Although it is now dwarfed by the newer buildings in San Francisco, the Ferry building tower used to stand tall as a beacon to oncoming ships and ferries. Despite the rise of the buildings in the downtown area like the Transamerica Building and the Salesforce Tower, the iconic Ferry Building still holds it own as an integral part of the San Francisco skyline. The building is located right on the San Francisco Bay, along the Embarcadero, and features a 245-foot clock tower as well as the words “Port of San Francisco” in huge, lighted red letters across the front.
The Ferry Building was a huge deal when it was conceptualized back in 1892, by far the biggest project taken on by the city at that time. The architect, A. Page Brown, designed the building in Beaux Arts style, with the idea for the tower based on an historic clock tower in Seville, Spain.
While the Ferry Building was originally built as a functional transit hub for commuters and cargo and at one time was the second busiest transit terminal in the world, the usage decreased rapidly over the years due to the building of the Golden Gate Bridge & Bay Bridge, new train lines and the rise of the automobile. Because of this, by the 1950s, the Ferry Building became obsolete as a transit hub and was eventually transformed into office space.
The building continued to function as an office building for decades until 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake devastated the city and caused major structural damage to the Ferry Building. The City of San Francisco decided to preserve the historic building and undergo a massive restoration and retrofit. After several years of planning and construction, the newly-built Ferry Building opened to the public in 2003.
Rather than use the historic space for offices, the building was designed to house a vast marketplace on the ground floor. It would still be used as a dock for several different ferries in the Bay and now commuters and tourists would have a beautiful place to eat, drink and shop when they arrive. Today the Ferry Building is a popular tourist attraction and definitely worth a visit.
The marketplace if filled with some great restaurants, food stands and stores selling everything from candles to ceramics. If you need to purchase a gift or want to take home a piece of San Francisco, it is a great place to find unique items for anyone. Popular spots include Blue Bottle Coffee, Donut Farm, The Imperial Tea Court, Fort Point Beer Company and The Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese Shop.
Insider’s Tip: Make sure to check out the Farmers Market at The Ferry Building if you have a chance. It takes place on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week and features a great variety of fresh produce, artisan foods and more.
More Attractions in San Francisco
Planning an event? Add it to the list
Contribute to SF’s best list of what’s happening today and tomorrow
Keep in the Loop