Civic Center, San Francisco
No other city in America has such a magnificent official and administrative center as San Francisco. Its focal point is the square-shaped Civic Center Plaza around which are grouped various buildings - the huge City Hall, the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House and Veterans' Building, the Civic Auditorium, the Main Public Library, the Federal Building, the Federal Office Building, the State Office Building, etc.
Civic Center Map
Useful tips: Guided tours: Saturday 10 am. Meet at the History Room of the Main Public Library.
Transit: Bus: 5, 31.
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco consists almost entirely of the fabulous, private collection donated by Avery Brundage.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is among the most important art museums in the city. It focuses primarily on 20th C art.
San Francisco Main Public Library
The Main Public Library, headquarters of the city's library services, is on the east side of the square, opposite City Hall. The building was constructed in 1917 by George Kelham in Beaux-Arts style; the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie provided generous financial support. The library has a stock of some 1.2 million books, not to mention a considerable collection of newspapers and manuscripts (temporary exhibitions on the 2nd and 3rd floors). The building has long been too small to meet all the demands placed on it.A city library was founded in San Francisco as long ago as 1879, at first occupying rented rooms in Bush Street. It began to loan out books in 1880. The present Main Public Library, which supports 26 branches throughout San Francisco, stands where, in 1906, the fourth City Hall collapsed in the earthquake while in process of completion. Earlier still it was the site of the Yerba Buena cemetery (before Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco). Particularly noteworthy are two monumental murals by Frank DuMond in the reading and catalogue room; they depict scenes from California's pioneering days.
Address: 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-4733, United States
Opening hours: 9am-8pm; Sun: 12pm-5pm; Mon: 10am-6pm; Fri: 12pm-6pm; Sat: 10am-6pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Martin Luther King's Birthday - USA (3rd Monday, Jan), President's Day - USA (3rd Monday, Feb), Memorial Day - USA (last Monday, May), American Independance Day (Jul 4), Labor Day - USA (1st Monday, Sep), Columbus Day - USA (2nd Monday, Oct), Thanksgiving - USA (4th Thursday, Nov), Veteran's Day - USA (Nov 11), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Useful tips: Main Library Closed for Pride Day; All Library facilities close at 5 p.m. on the eves of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Bus: 5, 8, 19, 21, 26, 42, 47, 49.
Louise M Davies Symphony Hall
The opening of this concert hall in September 1980 was the fulfillment of a long-cherished ambition among San Francisco's music-lovers: it meant that at long last the Symphony Orchestra, which until then had shared the War Memorial Opera House with the San Francisco Opera and Ballet, had a home of its own.The building, designed by New York architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in collaboration of Pietro Belluschi, was required to blend with the rest of the Civic Center while yet being modern in conception (there was no question of imitating the Art Deco style of the other buildings).The result, both internally and externally, is a compromise between the old and new, tradition and modernity.All in all it deserves its reputation as one of the most interesting new buildings in San Francisco. Though capable of seating 3,000, it has an intimate feel to it. The acoustic problems which dogged it at the start have since been overcome so that San Francisco can take justified pride in its concert hall financed entirely by private funds.
San Francisco City Hall
On the west side of Civic Center stands the 300ft/92m-high City Hall, the fifth in San Francisco's history; its immediate predecessor, which stood on the site now occupied by the Main Public Library, collapsed prior to completion during the 1906 earthquake.The present building, constructed between 1912 and 1915, was designed by two Californian architects, John Bakewell and Arthur Brown jr., on the model of a French Renaissance château. It is nearly 400ft/120m long and 300ft/90m wide, with offices ranged around an interior courtyard beneath a tall dome. At 300ft/90m it is even a few meters higher than the Capitol in Washington. The drum, encircled by pillars, reaches a height of 190ft/58m at which point the dome is 85ft/26m in diameter.Inside the City Hall are the offices of the city's administration including the mayor's office, council chambers of the eleven-strong Board of Supervisors, and city courts. The building is an impressive manifestation of San Francisco's municipal pride. The City Hall work-force numbers some 1,260 people.
Address: 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102-4602, United States
Opening hours: 8am-8pm; Closed: Sun, Sat
Useful tips: Public tours: Mon - Fri 10, 12 and 2. The public tours are free and are limited to groups of 8.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Buses: 5, 8, 19, 21, 26, 42, 49
War Memorial Opera House
Like the Veterans' Building immediately north of it, the War Memorial Opera House, to the west of City Hall, was built in 1932 by Arthur Brown jr. Until 1980 the San Francisco Opera (founded in 1923) shared the Opera House with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, as a result of which their respective seasons could only be short. In 1980 the Symphony Orchestra moved to the newly built Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.The War Memorial Opera House and Veterans' Building were the venue for the Founding Assembly of the UN. The charter setting up the "World Parliament" was signed on the stage of the Opera House by the representatives of 43 nations on June 26th 1945. United Nations Plaza, a square at the east end of the Civic Center, commemorates this historic event.The San Francisco Opera runs 12 productions each year, from September through December.
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (temporarily closed)
The Civic Auditorium, the oldest building in the Civic Center, occupies the south side of Civic Center Plaza. Together with its extension, Brooks Hall, constructed in 1958, the Auditorium serves the city as a conference center. The Auditorium itself seats 8,000 and was built in 1915 for the great Panama-Pacific Exhibition. The architect was Arthur Brown Jr. who also designed the City Hall (with John Bakewell), the War Memorial Opera House and the Veterans' Building.
California State Building
This California State office building has an attractive curved modern design. It complements the architecture of the San Francisco Opera House and Civic Center across the street.
Telephone Pioneers Communications Museum
Zuni Cafe and Grill
Zuni Cafe and Grill in the Civic Center area of San Francisco serves fresh seafood and an Italian-Mediterranean menu. There is an excellent oyster bar as well.
Map of San Francisco Attractions