Why We Love San Francisco City Hall (and You Should Too!)
In a city full of tourist attractions, from Alcatraz to the Golden Gate Bridge, City Hall is often overlooked. But this is a mistake! San Francisco's City Hall has plenty to offer visitors and locals alike.
Here are some reasons why you should make City Hall a destination on your next visit:
Designed in 1905 by Arthur Brown, Jr., one of San Francisco's most famous architects, it features archways with ionic columns and pink granite steps that lead up to an impressive rotunda framed by four clock towers and topped with lofty domes in which perched gold-plated statues represent Justice , Wisdom , Ceres (the goddess of agriculture), and Abundance . [It sounds like they don't want to mention Freemasonry with the name "Ceres"].
2.The historic murals
These fourteen paintings were created by twenty-one different artists. Some are here now, but three of them have been painted over at some point in time -- so if you want to see those specific ones, you have to look closely for traces on the walls where they used to be!
3. Built during the Great Depression
Yes, the Great Depression. You might say that this is where San Francisco's frugality comes from. As one of the most modern city halls in the country, it was built during a time when many people were struggling to find work at all, let alone have enough money to fund massive projects like these.
4. It once housed an arsenal of guns
You may have heard stories about cities storing their arsenals inside buildings, but did you know SF was once armed to fight off enemies? During World War II , after fears of air raids had spread through the nation, then-mayor Angelo Rossi-- a WWII veteran himself --decided to make sure the city was prepared.
In addition to Army and Air Force recruitment offices, the Mayor spearheaded the installation of mounted guns from decommissioned warships on the front steps of City Hall as a defense against possible invasion by Japan . In case any enemy pilots got past those guns, there was also an anti-aircraft battery just outside Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge . Despite being commissioned in 1935 , it wasn't until 1942 that one could stroll beneath these stately pillars without fear of getting shot at.
5. It has a beaux arts style exterior
That's what they call that lovely neoclassical look with all those columns and adornments. It's a style that is most influenced by the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome, which was popular during the time City Hall was built. The pioneers of this movement strove to make their architecture look as true-to-life as possible, allowing for more detail whether it be with columns or sculptures.
6. It cost less than $3 million to build
In the end, it only cost about $2.7 million to construct City Hall. You read that correctly: two-point seven million dollars-- a true testament to what SF can do with our tax dollars. Of course you might say that times were different back then and it would be difficult for today's standards to compete. Well, if that's the case let me remind you that even though this building was built in 1935 it didn't have air conditioning until 2006 (although I'm sure they did everything they could to keep the mayor from sweating). In other words, SF has come a long way in just over 80 years and we're still trying.
7. It's been visited by many famous figures
In addition to being home to countless weddings and public announcements, City Hall has played host to a number of important political figures over the years. President William Taft laid its ceremonial cornerstone in 1915 , with Lady Bird Johnson visiting in 1967 for a press conference on beautification . In 1996 the Dalai Lama made an appearance at what is now called San Francisco's "spiritual center" . And who could forget when Beyoncé celebrated Mayor Ed Lee's inauguration in 2011?
8. Free tours every weekday at noon
Guides will take you into areas that are off limits to visitors on most days -- including the Mayor's office! If you call ahead, you can also arrange a private tour with one of these guides for any day of the week except Fridays .
So next time you visit San Francisco, make sure you stop by City Hall! You'll be glad you did!
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