An illuminated decorative archway in Civic Center Plaza in 1925 for the Diamond Jubilee. [Image via Open SF History]

An elevated view looking west from Fulton at Market; from left: Orpheum Theater, City Hall and Old Main Library in 1931. [Image via Open SF History]

The General Douglas MacArthur Parade crowds pack Civic Center in 1951. [Image via Open SF History]

San Francisco Women for Peace march in protest of nuclear testing in front of the Federal Building in 1962. [Image via the San Francisco Public Library]

Evel Knievel jumps for the crowds in Civic Center in 1967. [Image via the San Francisco Public Library]

A Vietnam War Protest in the late 1960s moves from City Hall to Kezar Stadium. [Image via the San Francisco Public Library]

Before Pride, it was known as Gay Freedom Day; the crowds gather in Civic Center Plaza for the parade and celebration in 1974. [Image by Greg Gaar via Open SF History]


The Heart of the City

Since the 1800s, Civic Center has been the hub of culture, government and urban public spaces in San Francisco. The City’s history is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Civic Center, where cultural, civic, and ceremonial events have played out in these prominent spaces.

The view of City Hall and the Hall of Records in 1902 from the corner of Grove and Larkin. [Image via Open SF History]

City Hall lying in ruins after the 1906 earthquake from the corner of Grove and Larkin. [Image via Open SF History]

Construction on the current, Beaux Arts-style City Hall nears completion in 1915. [Image via Open SF History]

City Hall and Civic Center Plaza in 1920; while the Plaza has changed, City Hall is recognizable. [Image via Open SF History]

City Hall in 2019, including the popular exterior lighting, which began in the early 2000s.


Rising from Ruins

The first San Francisco City Hall was built in 1871 in Civic Center on Larkin at Grove, but laid in ruins after the 1906 Earthquake. Upon its rebuilding, it was moved to its current location, where it was rebuilt in the Beaux-Arts style and reopened to the public in 1915.

Marches, memorials, parades and protests — the public has long come together in trials and tribulations, as well as in joy and celebration, in Civic Center. From neighborhood-specific matters to international happenings, the public comes here to unite their voices behind issues personal to them. More history coming soon!