(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Although still a young city at the western edge of a young nation, some of San Francisco’s landmarks are connected to events prior to the year 1776. Of course, the best historic landmark of all are the 1,200-year-old coastal redwoods of Muir Woods. But a few more recent landmarks are worth mentioning as well.
3301 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Little beyond this structure remains of the exposition visited by 18 million people at the site that is now the heart of the Marina District. Designated as both a national and a city landmark, the neoclassical rotunda and reflecting lagoon survived the wrecker’s ball, unlike the other 10 exhibition “palaces” built for the expo more than a century ago. Saved by the Palace Preservation League founded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the movement to preserve the Palace of Fine Arts kicked off before the fair closed. Following a 1964 rebuild and a 21st century retrofitting, this is a landmark to love, a favorite backdrop for weddings, memorable moments and milestones.
Legion of Honor
100 34th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Built as a full-sized replica of the French Pavilion at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, that building was in turn a three-quarter replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur, a landmark on Paris’ Left Bank. Another neoclassical treasure, it stands high on a hill in Lincoln Park overlooking the Golden Gate. Gifted to the city in 1924 by philanthropists Adolph and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the structure was envisioned as multi-purpose for beautification, as a memorial following The Great War and as a repository for art treasures. Among the highlights is a large collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures, including a bronze cast of “The Thinker” in the outdoor courtyard at the entrance.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, CA 94129
Still a youngster at 77 years of age, the bridge that couldn’t be built has earned its place as one of the engineering marvels of the 20th century. When the Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrian traffic on May 27, 1937, a San Francisco Chronicle writer penned, “A necklace of surpassing beauty was placed about the lovely throat of San Francisco yesterday.” The following day, cars crossed. FDR announced the news to the world via telegraph. The new bridge, which opened ahead of schedule and under budget, is now designated a state and city historic landmark. Its two distinctive, art deco-style, international orange-colored towers soar 746 feet above the water where the Pacific Ocean meets San Francisco Bay.
50 Moraga Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94129
Following the recent restoration of the Officers’ Club at the Main Post in the Presidio, the building was opened to visitors in October 2014. Its new admission-free Heritage Gallery explores the Presidio’s history through permanent and changing exhibits and multi-media presentations covering periods from the native Ohlones, the Presidio’s use as a military post claimed by three different countries, through to today’s function as a public park. See exposed colonial adobe walls of the 1810s in the Mesa Room. An ongoing archeological lab is exploring and displaying the colonial dig site dating to 1776, with periodic tours to involve visitors.
Missions of the San Francisco Bay Area
3321 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
The Spanish monarchy financed religious expeditions from New Spain in the quest for empire. Mission Dolores, San Francisco de Asis, also called Mission Dolores, dates from 1776 and is the oldest surviving structure in the city. The northernmost of the 21 missions of Alta California was San Francisco Solano, commonly referred to as Mission Sonoma, dating from 1823. It is off the town’s main square, the birthplace of the California State Bear Flag connected to the split between California and Mexico in 1846. Mission San Rafael in Marin, Mission San Jose in Fremont, Mission Santa Cruz and Mission Santa Clara are all in the Bay Area.