6 Secrets You Didn't Know About San Francisco City Hall
The Transamerica Pyramid is San Francisco's most unique building. It's the city's third-tallest which, in a place known for its tall buildings, is still relatively short. The tallest building is the Salesforce Tower, but it won't hold that title for much longer - construction of an even taller building to house the city's transit system has already started next door!
But what about City Hall? Surely it must be one of our more interesting buildings? It may not be as tall or well-known as other structures in SF, but it is certainly among the most beautiful.
Here are six secrets you didn't know about San Francisco City Hall
It Could Have Been Much Different
While walking around San Francisco City Hall, many visitors wonder what the space was originally planned for. The building is full of hallways and rooms that feel like they were designed to be something else . This isn't an accident! When architects Trowbridge and Livingston submitted their plans for a city hall in 1911, they included two buildings: one on the top of Nob Hill (which you see today) and another near the water (which would have been destroyed by the 1906 earthquake).
The design was actually meant to resemble a palazzo rather than a "regular" government building. Which leads us to...
It's Not A Regular Government Building
One look at SF City Hall's colorful exterior will tell you that it's no government building - at least, not like we know them today. Sure, the beautiful columns and dome might feel familiar, but that's where most of the similarities end.
Look closely and you'll notice there are no bars over any of the windows (and probably never were). This is because City Hall was meant to be a place anyone could go without worrying about security threats. The design also includes ceremonial rooms meant for large gatherings as well as smaller rooms meant for individual meetings or hearings.
It Was Supposed To Be Temporary
There has always been some debate among San Franciscans as to how long their city hall should last (or if they even want a permanent one), but 1911 marked the year when it was finally decided that the old city hall would be replaced. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well with some people who held onto fond memories of the previous building.
But there's an even bigger surprise - no one thought they were actually going to build a new city hall! The original proposal was only meant to be temporary until a more suitable site could be found for a permanent structure (the same reason why many San Francisco schools are also designed as temporary buildings).
The only problem is...nobody ever came up with any better ideas! And so City Hall became our permanent building...at least, for now. Who knows how long it'll remain by the time we're done?
It's Got A Secret
San Francisco City Hall is filled with so many secrets, it's practically a wonder why anyone ever bothers to visit the interior at all! But despite how you feel about walking through government corridors, there are actually some pretty cool things to check out inside - that is if you know where to look.
For example, have you ever noticed that pillar just outside the mayor's office? No one seems quite sure what its purpose is (other than being really confusing), but it's rumored that there was originally another secret room behind it. Back when this building opened in 1915 , they were trying everything they could think of to make their new city hall as secure as possible...in case their temporary designation became permanent.
It's A Library
Okay, maybe calling San Francisco City Hall a library is a little misleading. In fact, the only thing you'll find here is the city clerk's office and some meeting rooms. But if you do ever need to visit one of these spaces for your own private business, keep in mind that it doubles as an archive for all sorts of historical records!
In particular, you can find San Francisco's mayoral papers starting in 1852 right up until today. This includes a lot of the original documents from when this building opened back in 1915 .
It may not have been what was originally planned when construction started in 1913 , but SF City Hall has stood the test of time pretty well so far with no signs of giving up its secrets anytime soon.
6. God Rays and the Polk St Entrance,
During the longest day of the year, the sun illuminates the first floor of City Hall through the Polk Street entrance. However, this occurs around 7 AM when City Hall is closed. Fortunately, you can still achieve the same stunning effect by properly using off-camera flash, which is one of our most sought-after images captured when exiting City Hall.