San Francisco Landmarks

San Francisco Landmark #162: Hobart Building
12 January 2020

San Francisco Landmark #162: Hobart Building
Kiosk and Streetcar
Chancery and Hobart Buildings
Three International Style Skyscrapers
14 June 2008

San Francisco Landmark #162: Hobart Building
12 January 2020
(Click Photos to Zoom)

San Francisco Landmark #162
Hobart Building
582-592 Market Street At Montgomery
Built 1914

In the second photograph - from foreground to background - are a Parisian style kiosk, Muni streetcar No. 1052, the Chancery Building (with flags), and the Hobart Building. Both the Chancery Building and Hobart Building were designed by Willis Polk.

Three International Style skyscrapers provide a bland background. From left to right are:

  • McKesson Plaza at 1 Post Street. 38 floors, built 1969, clad in granite.
  • One Montgomery Tower formerly Telesis Building. 38 floors, built 1982, clad in highly polished sunset red granite. Despite the name One Montgomery, the building stands on the northeast corner of Post and Kearny Streets.
  • Originally Wells Fargo Bank World Headquarters at 44 Montgomery Street. 43 floors, built 1967, clad in aluminum. It was the tallest building west of Dallas when it was built in 1967.

The kiosks...

...arrived in 1995 as part of a larger deal with JCDecaux to put public toilets on San Francisco streets. The French company would install and maintain 26 toilets in return for the right to plant advertising kiosks throughout what their current brochure describes as "the most geographically-concentrated urban shopping area on the West Coast."

Today there are 110 kiosks, all with backlit vertical display panels. Sixty are designed to double as newsstands, with counters inside and doors that swing open to reveal display racks.

The idea was to rid the street of the shabby makeshift news-vending sheds then sprinkled through the downtown. When they were installed, no less an arbiter of civic taste than Chronicle columnist Herb Caen noted approvingly that in the quest to spiff up San Francisco "a touch of Paris never hurts."

Source: John King, Chronicle Urban Design Critic, San Francisco Chronicle article dated 26 November 2010.

Streetcar No. 1052... a single-ended PCC car originally built for Philadelphia in 1946 but painted in the livery of the Los Angeles Railway: orange and yellow, with silver stripes. (Source: Market Street Railway.)

The Hobart Building

One can see an...interesting attempt to satisfactorily terminate a tower in The Hobart Building....This is an instructive example of the lengths to which an architect can go to fit the surroundings and still produce something original and desirable.

Willis Polk designed this building around 1914 and it is said to have been his favorite. The lower bulk of the structure is very plain, so non-committal that it could get along with almost any building on Market Street. Above this basic structure, Polk reared a tower almost as much higher, a tower standing free of the margins of the plot (which is odd-shaped and filled by the lower building), a tower that is finished on all sides in magnificently ornate style unmatched by any of its neighbors. The visual effect of the rays of the setting sun on the rich detailing is one of downtown San Francisco's remarkable sights (Olmsted and Watkins 1969: 86).

Source: Here Today, San Francisco's Architectural Heritage by Roger Olmsted and T. H. Watkins, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1969.

For another view of the Hobart Building, see San Francisco Landmark 200, Path of Gold Light Standards.

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