San Francisco Historic District
For decades after the 1849 Gold Rush, San Francisco was the principal seaport on the west coast.
Unlike most other areas of the San Francisco waterfront, the South End District contains an extraordinary concentration of buildings from almost every period of San Francisco's maritime history.
One-story warehouses were common in the 19th century but rare in the early 20th century as the cost of land increased. Two of the oldest warehouses in the historic district are one story in height: Hooper's Warehouse (1874) at 64-72 Townsend Street and the California Warehouse (1882). Their horizontal orientation is accentuated through the use of strong cornice lines with decorative brick patterns.
After 1906, almost all new warehouses were constructed to be at least three stories in height, and several warehouses on Second and Townsend Streets reached six stories.
The invention of the forklift in the 1930s eliminated advantages which multi-story buildings enjoyed over single-story structures. Since 1945, almost all warehouses constructed in the United States have been one story in height.
Four buildings remain from the nineteenth century. Another four were constructed in the six-year interval preceding the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Most of the buildings were erected between 1906 and 1929, a period during which trade along the waterfront increased dramatically.
Several events shaped this part of San Francisco. The building of Long Bridge in 1865 opened up opportunities for industrial development in the southern part of the city. The Second Street cut of 1869, through fashionable Rincon Hill, allowed access from downtown to the southern waterfront. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 was the single most important event to impact the district.
Prominent figures in San Francisco history have been associated with the district. William Ralston, founder of the Bank of California and builder of the Palace Hotel owned property in the district and was a major force in politically engineering the Second Street cut in 1869.
William Sharon, a U.S. Senator from Nevada (1875–1881), acquired much of Ralston's estate and also co-owned and built the California Warehouse on the corner of Second and Townsend for Haslett and Bailey in 1882.
The leading warehouse firms in San Francisco were those of the Haslett and Lamb families. Samuel Haslett, a native of Ireland, came to San Francisco in the 1870s and became a partner with J.W. Cox at the Humboldt Warehouse on Rincon Point. The Hasletts built or are associated with seven warehouses in the district.
George Lamb founded the South End Warehouse Company in 1905, and later co-founded the drayage and hauling firm of King and Company. South End operated six warehouses in the area at various times.
Charles Lee Tilden (1857–1950) built 111–113 Townsend, a Haslett warehouse, and the Overland warehouse at Third and Townsend Streets. Tilden, a highly successful business entrepreneur, also founded the East Bay Regional Park system in 1934.
Charles Norton Felton (1828–1914), Senator, Congressman, and early developer of oil in California, is associated with warehouses at 275 Brannan Street and 601 Second Street.
William P. Aspinwall founded the internationally important Oriental Warehouse during the Gold Rush. John Hooper built Hooper's South End Grain Warehouse at Japan1 and Townsend Streets in 1874. Hooper was a member of a family known particularly for its lumber trade, with large land holdings just south of the South End Historic District.
Adapted from San Francisco Planning Code: Article 10, Appendix I.
Note 1: Japan Street was renamed Colin P. Kelly Jr. Street in 1942. Capt. Kelly was a B-17 pilot who was killed when his bomber was shot down by Japanese fighter planes. His crew parachuted to safety.