San Francisco Landmark: Old Chronicle Building

San Francisco Landmark 243: Old Chronicle Building
15 June 2008

San Francisco Landmark 243: Old Chronicle Building The San Francisco Chronicle New Building
Throughly fire pfoof, largest clock in the world, entirely lighted by electricity
1889 lithogrph courtesy UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

San Francisco Landmark #243
Old Chronicle Building
AKA The de Young Building
690 Market Street
Year 1889

When this sandstone and brick Richardson Romanesque building was completed in 1889, it was San Francisco's first skyscraper and the tallest building on the west coast. Designed for the San Francisco Chronicle by the Chicago firm of Burnham & Root, the building shared Newspaper Corner with the Hearst and Call buildings as well as Lotta's Fountain. (Burnham & Root also designed the Mills Building another early San Francisco skyscraper.)

In 1905, according to Chronicle columnist, John King, the four-story bronze clock tower was destroyed when it was ignited by skyrockets launched during a mayoral victory parade. (See Mr. King's article for a chronology and critique.) The building, after surviving the 1906 Earthquake and Fire with major damage, was rebuilt by Willis Polk who ran the San Francisco office of Burnham & Root.

The Chronicle moved out in 1924 and relocated to Fifth and Mission Streets across from the Old United States Mint.

Home Mutual Savings & Loan covered the brick and stone facade with white enamel siding in 1962 to give it a contemporary look. (A similar fate befell many of San Francisco's Victorian houses which were stripped of their ornamentation and covered with stucco, aluminum or asbestos.)

The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences recently converted the building into luxury residences, restoring the facade and adding a tower clad in thin, tan concrete panels to differentiate the new tower from the historic structure.

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