the uniformity of vessel types along the wharf. The clipper-bowed Monterey fishing boats were ubiquitous. Their bluff sterns countered the tendency of vessels to squat under the drive and the weight of the engine; their dramatically rising, hollow-sectioned clipper bows proved perfect for driving through waves under power; and their small amidship wheelhouses provided protection on longer journeys into the deeper, rougher waters of the Bay. These traits assured their popularity as a universal, multi-purpose vessel, used in all the fisheries for trawling, trolling, crabbing and gillnetting.

Their efficiency and the increased efficiency of distribution networks encouraged a boom for the fisheries held in check only by the ravages of the Great Depression. The products of the Bay were transported from the piers of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf by truck, rail, and ship throughout the West Coast and the rest of country. Many of the traditional marketing facilities of the older Fisherman's Wharf, such as the Fish Market building, were replaced by industrial processing and packing facilities.

To accommodate the new facilities of the 1920s and 1930s, Fisherman's Wharf was enlarged into three basins, with Jones Street filled in along what once was the protective riprap at the Western opening of the original basin. The old Southern pier extended all the way to the new Jones Street, requiring the Montereys to travel under the pier. Thus many of the vessels during this period feature hinged, or tabernacle, masts, that they would drop to pass under the pier. To accommodate the heavier Montereys, the light ramps of the Fisherman's Wharves of the past were abandoned in favor of a large, heavily constructed boat skid leading right up to the boat-building shops of Castagnola, Labruzzi and Genoa, and the machine shop of Boicelli and Boss. Here the Montereys were built and repaired, and their dependable, single-cylinder marine engines serviced, insuring the longevity and productivity of the hardworking fleet.

From the 1930s until now, still further changes have affected our Fisherman's Wharf. Many of the names involved in the fisheries then, such as Castagnola, Tarantino and Alioto are still present, having traded in the tenuous fortunes of the fisherman's life for the steadier, more lucrative fish distribution and restaurant businesses. New waves of immigration have brought Southeast Asian fishermen to our wharves, fishing to supply the live fish markets of Chinatown and the Tenderloin. Sport fishing boats and tour boats now vie for space with the local commercial fishing fleets, while these in turn shift and jostle to make room pierside for visiting vessels of the transient herring and salmon fleets of the Pacific Coast. Even today, piles are being driven to expand the docking space for these industrious fleets, and new state-of-the-art processing and packing facilities are being constructed. As Fisherman's Wharf continues its long tradition of change, traces of its past remain. Many of the structures and some of the boats that played such a central role in San Francisco's fishing community of the early twentieth century can still be seen along the waterfront.

Meigg’s Wharf

Henry Meiggs was one of the biggest "hustlers" in San Francisco during the early '50's, a pioneer promoter of his day. He was also the creator of Fisherman’s Wharf, developer of North Beach and Founder of Mendocino

When he landed in the city in 1850 all the vessels entering the Golden Gate anchored in Yerba Buena cove at the foot of what was then Washington, Commercial and Jackson streets. Wharves were extended into the bay water there, and residents generally recognized that locality as the city's only shipping point. Harry Meiggs had other ideas. A year or two later he boomed North Beach and built a road around the base of Telegraph Hill to Clarke's Point on the north shore, where he had invested a pot of money in real estate. He ran out a wharf 1.600 feet long from the foot of Powell Street, graded and extended the streets in that quarter, and started a real estate boom. His object was to induce ship owners to make use of his facilities for their warehouses. He urged that his dock was closer to the Golden Gate, and its inducements superior to the old anchorage. He plunged heavily into debt trying to swing this big scheme.

Meiggs knew every game being played in the city, political, social, financial and otherwise. At that time street work was paid for in warrants on the public treasury, signed by the Mayor and Controller. The Controller had fallen into the easy habit of signing entire books of blank warrants, and the Mayor, being a good fellow, followed suit. Meiggs knew their system and though a pliable subordinate got possession of one of these books properly signed for issue. There was no money in the street fund at the time, but that did not disconcert Meiggs. He knew that the money lenders of the town would bite at them, not knowing the situation, a sharp commentary on the way the city business was conducted. With the likes of dishonorable civic leaders as David Broderick in charge, it was easy for Meiggs to forge thousands of dollars’ worth of city warrants to finance his ambitious scheme for the development of North Beach and its sixteen-hundred-foot wharf.

