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San Francisco Landmark #7: The Building That Booze Saved

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Welcome to The Landmarks, where Curbed takes a look at one of the many San Francisco landmarks, listed either locally or on the National Register of Historic Places. Landmarks will be chosen at random, but do drop us a line if you'd like to see a certain landmark highlighted

The Audiffred Building is one of the oldest remaining buildings from San Francisco's earliest days, a rare waterfront survivor that withstood earthquakes and riots (with a little help from some liquor bribes). At City Landmark #7, it's also one of the first landmarks to get listed back in 1968.

The Audiffred Building was constructed way back in 1889 by Hippolite D'Audiffret, a French immigrant by way of Mexico who was nostalgic for his native land. Supposedly the design is modeled after 19th-century sketches of Parisian commercial buildings.

The original tenant was a saloon named the Bulkhead. As legend has it, when the 1906 Earthquake hit and the fire was raging through downtown, the fire department was set to blow up the building in order to slow the fire from spreading. A bartender supposedly promised two quarts of whiskey to each fireman and cart full of wine if they didn't destroy the building - essentially saving it from destruction. The Audiffred Building, along with the Ferry Building, were some of the only waterfront buildings to survive.

Another early tenant on the upper floors was the Sailors Union of the Pacific. It was a place for one of the city's earliest unions to socialize and organize. It was also the headquarters of the City Front Strike in 1901 - a gnarly labor dispute that pitted waterfront unions against non-union shipping firms. They were there until 1905 when they moved next door to 110 The Embarcadero.

A.P. Giannini opened one of the first branches of his Bank of Italy (later Bank of America) in the building in 1928. He's the one who commissioned the frieze that runs around the building full of waterfront-appropriate designs like ships, lighthouses, and dolphins.

The area turned sketchy in the mid-century and became boxed in when the Embarcadero Freeway was built in the 1960s. When a fire from a gas main effectively gutted the whole interior, the building was slated for demolition, but the community rallied around it and got it listed as Local Landmark #7.

The freeway was demo'd after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, reopening the building to the waterfront. Since then, it's been home to the restaurant Boulevard.

· Local Landmark #7: Audiffred Building [SF Planning]
· Audiffred Building [Found SF]
· Labor Day Special: The San Francisco Waterfront Strike of 1901 [KQED]
· Architectural Spotlight: The Audiffred Building-A Tribute to France [Untapped Cities]