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Map: San Francisco landmarks you’ve never heard of before

In this town, even comic strip characters are invested in preserving our historic assets

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Even people who have never set foot in San Francisco can picture the city’s most famous landmarks, from the bridges to the cable cars to Postcard Row. But it turns out SF’s physical historicity includes a lot of hidden corners—some of them surprising, many of them beautiful, and others downright weird.

Between 1968 and 2019, the city officially designated 288 landmark. (Can you believe the city didn’t landmark the Golden Gate Bridge until 1999?). Most are buildings, but SF might deem basic sites or even entire landscapes historic assets.

Here are just a few historic gems you’re probably stumbled on without even realizing it—all part of an ever-growing trove.

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1. SF Mining Exchange

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350 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94104

The mining exchange formed during the Gold Rush as a market for shares in mining endeavors, but the Bush Street building didn’t come along until 1923.

It also served as a general stock exchange for a while, but in recent years mostly went to seed, and the preserved elements have been repurposed as the lobby of a 19-story high-rise, a development that took decades. Architect Joseph Heller called it “the single most complex permitting I’ve ever done.”

2. Golden Triangle Lights

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Market St & Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94104

Yes, even the streetlights are landmarks in San Francisco. Starting in 1918, the city installed over 100 distinctive Golden Triangle lights along and around Market Street, hailed at the time as technical marvels.

A 1919 edition of the Journal of Electricity praised the Golden Triangle design as “unlike many other bright illuminatory systems, not injurious to the eyes,” and also credited the “absence of the flaming, piercing, eye-straining arc so common in unscientific illumination.”

Google

3. Kinmon Gakuen Building

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2031 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94115

Give this to the Kinmon Gakuen Building: Of all of the landmarks in San Francisco, it’s the most recent designation, arriving on the list in 2019. The institute has served as a Japanese language school since 1911, originally founded because the children of Japanese immigrants were not allowed to attend existing schools.

Google

4. Alfred G. Hanson House

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126 27th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

This is one of the earliest homes in the Richmond District, which at the time (1907) was almost completely undeveloped this far out. Hanson was an instructor at another SF landmark, the Naval Station on Yerba Buena Island.

Via Google

5. Saint Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

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1135 O'Farrell St
San Francisco, CA 94109

San Francisco has no shortage of historic churches, and this one often ends up overshadowed (ahem) by the nearby St. Mary Of the Assumption Cathedral. But St. Mark’s is a rare example of the Romanesque style in San Francisco, and was fortunately saved in 1906 by its proximity to the firebreak at Van Ness Avenue.

6. Abner Phelps House

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1111 Oak St
San Francisco, CA 94117

This is one of the oldest unaltered homes in San Francisco, possibly dating to 1850. According to the National Register of Historic Places, which also lists the house, when first built it was part of a 160-acre estate, and the city limits did not expand to include it until four years later. It’s been moved twice, but always within the original acreage.

7. Juvenile Court Building

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150 Otis St
San Francisco, CA 94103

If you’ve ever wondered about this seemingly gravity-defying structure at the absolute edge of the Mission District, wonder no more: Built in 1916, architect Louis Christian Mullgardt had only a small 140-foot by 140-foot parcel to work with, so he designed a soaring and almost razor-thin six-story structure that housed the juvenile court and detention hall.

SanFranMan59

8. Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall

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224 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94103

There are lots of union halls in San Francisco, but these historic offices circa 1906 (a year when construction labor would decidedly become much, much more important even than previously in SF...) get specially singled out for being the very first building in the city specifically constructed to serve as a labor headquarters.

9. Engine Company #22

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1348 10th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

There are many vintage firehouses in San Francisco, but few of them make a statement as effectively as this 1898 number, the first ever built to service the Sunset District. Architect Charles R. Wilson, designer of the Windsor Hotel, cooked up its bold shingles and tower design (the tower was originally used to hang hoses).

The city sold the old firehouse in the 1960s, and these days it belongs to a Catholic publishing company, who paid $1.6 million for it.

