5 Amazing Things You Wouldn't Have Guessed About San Francisco City Hall
What's the first thing you see when you arrive at San Francisco City Hall?
Most people would answer that it is the impressive domed building itself. Many are surprised to discover, however, that before they even approach the building there are five amazing things they wouldn't have guessed about it.
1) An earlier version was almost demolished.
Before this structure stood here with its brilliant architectural design, an unattractive Victorian-style building stood in its place. The city had previously planned on demolishing this old structure and turning the lot into a car park. Of course City Hall wouldn't be mentioned as one of San Francisco's landmark buildings today if that plan had succeeded!
2) It was partially built using prison labor.
Some of the construction materials were sourced from a nearby prison, and inmates also made up a large proportion of the workforce that built City Hall. Nowadays it's hard to imagine prisoners working on such an inspiring project!
3) It has its own weather system.
San Francisco City Hall is famous for having its very own micro-climate - with fog often rolling in at around 11am, 2pm and 5pm every day! This makes sense when you learn that the dome is designed to collect moisture, channel it down into two cisterns located underneath the building where it's then recycled as drinking water. Not many other government buildings can say this about themselves!
4) There are dinosaurs beneath your feet.
If you're ever walking around City Hall, spare a thought for the dinosaurs who once roamed the earth! The fossils of these long-extinct animals have been found just a few meters below ground level near the building entrance - not too far from where workers were extracting the materials used to build it.
5) It's completely earthquake proof .
There are lots of different reasons why San Francisco City Hall is earthquake-proof. From reinforced structures and gas pressurization systems, to huge shock absorbers located underneath its foundation , there are hundreds of complex pieces involved in making this building as safe as possible should a natural disaster strike. Why do you think earthquakes only tend to happen on one side of California?
Highlights of San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco City Hall opened in 1899 after 27 years of work in planning and constructing. As large as it is, it's actually much smaller than the original building it replaced. Over the years, many prominent politicians have lain in state here including General Frederick Funston and Governor James Rolph.
It was the site of Marilyn Monroe's marriage to Joe DiMaggio, saw demonstrations and speeches during the Civil Rights movement, and survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Today it's open to the public and offers tours to learn about its architecture and history.
Good to know about San Francisco City Hall
You can book guided tours of San Francisco City Hall for free, making it a family- and budget-friendly option. A cafeteria can be found on the ground floor for those who want a quick bite to eat. Parking is available at pay lots and garages nearby, but be sure to secure your valuables out of sight.
The entire structure is handicapped accessible, so those with mobility issues won't have any problems. San Francisco City Hall can also be booked for private events such as weddings. Weapons are prohibited, and all entrants are screened.
When is the best time to visit San Francisco City Hall?
Of all the great things to see and do in San Francisco, City Hall is often overlooked. Maybe it's because its exterior doesn't leap out to passers-by like the Golden Gate Bridge or maybe people just don't know that there's more than what meets the eye at this historic building.
Decorated with colorful murals and sculptures, pastel domes and white marble, City Hall is a visual masterpiece that has been standing tall since the turn of the 20th century. It was designed by Arthur Brown Jr., who also crafted Coit Tower and the War Memorial Opera House downtown as well as many other prominent structures around California. And while those buildings are certainly worth visiting as well, there aren't too many places where you can gaze upon a grandiose neo-classical façade with 16 handmade stained glass panels, each one decorated with more than 100 individual flowers depicted in its own intricate design. If you're looking for some impressive ways to spend the day, City Hall is an ideal location for touring some San Franciscan history and artwork that is not to be missed.
To start off your visit on the right foot, try getting there early. City Hall opens at 9 am during the week but on Saturdays they open their doors slightly earlier so visitors can enjoy this unique attraction sooner rather than later. And once you get inside City Hall, don't forget to take a look at the beautiful murals around the main rotunda as well as being sure not to miss the large marble staircase with its ornate handrails and balusters. Also, on the third floor be sure to check out the Judge Milton Hersey Memorial Library where you can find a large collection of historical documents and materials about San Francisco including an impressive map of old California that was created in 1865 by Charles Drayton Gibbons.
When you're all done taking in all City Hall has to offer, if it's after 5 pm you might want to head down the street to Golden Gate Bridge. A trip over this iconic bridge at night is one of those things that almost every tourist visiting San Francisco should experience at least once and it usually makes for some pretty amazing photos as well. But no matter what time of day you go, City Hall is a prime example of inspiration and beauty that can be found throughout this fantastic city.
As you can see, City Hall is a wonderful way to spend part of your time in San Francisco. If you plan on going there soon, we hope you enjoy it!
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