National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco
(Some people who work in the Embarcadero Center
and some people who live in The Gateway are opposed
to highrise buildings on the waterfront.)
The Ferry Building, originally named Union Ferry Depot, was commissioned in 1894 and opened in 1898, but it was not completed until 1903, three years before the Great Earthquake and Fire. The building was hardly touched by the 1906 earthquake, due in part to its formidable reinforced-concrete foundation.
A. Page Brown, who designed the steel-framed building in the Neo-Classical Beaux Arts style, died shortly after the construction contracts were let on December 26, 1895. Edward R. Swain was engaged as Supervising Architect. He was assisted by H. C. Holmes, Chief Engineer for the Port.
Brown modeled the building's most prominent feature, the 235 foot tower, after Seville's 12th century Giralda Tower.
Until the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges opened in the late 1930s, Union Ferry Depot served 50 million bay commuters a year - more than 100,000 per day. This figure was surpassed only by London's Charing Cross Station as the busiest passenger terminal in the world. The area in front of the Ferry Building was the hub of the local transportation system with cable car and streetcar lines from all parts of the city terminating there.
Source: NRHP Nomination dated 8 September 1978
The design of the Ferry Building tower may have been influenced by the campanile in Piazza San Marco as well as by the Giralda Tower. (See National Trust Guide to San Francisco by Peter Booth Wiley.)
The Ferry Building is also San Francisco Landmark 90.