Google

10. McCormick House

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4040 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

In 1999, the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board—now just called the Historic Preservation Commission—called this vintage home “an essentially unaltered example of high Queen Anne style flats which survived the 1906 earthquake and fire,” singling it out for its onion dome and the fact that the building of the Twin Peaks Tunnel destroyed many similar nearby houses but spared this one.

Google

11. Engine Company No. 37, Truck Company No. 9

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2501 25th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Designed by architects at Ward & Blohme in 1918, this is one of only two stations in the city without any fire poles, being as it is a one-story set-up that’s easy to miss but a true hidden gem for those who stumble on it today. These days it’s used mostly for storage.

12. Frank G. Edwards House

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1366 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Frank Edwards was an English immigrant who came to San Francisco by way of New Orleans in 1852. He tried his hand at gold panning but eventually struck it rich in an entirely different vein: the wallpaper business. SF Planning singled out his circa 1883 home as a critical and well-preserved example of Italianate style houses in the Mission.

13. Doggie Diner Head

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Sloat Blvd & 45th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94116

Originally the Doggie Diner was a chain, and there were dozens of these slightly disquieting canine connoisseurs watching over roadside eateries across the Bay Area.

The last one closed in 1986, and in perhaps the weirdest preservation saga of all time, cartoonist Bill Griffith used his surrealist comic “Zippy the Pinhead” to drive a grassroots campaign urging the city to buy this remaining doggie head, which then did happen in 2000.

The dog blew down on April Fool’s Day a year later—we’re really not making any of this up—and afterwards the city relocated it to its present median spot.

14. Bayview Opera House

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4705 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 824-0386
Visit Website

Most people have heard of the Bayview Opera House, but few realize it was one of the very first buildings that the city landmarked under the article ten of the planning code in 1968.

That year, SF singled out eight structures, the first being Mission Dolores—no surprises there. The opera house barely squeezed in under the deadline for the inaugural year, landmarked in December under the name the South San Francisco Opera House and its old address on Newcomb Avenue.

(It’s in the same location now, but goes by a Third Street designation.)

SanFranMan59

15. Albion Castle

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881 Innes Ave
San Francisco, CA 94124

Officially registered as the Hunters Point Springs and Albion Brewery, these days most people just call the somewhat obscure waterfront building Albion Castle. Built in 1870, the then-remote location was meant to take advantage of nearby springs for brewing water. These days you can rent the place on Vrbo for $479 per night.

16. Cecil F. Poole House

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90 Cedro Ave
San Francisco, CA 94127

Ingleside Terrace was created as a remote, segregated community for racist white homeowners who agreed (illegally, after a 1949 Supreme Court ruling) to sell only to other white buyers.

Judge Cecil F. Poole bought 90 Cedro in 1957, breaking the neighborhood’s color barrier for the first time. Although neighbor’s burned a cross on his lawn in hopes of driving the family out, the Pooles remained for 25 years.

17. University Mound Old Ladies’ Home

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350 University St
San Francisco, CA 94134

You don’t get a lot of Colonial Revival architecture in San Francisco, which is one reason the Planning Department singled out this circa-1932 convalescent home, praising among other things its “front door accentuated by a broken pediment, recessed tetra-style portico supported by tall slender columns,” and “symmetrically composed façade.”

Maybe more importantly, at the time this was one of the only affordable housing resources for senior women in SF.

Google

18. Balboa High School

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1000 Cayuga Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112

According to the 1995 Planning Commission ordinance landmarking this circa 1934 schoolhouse, Balboa High represents the acme of the “golden age of school construction” in SF in the early 20th century. You probably didn’t realize there ever was any such thing, but the still-gorgeous Spanish Colonial style of the buildings preserves the legacy of that period.

19. S.F.& S.M. Railway Co. Office Building

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2301 San Jose Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112

Those initials stand for “San Francisco” and “San Mateo”—not only was the SF & SM the city’s very first electric streetcar operation, but it was the first regional light rail service too, spanning both counties—hence the southern-lying location of its offices. This historic building can be found just outside the Balboa Park BART Station.

