National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco

National Register #84001183: Aquatic Park Historic District 4 July 2009
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National Register #84001183
Aquatic Park Historic District
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Built 1920-1945

Aquatic Park, developed from 1936 to 1939, was one of California's largest Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects reflecting President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policy of providing employment to architects and artists during the Great Depression. The centerpiece of this group of "streamline moderne" structures, all employing nautical metaphors, is a multipurpose structure containing the bathhouse, concession stand and lounge. Its rounded walls, recessed upper stories, tubular steel railings and porthole windows were purposely designed to create the illusion of an ocean liner. Murals and other artwork carry out the nautical theme. This main building, lifeguard stations, stadium, Sea Scout building, a seawall and a semicircular pier form the Aquatic Park Historic District, now part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.... National Register Statement of Significance for Aquatic Park

Aquatic Park and the Hyde Street Pier are contained within San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Aquatic Park and Vicinity

Hyde Street Pier Pier 45

The San Francisco Bay Area Maritime Trail

National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933

President Franklin Roosevelt came into office during the worst depression the nation had ever known. Fulfilling a campaign promise to put people to work, he instituted the New Deal to bring economic recovery to the depression-wrought country.

The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933 authorized the Public Works Administration (PWA) to provide jobs, stimulate business activity, and increase purchasing power through the construction of permanent and socially useful public works. The Federal Government and local city, county and state governments formed a working partnership resulting in the greatest single construction program in history.

PWA construction projects, in addition to providing employment for the skilled, generated a volume of jobs for the unskilled. The PWA provided loans and grants up to forty percent of the total cost of the project to states, and many other public bodies, including schools.

From 1933-1935, the PWA underwrote projects in 3,040 of the 3,073 counties in all forty-eight states. Of the 3.76 billion dollars of the NIRA fund, 2.56 billion dollars was spent on 19,004 construction projects.

Narrative adapted in part from the NRHP nomination for Tulare Union High School Auditorium and Administration Building dated 16 November 1999.

Many buildings funded by the PWA have been recognized for their historic significance and architectural excellence. Among them are:


Aquatic Park in San Francisco
Beach Chalet Murals in San Francisco
Dalton Wells near Moab, Utha
Feather River Scenic Byway Tunnels
Federal Building in Merced
Federal Writers and Artists Projects in San Francisco

Gasquet Ranger Station
Mariposa County High School Auditorium
McClatchy Senior High School in Sacramento
Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco
Sacramento Junior College

San Francisco State Teachers College
Sonora Youth Center
Theodore Judah School in Sacramento
Tulare Union High School


Carson City Civic Auditorium
Hoover Dam
USO Building in Hawthorne
Tonopah Main Post Office
Yerington Main Post Office


Butte Falls Ranger Station in Butte Falls
Dead Indian Soda Springs Shelter in Rogue River National Forest
Fish Lake Shelter in Rogue River National Forest
Gold Beach Ranger Station
Lake of the Woods Ranger Station in Fremont-Winema National Forest
Lithia Park in Ashland

McKee Bridge Campground in Rogue River National Forest
Wrangle Gap Shelter in Rogue River National Forest

Bryce Canyon Airport
Dalton Wells Civilian Conservation Corps
Minersville City Hall
Rock House in Arches National Park


Name Year Address Remarks Sort Address Sort Name
Bathhouse (Maritime Museum)1938Oval-shaped, four-story reinforced concrete Streamlined Moderne building with nautical lines representing a cruise ship such as the contemporary Normandie or Nieuw Amsterdam in abstract form. The stories of the building step inward to form decks. According to the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which designed and constructed the building, it is "Like a huge ship at its dock...with rounded ends, set back upper stories, porthole windows and ship rails, its resemblance to a luxurious ocean liner is indeed startling." The building is flanked by large concrete stadia.1Bathhouse (Maritime Museum)
Concession Stand and restroom2Concession Stand and restroom
Speaker Towers1938Two 35-feet-high reinforced concrete speaker towers in were built at the same time as the other WPA projects for Aquatic Park. They reflect the international design of the other structures.4Speaker Towers
Sea Scout Building1943A wood frame, one-story structure built on pilings over the waters of the lagoon. A walkway connects it with land, near the entrance to the Municipal Pier. The building has a boat docking facility. The interior contains many small rooms that are used for storage, offices, classrooms, small boat, and spar repair facilities for the Sea Scout organization.5Sea Scout Building
Lagoon1941The Aquatic Park lagoon occupies the site of the former Black Point Cove, which was partially filled in during the early 20th Century. As the former beach had been buried under tons of rubble and fill, the lagoon was supplied with a new sand each, with most of the sand coming from excavations in downtown San Francisco for the Union Square underground parking garage which was built in 1941.6Lagoon
Seawall1937Built of rubble faced with granite paving blocks from San Francisco streets. The blocks were removed during street modernization in the 20th Century.7Seawall
Municipal Pier1929The reinforced concrete Municipal Pier is built on pilings over the seawall that shelters the Aquatic Park lagoon.8Municipal Pier
Bocce Ball Courts1950Built in the 1950s, the Bocce Ball courts are the most recent structural addition to Aquatic Park.9Bocce Ball Courts
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