clock menu more-arrow no yes

The City's Most Unexpected Landmarks

View as Map

San Francisco is chock full of grand Victorians and epic feats of engineering, but some other more unexpected places are historic landmarks too. Whether on local, state, or national lists, these sites have their own special something making them landmark-worthy. Check out our map, and then leave us your favorite landmarks (official or not) in the comments.

Read More

1. Camera Obscura

Copy Link
1096 Point Lobos, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
San Francisco, CA 94121

National Register Listed: This camera obscura (which projects images through a pinhole in a dark room) was built in 1946 as an attraction for nearby Playland-at-the-Beach, and is one of only two in California (the other is in Santa Monica).

2. Albion Brewery

Copy Link

City Landmark 60: With natural springs running beneath it, John Hamlin Burnell built the Albion Ale and Porter Brewing Company in 1870. After prohibition, the building fell into ruin until it was restored over 20 years in the 1930s and 40s. It sold for $820,000 in 2011.

3. Julius' Castle

Copy Link
1541 Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94133

City Landmark 121: Julius' Castle on Telegraph Hill was designed to be a restaurant in 1898, and continued to operate until 2007. It was popular with Bay Area celebrities, like Huey Lewis, members of Journey, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, and Ginger Rogers.

4. Samuels Clock

Copy Link
856 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

City Landmark 77: Clockmaker Albert Samuels commissioned a street clock in 1915 to sit in front of his watchmaker company in 1915. The clock stopped operating in 1990, but was restored in 2000.

5. Treasure Island

Copy Link
1 Ave of the Palms
San Francisco, CA 94130

California Landmark 987: All of Treasure Island is a state landmark, as an artificial island constructed in 1936 for the Golden Gate International Exposition. The "Magic City" featured tall towers, giant statues, and crazy lighting effects - until it was converted to a US Naval Station in 1941 and later sold to the city.

6. Condor Club

Copy Link
560 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

Historical Point of Interest: All the plaque at the Condor Club says is "The birthplace of the world's first topless & bottomless entertainment." Enough said.

7. Lawn Bowling Clubhouse and Greens

Copy Link
150 Bowling Green Dr
San Francisco, CA 94122

City Landmark 181: Lawnbowling may not seem like a landmark-worthy sport, but the Lawn Bowling Club in Golden Gate Park was founded back in 1901 and is known as the oldest lawn bowling club in the United States.

8. Earthquake Refugee Shack

Copy Link
1227 24th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

City Landmark 171: After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the City Corps of Engineers built 5,610 refugee cottages consisting of a couple rooms, a gas connection, and green paint (to better blend in the public parks and squares they were located) and leased to the homeless. This one is actually three cottages combined for one house, and one of the few remaining in existence.

9. Cadillac Hotel

Copy Link
394 Eddy St
San Francisco, CA 94102

City Landmark 176: The Cadillac Hotel has some great Art Nouveau architecture, but is actually listed as a landmark for being the home of Newman's Gym, supposedly the oldest professional boxing facility in the United States. Nearly all of the greats in American boxing history trained or competed here.

10. Lotta Crabtree Fountain

Copy Link
10 Geary St
San Francisco, CA 94104

City Landmark 73 and National Register listed: Lotta Crabtree was a child singer and dancer in Gold Rush era California, becoming one of the 19th century's most famous entertainers. She commissioned her own fountain in 1875, and during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, it became a meeting point for survivors.

11. Cable Cars

Copy Link
1200 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108

National Historic Landmark: The cable cars, 10 miles of rails, the moving cable, and car-barn are all listed as a National Historic Landmark. The first track was laid in 1873, and San Francisco's system is the only one still in operation in the US.

12. Sarcophagus of Thomas Starr King

Copy Link
1187 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA 94109

California Landmark 691: Located on the grounds of the First Unitarian Church, the sarcophagus of Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King was one of the only grave sites allowed in city limits after the ban on burials. As a famous orator, he helped sway California to join the Union during the Civil War (Union Square is named for the pro-Union, abolitionist speeches that he delivered on that site).

13. Farnsworth's Green Street Lab

Copy Link
202 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94133

California Landmark 941: Philo Taylor Farnsworth invented and patented the first operational all-electronic "television system" at his lab here in 1927. He was only 21 at the time - feel unaccomplished yet?

14. Dutch Windmill

Copy Link
1691 John F Kennedy Dr
San Francisco, CA 94121

City Landmark 147: Constructed in 1902, the windmill was situated near the Pacific Ocean to capture the westerly winds and use the energy to pump water for Golden Gate Park's irrigation system. The Murphy Windmill was added in 1905.

15. Doggie Diner Sign

Copy Link
2698 Sloat Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94116

City Landmark 254: The Doggie Diner restaurant at the corner of 46th Ave and Sloat featured a large sign designed in 1966. After the fast food chain went out of business, a grassroots effort saved the sign and now it sits on a post on Sloat Boulevard.

16. Tadich Grill

Copy Link
240 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

City Landmark 145: The Tadich Grill is the oldest restaurant in California, founded in 1849 as the New World Coffee Stand. The location has moved a few times, settling at 240 California in 1967. The interior has not changed since the 1920s.