Car barn with historic street car coming out of it. Photo by Don Barrett

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1. SF Mining Exchange

350 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104

The mining exchange formed during the Gold Rush as a market for shares in mining endeavors, but the Bush Street building didn’t come along until 1923.

It also served as a general stock exchange for a while, but in recent years mostly went to seed, and the preserved elements have been repurposed as the lobby of a 19-story high-rise, a development that took decades. Architect Joseph Heller called it “the single most complex permitting I’ve ever done.”

350 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94104

2. Golden Triangle Lights

Market St & Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94104
Google

Yes, even the streetlights are landmarks in San Francisco. Starting in 1918, the city installed over 100 distinctive Golden Triangle lights along and around Market Street, hailed at the time as technical marvels.

A 1919 edition of the Journal of Electricity praised the Golden Triangle design as “unlike many other bright illuminatory systems, not injurious to the eyes,” and also credited the “absence of the flaming, piercing, eye-straining arc so common in unscientific illumination.”

Market St & Sutter St
San Francisco, CA 94104

3. Kinmon Gakuen Building

2031 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Google

Give this to the Kinmon Gakuen Building: Of all of the landmarks in San Francisco, it’s the most recent designation, arriving on the list in 2019. The institute has served as a Japanese language school since 1911, originally founded because the children of Japanese immigrants were not allowed to attend existing schools.

2031 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94115

4. Alfred G. Hanson House

126 27th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
Via Google

This is one of the earliest homes in the Richmond District, which at the time (1907) was almost completely undeveloped this far out. Hanson was an instructor at another SF landmark, the Naval Station on Yerba Buena Island.

126 27th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

5. Saint Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

1135 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109

San Francisco has no shortage of historic churches, and this one often ends up overshadowed (ahem) by the nearby St. Mary Of the Assumption Cathedral. But St. Mark’s is a rare example of the Romanesque style in San Francisco, and was fortunately saved in 1906 by its proximity to the firebreak at Van Ness Avenue.

1135 O'Farrell St
San Francisco, CA 94109

6. Abner Phelps House

1111 Oak St, San Francisco, CA 94117

This is one of the oldest unaltered homes in San Francisco, possibly dating to 1850. According to the National Register of Historic Places, which also lists the house, when first built it was part of a 160-acre estate, and the city limits did not expand to include it until four years later. It’s been moved twice, but always within the original acreage.

1111 Oak St
San Francisco, CA 94117

7. Juvenile Court Building

150 Otis St, San Francisco, CA 94103
SanFranMan59

If you’ve ever wondered about this seemingly gravity-defying structure at the absolute edge of the Mission District, wonder no more: Built in 1916, architect Louis Christian Mullgardt had only a small 140-foot by 140-foot parcel to work with, so he designed a soaring and almost razor-thin six-story structure that housed the juvenile court and detention hall.

150 Otis St
San Francisco, CA 94103

8. Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall

224 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94103

There are lots of union halls in San Francisco, but these historic offices circa 1906 (a year when construction labor would decidedly become much, much more important even than previously in SF...) get specially singled out for being the very first building in the city specifically constructed to serve as a labor headquarters.

224 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94103

9. Engine Company #22

1348 10th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
Google

There are many vintage firehouses in San Francisco, but few of them make a statement as effectively as this 1898 number, the first ever built to service the Sunset District. Architect Charles R. Wilson, designer of the Windsor Hotel, cooked up its bold shingles and tower design (the tower was originally used to hang hoses).

The city sold the old firehouse in the 1960s, and these days it belongs to a Catholic publishing company, who paid $1.6 million for it.

1348 10th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

10. McCormick House

4040 17th St, San Francisco, CA 94114
Google

In 1999, the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board—now just called the Historic Preservation Commission—called this vintage home “an essentially unaltered example of high Queen Anne style flats which survived the 1906 earthquake and fire,” singling it out for its onion dome and the fact that the building of the Twin Peaks Tunnel destroyed many similar nearby houses but spared this one.