With losses of approximately eight hundred thousand dollars to those who had purchased the fraudulent warrants or invested in his securities, Meiggs quickly gathered up his family and sailed for South America with an angry posse in hot pursuit. Meiggs was safely in flight when the storm broke. How much money he carried to Valparaiso, Chili, was never discovered. Meiggs later declared that he landed with only $8,000. He lost this in speculation, and had to pawn his watch.

South America at that period proved a gold mine for a man of Meiggs' irrepressible and resourceful character. Eventually he accumulated a fortune by building railroads in Peru and handling government contracts in adjacent countries. From his earnings he paid back every cent he owed his creditors in California. Eventually he made overtures to return here, but failed. He died in 1877.

Henry Meiggs is also credited as the founding father of what is today Mendocino. History tells us that at At 9:30p.m. on July 25, 1850, a sleek Baltimore clipper with her topgallants and topsails set, approached the treacherous Mendocino coast. Her captain was intent on reaching Gold Rush San Francisco after sailing 6,000 miles from China. It was here the Frolic, with her precious cargo, ran aground just north of Point Cabrillo, between the present-day communities of Fort Bragg and Mendocino (about 100 miles north of San Francisco).

The following spring Henry Meiggs, who was a successful San Francisco lumber merchant by this time, sent an expedition inland up the coast hoping to salvage something from the Frolic. They reported finding Indian women wearing elegant silk shawls, but could find no trace of any other cargo. They did, however, discover huge redwood trees growing along the Big River. Meiggs ordered a steam-powered sawmill from back East and located it at Meiggsville (later renamed Mendocino). It was the first of many settlements on the Mendocino coast and established the logging industry there which continues to this day.

Thayer Ship

Built in 1895 in Humboldt Bay ( Eureka), California, of Douglas fir and named for Clarence A. Thayer, a lumber company executive, the C. A. Thayer is a three-masted sailing ship, 156 feet in deck length, with a beam of 36 feet, and a depth of 11 feet. In her first life, she carried some 575,000 board feet of lumber below deck and stacked up to 10 ft high on deck. By 1912, damage from a heavy storm and competition from steam power pushed her into her second career, hauling boats and salt to Alaska and returning with salted salmon. World War I also saw her carrying wood to Australia and returning to the West Coast with coal. During the ship’s next life, from 1925 to 1930, she was involved in cod fishing in the Bering Sea. Later, a victim of the depression, she was layedup in Lake Union, Seattle, for several years before the U.S. Army put her to work as an ammunition barge during World War II. Later, she returned to cod fishing. She made her final voyage in 1950, as the last commercial sailing ship to operate on the Pacific Coast, after a career that ranged from a lumber schooner, to the salt-salmon trade, to cod fishing, and an ammo carrier along the way.

The C. A. Thayer was purchased by the State of California in 1957. After extensive repairs, she was moored at the Hyde Street Pier of San Francisco Maritime Museum and opened to the public in 1963. The museum has since become the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The park, with its historic ships and museum, draws almost a half-million visitors every year from throughout the world and is a key landmark of San Francisco.

The schooner C. A. Thayer at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Lynn Cullivan of the National Park Service noted, “We have an environmental living program whereby kids stay over night on the Thayer, pretend that it is the day after the 1906 Earthquake, and determine how they can sail up the coast and get timber to help rebuild the city. And that is really what happened to the Thayer and makes her so special.

“This ship represents the way that California was built. Our pioneers received very little wood and building material from the East Coast. So, San Francisco wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the lumber that was brought down the coast on the Thayer and the other schooners.”

Pier 39 (1/2)

In 1971, San Francisco businessman and developer, Warren Simmons, dreamed of transforming a dilapidated pier on the San Francisco waterfront into a magnificent collection of local shops, restaurants, attractions and a world-class marina. Warren wanted to create a place where locals and visitors could actually "get out on the Bay and appreciate the natural beauty" San Francisco had to offer.