Loading comments...

1. Camera Obscura

1096 Point Lobos, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA 94121

National Register Listed: This camera obscura (which projects images through a pinhole in a dark room) was built in 1946 as an attraction for nearby Playland-at-the-Beach, and is one of only two in California (the other is in Santa Monica).

1096 Point Lobos, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
San Francisco, CA 94121

2. Albion Brewery

881 Innes Ave, San Francisco

City Landmark 60: With natural springs running beneath it, John Hamlin Burnell built the Albion Ale and Porter Brewing Company in 1870. After prohibition, the building fell into ruin until it was restored over 20 years in the 1930s and 40s. It sold for $820,000 in 2011.

3. Julius' Castle

1541 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94133

City Landmark 121: Julius' Castle on Telegraph Hill was designed to be a restaurant in 1898, and continued to operate until 2007. It was popular with Bay Area celebrities, like Huey Lewis, members of Journey, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, and Ginger Rogers.

1541 Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94133

4. Samuels Clock

856 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

City Landmark 77: Clockmaker Albert Samuels commissioned a street clock in 1915 to sit in front of his watchmaker company in 1915. The clock stopped operating in 1990, but was restored in 2000.

856 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

5. Treasure Island

1 Ave of the Palms, San Francisco, CA 94130

California Landmark 987: All of Treasure Island is a state landmark, as an artificial island constructed in 1936 for the Golden Gate International Exposition. The "Magic City" featured tall towers, giant statues, and crazy lighting effects - until it was converted to a US Naval Station in 1941 and later sold to the city.

1 Ave of the Palms
San Francisco, CA 94130

6. Condor Club

560 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

Historical Point of Interest: All the plaque at the Condor Club says is "The birthplace of the world's first topless & bottomless entertainment." Enough said.

560 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

7. Lawn Bowling Clubhouse and Greens

150 Bowling Green Dr, San Francisco, CA 94122

City Landmark 181: Lawnbowling may not seem like a landmark-worthy sport, but the Lawn Bowling Club in Golden Gate Park was founded back in 1901 and is known as the oldest lawn bowling club in the United States.

150 Bowling Green Dr
San Francisco, CA 94122

8. Earthquake Refugee Shack

1227 24th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

City Landmark 171: After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, the City Corps of Engineers built 5,610 refugee cottages consisting of a couple rooms, a gas connection, and green paint (to better blend in the public parks and squares they were located) and leased to the homeless. This one is actually three cottages combined for one house, and one of the few remaining in existence.

1227 24th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

9. Cadillac Hotel

394 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94102

City Landmark 176: The Cadillac Hotel has some great Art Nouveau architecture, but is actually listed as a landmark for being the home of Newman's Gym, supposedly the oldest professional boxing facility in the United States. Nearly all of the greats in American boxing history trained or competed here.

394 Eddy St
San Francisco, CA 94102

10. Lotta Crabtree Fountain

10 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94104

City Landmark 73 and National Register listed: Lotta Crabtree was a child singer and dancer in Gold Rush era California, becoming one of the 19th century's most famous entertainers. She commissioned her own fountain in 1875, and during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, it became a meeting point for survivors.

10 Geary St
San Francisco, CA 94104

11. Cable Cars

1200 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

National Historic Landmark: The cable cars, 10 miles of rails, the moving cable, and car-barn are all listed as a National Historic Landmark. The first track was laid in 1873, and San Francisco's system is the only one still in operation in the US.

1200 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108

12. Sarcophagus of Thomas Starr King

1187 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

California Landmark 691: Located on the grounds of the First Unitarian Church, the sarcophagus of Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King was one of the only grave sites allowed in city limits after the ban on burials. As a famous orator, he helped sway California to join the Union during the Civil War (Union Square is named for the pro-Union, abolitionist speeches that he delivered on that site).

1187 Franklin St
San Francisco, CA 94109

13. Farnsworth's Green Street Lab

202 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133

California Landmark 941: Philo Taylor Farnsworth invented and patented the first operational all-electronic "television system" at his lab here in 1927. He was only 21 at the time - feel unaccomplished yet?

202 Green St
San Francisco, CA 94133

14. Dutch Windmill

1691 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121

City Landmark 147: Constructed in 1902, the windmill was situated near the Pacific Ocean to capture the westerly winds and use the energy to pump water for Golden Gate Park's irrigation system. The Murphy Windmill was added in 1905.

1691 John F Kennedy Dr
San Francisco, CA 94121

15. Doggie Diner Sign

2698 Sloat Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94116

City Landmark 254: The Doggie Diner restaurant at the corner of 46th Ave and Sloat featured a large sign designed in 1966. After the fast food chain went out of business, a grassroots effort saved the sign and now it sits on a post on Sloat Boulevard.

2698 Sloat Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94116

16. Tadich Grill

240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

City Landmark 145: The Tadich Grill is the oldest restaurant in California, founded in 1849 as the New World Coffee Stand. The location has moved a few times, settling at 240 California in 1967. The interior has not changed since the 1920s.

240 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111