4040 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

11. Engine Company No. 37, Truck Company No. 9

2501 25th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Designed by architects at Ward & Blohme in 1918, this is one of only two stations in the city without any fire poles, being as it is a one-story set-up that’s easy to miss but a true hidden gem for those who stumble on it today. These days it’s used mostly for storage.

2501 25th St
San Francisco, CA 94110

12. Frank G. Edwards House

1366 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Frank Edwards was an English immigrant who came to San Francisco by way of New Orleans in 1852. He tried his hand at gold panning but eventually struck it rich in an entirely different vein: the wallpaper business. SF Planning singled out his circa 1883 home as a critical and well-preserved example of Italianate style houses in the Mission.

1366 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110

13. Doggie Diner Head

Sloat Blvd & 45th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94116

Originally the Doggie Diner was a chain, and there were dozens of these slightly disquieting canine connoisseurs watching over roadside eateries across the Bay Area.

The last one closed in 1986, and in perhaps the weirdest preservation saga of all time, cartoonist Bill Griffith used his surrealist comic “Zippy the Pinhead” to drive a grassroots campaign urging the city to buy this remaining doggie head, which then did happen in 2000.

The dog blew down on April Fool’s Day a year later—we’re really not making any of this up—and afterwards the city relocated it to its present median spot.

Sloat Blvd & 45th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94116

14. Bayview Opera House

4705 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94124
SanFranMan59

Most people have heard of the Bayview Opera House, but few realize it was one of the very first buildings that the city landmarked under the article ten of the planning code in 1968.

That year, SF singled out eight structures, the first being Mission Dolores—no surprises there. The opera house barely squeezed in under the deadline for the inaugural year, landmarked in December under the name the South San Francisco Opera House and its old address on Newcomb Avenue.

(It’s in the same location now, but goes by a Third Street designation.)

4705 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94124

15. Albion Castle

881 Innes Ave, San Francisco, CA 94124

Officially registered as the Hunters Point Springs and Albion Brewery, these days most people just call the somewhat obscure waterfront building Albion Castle. Built in 1870, the then-remote location was meant to take advantage of nearby springs for brewing water. These days you can rent the place on Vrbo for $479 per night.

881 Innes Ave
San Francisco, CA 94124

16. Cecil F. Poole House

90 Cedro Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127

Ingleside Terrace was created as a remote, segregated community for racist white homeowners who agreed (illegally, after a 1949 Supreme Court ruling) to sell only to other white buyers.

Judge Cecil F. Poole bought 90 Cedro in 1957, breaking the neighborhood’s color barrier for the first time. Although neighbor’s burned a cross on his lawn in hopes of driving the family out, the Pooles remained for 25 years.

90 Cedro Ave
San Francisco, CA 94127

17. University Mound Old Ladies’ Home

350 University St, San Francisco, CA 94134
Google

You don’t get a lot of Colonial Revival architecture in San Francisco, which is one reason the Planning Department singled out this circa-1932 convalescent home, praising among other things its “front door accentuated by a broken pediment, recessed tetra-style portico supported by tall slender columns,” and “symmetrically composed façade.”

Maybe more importantly, at the time this was one of the only affordable housing resources for senior women in SF.

350 University St
San Francisco, CA 94134

18. Balboa High School

1000 Cayuga Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112

According to the 1995 Planning Commission ordinance landmarking this circa 1934 schoolhouse, Balboa High represents the acme of the “golden age of school construction” in SF in the early 20th century. You probably didn’t realize there ever was any such thing, but the still-gorgeous Spanish Colonial style of the buildings preserves the legacy of that period.

1000 Cayuga Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112

19. S.F.& S.M. Railway Co. Office Building

2301 San Jose Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94112
Car barn with historic street car coming out of it. Photo by Don Barrett

Those initials stand for “San Francisco” and “San Mateo”—not only was the SF & SM the city’s very first electric streetcar operation, but it was the first regional light rail service too, spanning both counties—hence the southern-lying location of its offices. This historic building can be found just outside the Balboa Park BART Station.

2301 San Jose Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112