Seven years later, in 1978, his dream was realized and PIER 39 opened to become not only a local spot, but also the premier tourist destination of San Francisco. Pier 39, the multimillion-dollar development is controlled by the billionaire Bass brothers of Fort Worth, Texas, and other financial luminaries. Last year, this so-called "entertainment center" generated more than $125 million in gross revenues.

The Bass-led consortium owns the movie theater and three of the 11 restaurants at Pier 39: Alcatraz Cafe and Grill, Dante's, and Neptune's Palace. It also controls UnderWater World, the financially troubled 707,000-gallon aquarium next door.

The Blue and Gold Fleet, another Pier 39-owned entity, operates most of the commuter ferry service between San Francisco and the suburbs. And under contract with the National Park Service, Blue and Gold has exclusive rights to operate tours of Alcatraz (last year's gross revenues were $8 million). To say the least, the Pier 39 limited partnership is doing nicely. Just how nicely Pier 39 has done, is doing, and will continue to do is spelled out in the leases the partnership has struck with the Port of San Francisco. To rent Pier 39 itself -- 1.4 million square feet of property, which includes 200,000 square feet of retail shops -- Pier 39 Limited Partners paid the port $1.4 million last year, or roughly 8 cents per square foot, per month. And that lease, which has an overall term of 65 years, is in effect until 2042.

Pier 39 has good deals with the port for its other holdings, too. To rent the pier just west of Pier 39, where the Blue and Gold Fleet is harbored, Pier 39 pays $38,000 per month, or 64 cents per square foot -- well below the average market price, in a city where monthly commercial rents now run from roughly $2 to $25 per square foot. Deals like that don't come around too often. In fact, for the last seven years, developers haven't had any deals at all because of the moratorium on waterfront construction that voters approved in 1990. Now, though, the San Francisco waterfront has reopened for development. All along the city's 7.5-mile waterfront, deal-making is about to begin.

Earlier this month, city officials signed off on a new Waterfront Land Use Plan, lifting the moratorium on construction along the bay. The city is now seeking developers -- preferably large ones -- to help build a waterfront for a world-class city. The new plan provides a one-time opportunity for San Francisco to create a revitalized waterfront -- perhaps along the lines of Seattle or Vancouver, where city planners made sure that the developments fit the cities, and that the cities would benefit from those agreements.

But San Francisco has no such history of judicious waterfront planning. The new Waterfront Plan is particularly vague when describing what can be built on the piers between Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building, and how "commercial bay-oriented recreation and public assembly" developments will be chosen.

Port Director Douglas Wong has talked of a grand vision for the waterfront, a vision that includes hotels, restaurants, and other nonmaritime diversions. That kind of talk makes public interest groups and development watchdogs nervous, and a look at the last large-scale development on the waterfront, Pier 39, makes this concern seem reasonable. In 1977, San Francisco developer Warren Simmons proposed a turn-of-the-century-style retail center on the waterfront next to Fisherman's Wharf. He promised cobblestones and street lamps. What the city has today could not be more different from that original proposal. And the government agencies that will scrutinize land deals along the newly available San Francisco waterfront are the very agencies that all but gave Pier 39 away to politically influential investors who now make astonishing amounts of profit on a development that is about as authentically "San Franciscan" as Rice-A-Roni.

The deal was sweet from the start. It began in the mid-'70s, when Warren Simmons, the developer who would later establish the Fresh-Mex empire known as Chevy's restaurants, sold the city on an idea to develop the underused waterfront area between Piers 37 and 41. Other developers had approached the city, but all had been rejected. Simmons' proposal, called North Point Pier, would have the character and feel of a 1900 San Francisco street scene, Simmons promised with. stained-glass windows, turrets, wooden walkways, and cobblestones.

The Board of Supervisors and the Port Commission approved the agreement in 1977, and gave Simmons a lease good for 60 years, with fixed rental fees at a low "preferred rent," plus a meager percentage of the center's gross revenues to be paid to the city. The length of the lease was not surprising, given that Simmons would need time to repay the $29 million he had borrowed to finance the development. The sweet part, however, was the low "preferred rent" set in the lease and the small percentage of revenues that Simmons was required to pay the city.

