The Heartbeat of San Francisco

Dewey Monument of PastUnion Square is the heartbeat of San Francisco itself -- ever changing, eternally celebrating, yet firmly rooted in its glorious past. The Dewey Monument on the right.

Two years before the Gold Rush, in 1847, Jasper O'Farrell created a design for San Francisco, with Union Square as a public plaza. By the 1880s, it was a fashionable residential district, and in 1903, the towering monument was added, topped by the bronze goddess Victory, modeled after Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, known for her enormous influence in the San Francisco art community.

Dewey Monument TodayAfter the great earthquake of 1906, Union Square became San Francisco's premier shopping district, and, by the 1930s, the site of the world's first underground parking structure.

As a result of an international design competition and a $25 million renewal, Union Square was reborn. It's the obvious place to meet, enjoy coffee, or just let the world go by. Featured are a large central plaza with a terraced performance state and lawn seating...four grand entrance corners bordered by signature palms...a café pavilion with outdoor seating...visitor information and ticketing services...and four magnificent light sculptures.

And, of course, Victory, surveying the vitality of one of the world's great cities.


Our Favorite Books about the History of San Francisco

Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide

This combination history/guidebook is divided into ten chapters, each of which provides background information on San Francisco's historic buildings, museums, and artifacts as well as profiles of sites and attractions.

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Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area

With long-forgotten stories and evocative photographs, this collection showcases the once-familiar sites that have faded into dim memories and hazy legends. Not just a list of places, facts, and dates, but a pictorial history.

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Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love

In a kaleidoscopic narrative, bestselling author David Talbot recounts the gripping story of San Francisco in the turbulent years between 1967 and 1982—and of the extraordinary men and women who led to the city’s ultimate rebirth and triumph.

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San Francisco's Playland at the Beach: The Early Years

Presenting many rare photographs of Playland at the Beach and the surrounding neighborhood—including previously unpublished photographs from the private archive of ride designer Laurence Hollings—this collection contains a comprehensive photographic record of the enthralling amusement park from its construction in 1920 through its glorious heyday in the 1930s and 1940s.

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San Francisco Chinatown: A Guide to Its History and Architecture

San Francisco Chinatown traces the development of the neighborhood from the city's earliest days to its post-quake transformation into an "oriental" tourist attraction as a pragmatic means of survival.

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Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture

But there are other, unofficial, San Francisco stories, often shrouded in myth and in danger of being forgotten, and they are told here: stories of immigrants and minorities, sailors and waterfront workers, and poets, artists, and neighborhood activists—along with the stories of speculators, land-grabbers, and the land itself that need to be told differently.

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