Even considering the amount of risk that Simmons was taking, the financial side of the deal seemed to favor the developer unbelievably. The arrangement's one-sided nature became easier to understand when it was revealed that Supervisors Dan White and Terry Francois and other city officials had emerged from the deal with subleases at the new development.

Then-Deputy City Attorney George Agnost criticized the proceedings, and demanded that the city revisit the contract with Simmons. But amendments to the lease in 1979 made the terms only slightly more favorable to the city. And it extended the lease by five years, so it would not end until 2042. Soon afterward, Simmons decided to sell North Point Pier, giving control of his sweetheart lease with the port to the Bass brothers in 1981. Pier 39 Ltd. Partnership inherited a dream deal with the port, a 65-year claim on a gold mine.

Shops and restaurants from all over the country want a storefront at the third-most-visited tourist spot in the world, and they pay handsomely for it. According to Pier 39's leasing office, Pier 39 charges its retail subtenants $3 to $18 per square foot per month, or a percentage of their gross sales, whichever is greater. On top of rent, subtenants pay 2 percent of their gross sales (after taxes) for general marketing and promotion, plus $2 per square foot per month for common area maintenance. In fees alone, last year subtenants paid roughly $7 million.

Pier 39, on the other hand, has been paying the port, on average, about $1.2 million in total rent over the last five years -- or roughly 7 cents per square foot, per month. The way in which Pier 39's lease payments are calculated, combined with strange lease provisions that allow Pier 39 to be both landlord and tenant at the site, leaves the partnership in a monopolylike situation that John D. Rockefeller might well have envied.

Pier 39 (2/2)

Under the lease, Pier 39 must pay the port $500,000 in base rent, plus an additional amount that is calculated as a percentage of the rent that subtenants pay to the partnership. But the Pier 39 partnership is in a position to minimize that "excess" rent, because the Bass brothers, who control the partnership, also control many of the businesses that pay rent to the partnership as subtenants.

In the end, even though Pier 39 reported $125 million in gross retail sales in 1996, additional rent paid to the port was calculated on only $20 million of those sales. And Pier 39 paid only 7 percent of those reduced sales figures to the port. Pier 39 lease even limits how much Pier 39 must pay the port when Pier 39 has a hugely profitable year and gross revenues exceed $15 million, as they have for the last five years.

Paul Osmundson, director of planning and development for the Port of San Francisco, admits that the lease has "several problems" that can be summarized this way: The port gets very little, and Pier 39 gets a lot. "There was nothing in the lease that provided for a case in which Pier 39 did really well, which they have," says Osmundson. "But there's nothing we can do about that now, because it's in the lease."

Critics have long questioned the fairness of Pier 39's arrangement with the port. A 1990 report by city Budget Analyst Harvey Rose showed that Pier 39's monthly rent was less than the rents paid by most other Port of San Francisco tenants in the Fisherman's Wharf area. According to the report, restaurants paid an average monthly rent of $1.88 per square foot, while retail stores paid about 70 cents per square foot.

More recently, at the port's request, analysts Keyser Marston Associates reviewed 16 restaurant and retail leases in the same area in 1995. They concluded that Pier 39 and several other tenants with master leases with the port were getting a very good deal indeed: "Despite the tremendous value conferred on business opportunities by the locational advantage of the properties leased by the Port, the current rental structures of the subject leases falls short of the leasing practices observable in the market place," the report said. "KMA suggests that percentage rents be increased to market levels."

And the deals appear to keep coming. Last June, Crowley Maritime sold most of its Red and White Fleet and its lease at Pier 41 to Pier 39's Blue and Gold Fleet. The sale made Blue and Gold the largest tour and ferry boat company on the waterfront. The port knew that Blue and Gold was getting a very good deal on its lease for Pier 41. Seven years earlier, the city budget analyst had told the city and port that then-tenant Red and White was paying roughly 31 cents per square foot each month, while other port tenants were paying 59 cents on average. To operate commuter ferries from the San Francisco Ferry Building, Blue and Gold pays the port a modest landing fee, but no rent. Contracts with Tiburon, Sausalito, Alameda, and Oakland also guarantee Blue and Gold millions each year in public transit subsidies. Those subsidies help offset Blue and Gold's operating expenses. Last year, Blue and Gold paid $460,000 to lease Pier 41 from the Port of San Francisco -- an amount approximately equal to what the company receives in government subsidies to run ferry service between San Francisco and Alameda.

The Basses are probably the last people on Earth who need a break on rent. The brothers began investing the family's modest $50 million Texas oil fortune in the early 1970s. Younger brothers Robert, Lee, and Edward followed oldest brother Sid, who was aided by Stanford Business School classmate Richard Raintree. Quietly but aggressively, the Basses began investing in companies such as Texaco and the Walt Disney Co. Westin Hotels, Taft Broadcasting, and American Savings and Loan were among the Basses other holdings. By the end of the 1980s, the Bass fortune had grown to $4 billion.

Sid, known as the genius behind the family's vast wealth, largely withdrew from the business as he tended to a divorce and much-publicized affair with socialite Mercedes Kellogg. Meanwhile, Robert Bass, the third oldest, emerged as the most aggressive investor of the brothers. Northwest Airlines, worth $5 billion, and the Walt Disney Co., which bought Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion and became the world's largest entertainment company in 1995, are among the Bass holdings.

Longtime merchants in the Fisherman's Wharf area say that under the direction of the Basses, whatever little " San Francisco" character Pier 39 once had -- if any -- has disappeared. Chris Martin is general manager of the Cannery, a retail complex a few blocks from Pier 39. "It is clear that Pier 39 is transforming itself into a regional theme park," says Martin. "And like Disneyland, it has no physical limits."

A look at the political connections of the people who control Pier 39 suggests why this "festival marketplace" has had a relatively charmed financial existence, because to say the Bass brothers are politically well-connected is like saying Willie Brown has a few friends. The Basses donate generously to politicians, notably those who are in positions to make decisions that involve Bass investments, including Pier 39.

The Basses are longtime financial supporters of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and longtime clients of Feinstein's husband, investment banker Richard Blum. The Basses were Blum's clients in 1981, when Feinstein was a member of the Board of Supervisors that approved the sale of Pier 39 to the Basses. They were still Blum's clients in 1987, when Mayor Feinstein endorsed Pier 39's much-contested plan to build UnderWater World, the overpriced fish-tank that has attracted far smaller crowds than expected and is, reportedly, on the verge of bankruptcy. (The following year, the Basses and their associates would contribute $123,000 to Feinstein's campaign for the U.S. Senate.)

The Basses' political connections in San Francisco extend beyond Feinstein, to the current mayor himself. In the late 1980s, Pier 39 retained the private legal services of then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown to facilitate the development of the UnderWater World project. Brown persuaded the publicly owned Steinhardt Aquarium to drop its opposition to the Pier 39 proposal to build another aquarium. In exchange, UnderWater World agreed to pay the Steinhardt $1.2 million over UnderWater World's first six years of business.

Secrecy seems to be something Pier 39 is comfortable with. The Bass brothers acknowledge their control over Pier 39, and public records from California and Delaware show that investment banker F. Warren Hellman is a general partner of San Francisco Partners, a firm that has longtime associations with the Basses and is an investor in the Pier 39 partnership. John Scully, an investor in San Francisco Partners who went to Stanford Business School with Sid R. Bass, is an investment partner of Richard Blum, husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. | originally published: January 28, 1998

Belt Line RR

The State Belt Railroad of California was a shortline that served San Francisco's waterfront until the 1990s and played an important role in World War II. Its tracks extended the length of the Embarcadero from south of Market Street to Fort Mason and the Presidio. The Belt transferred cargo between ships and main line railroads such as the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific and the Santa Fe. It also loaded trains onto car ferries for ports across the Bay. Although locals nicknamed the line the Toonerville Trolley and the Wooden Axle Line, the State Belt had an illustrious career.

The first section of the State Belt was built by the Board of State Harbor Commissioners in 1890. In 1913, the State Belt built the Belt Line Engine House, a five-stall roundhouse at Sansome Street and the Embarcadero in San Francisco. This engine facility housed a modest number of oil-fired steam switchers, and later, ALCO S-2 diesels. An accessory building to the engine house, the sandhouse, was built the following year. Both buildings are simple utilitarian buildings of this period, constructed with reinforced concrete and plaster. The buildings were altered in the 1950s replacing five main doors with industrial type roll-up doors set back from the façade. Renovation work done in 1984 included replication of the original doors and reinstallation in their original location.

In 1914, the State Belt tracks were extended on a wooden trestle across a shallow stretch of the Bay known as Black Point Cove. There, at the end of Van Ness Avenue, a new railroad tunnel built by the Army took the track under Fort Mason to the dock area on the fort's western edge. The Army's railroad went on to the Presidio, and was used through World War II and beyond to transport supplies and troops.


The State Belt contributed greatly to the movement of materials during the war. Army and Navy switchers were added to provide enough locomotive capacity. The State Belt also delivered trainloads of fresh troops to debarkation points, and picked up hospital trains and returning troops.The railroad moved 156 troop trains and 265 hospital trains in 1945 alone.

Today, the former Belt Line Railroad and Sandhouse have been converted into office space. Although the Belt Line ceased operations in 1993, the success of the recently established Market Street Railway F-Line along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf has prompted a movement to extend the historic streetcar line to serve several historic attractions beyond the current terminal, including San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Fort Mason and the Presidio.

The State Belt Railroad of California was a shortline that served San Francisco's waterfront until the 1980's. It's tracks extended the length of the Embarcadero from south of Market Street to Fort Mason and the Presidio. Although locals nicknamed the line the Toonerville Trolley and the Wooden Axle Line, the State Belt had an illustrious career. The first trackage of the State Belt was built by the Board of State Harbor Commissioners in 1889. At that time, the lands along waterfront were owned by the State, not San Francisco. These lands were once under water, so they were not included in the original survey of the City.

The original tracks were dual-gauged, to allow transfer of narrow gauge freight cars from the North Pacific Coast R.R. (Marin County) and the South Pacific Coast R.R. (Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz counties), as well as standard gauge cars. These first tracks did not yet connect to the outside world - all cars were ferried in from around the San Francisco Bay. Belt tracks finally connected with Southern Pacific tracks in 1913 at a small interchange yard located at Townsend and Berry Streets.

State Belt's ferry slips were located near Fisherman's Wharf. The railroad transferred cars from the Santa Fe, the Northwestern Pacific, and the Western Pacific. In the twenties, the Santa Fe built its own car ferry operation in China Basin, and State Belt tracks were extended over Third Street and the Mission Creek drawbridge to make a connection.

Fort Mason Tunnel East Portal and Trestle in 1913

Construction at the 1915 Panama-Pacific World's Fair and traffic to Fort Mason justified the construction of a tunnel, 1500 feet long, 15 feet wide and 22 feet high underneath the Fort Mason Military Reservation. Eventually tracks were extended across what is now the Marina District to Crissy Field to serve the Presidio.

World War II generated a large amount of trans-Pacific traffic, and the State Belt contributed greatly to the movement of materials during the War. Army and Navy switchers were added to provide enough locomotive capacity. The State Belt also delivered trainloads of fresh troops to debarkation points, and picked up hospital trains and returning troops. The railroad moved 156 troop trains and 265 hospital trains in 1945.

Operations slowly wound down as shipping moved across the Bay to Oakland. In 1969, with the State wanting to get out of the port business, San Francisco voters approved a bond issue to buy the Port of San Francisco. The State Belt R.R. thus became the San Francisco Belt Railroad. Later in 1973, the City offered to sell the railroad to any operator for $1. After more than half a year, a 20-year contract to operate the railroad was signed with Kyle Railways. Total trackage had fallen from 67 miles in 1950 to 58 miles in 1973.

The end of the railroad came in 1993. By then, most trackage north of the Ferry building was gone or inactive. The only activity took place at Pier 96, a newly built container facility near Hunter's Point. ALCO S-2 #23 was chosen to serve the facility, complete with the new number 49 and a new paint job in 49er colors. Engine #49, along with #25 are now on long term loan to the Museum from the Port of San Francisco. They join State Belt Steam Engine #4 as part of the GGRM's San Francisco Railroading Heritage collection.

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