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Union Square San Francisco

As a sand hill in a purely residential area - this is how the history of Union Square began in 1847. Two years before the gold rush, Jasper O'Farrell developed a city design for San Francisco in which Union Square was planned as a public square.

In 1850, the city's first mayor, John Geary, made Union Square and Washington Square available.

It was in the 1860s, before the start of the American Civil War, when regular rallies took place in the central plaza on California's position in the dispute between the Confederation and the Union. Ultimately, the Union supporters won the discussions, hence its name. Even today, demonstrations take place in Union Square - traditionally, so to speak. The Americans associate this place with an attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford, which took place here in front of the Westin St. Francis Hotel in 1975.


Union Square is a small oasis in the center of San Francisco ... (420kb)

If you look at the well-tended park of the square with its palm trees and boxwood hedges on the north and south sides, you certainly don't get the idea that it is the roof of a huge underground car park for 1,000 cars - the oldest in the world from 1930. Interestingly enough, sliding poles were built in at the beginning, with which one could quickly get to the lower floors like fire fighters. In 1942 the four-story garage was expanded and could also be used as a bunker. The 18 grassy areas on the south side, separated by paths, with their benches, offer numerous resting places for visitors, but also for customers of the shops or office workers who want to take a break here. The park's current design was unveiled to the public on July 25, 2002 after a $ 25 million redesign. The park now has more entrances and resting places, a terraced stadium on Post Street, four light sculptures by R. M. Fischer and a new café pavilion. In the northeast corner of the square, the names of all of San Francisco's mayors are now engraved into the ground - conveniently vertically, so that you can always admire the tourists here with your head twisted.


... which is surrounded by many fine shops (399kb).

Union Square forms the center of the 14-block downtown San Francisco district and is also the city's classy shopping center. Located between Post Street to the north, Geary Street to the south, Powell Street to the west and Stockton Street to the east, it is surrounded by the most prestigious and distinguished shops. The entire south side is taken up by a branch of the Macy's and Neiman Marcus department store. The north side presents itself with Saks Fifth Avenue. Shopping is even better (and more expensive) in Maidens Lane, which adjoins the square directly to the east. Within a few blocks you can find almost all well-known haute couture suppliers such as Dior, Armani, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton or Yves Saint Laurent.


The venerable Westin St. Francis Hotel in front with the annex behind it as seen from Stockton Street (411kb).

On the west side of the square is the Hotel Westin St. Francis, built in 1904. Although it survived the earthquake of 1906 largely unscathed, the interior furnishings fell victim to the subsequent fire. In 1972 the hotel was supplemented with a 32-story high-rise at the rear. In the outside elevators you can see the city very well. In the evening, you have an even better view of San Francisco from the cocktail bar on the 32nd floor. The hotel has also achieved world fame in literary terms, e.g. B. in the novel "The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett, who worked here in the 1920s as a detective in the famous murder case against the silent film star Fatty Arbuckle.


View from Geary Street to the Westin St. Francis (336kb).

There are a number of central cultural institutions in the city around Union Square. North on Sutter Street z. B. are the largest commercial galleries with sales exhibitions. The theaters are located two blocks west around Geary Street. International designer boutiques have set up shop on the east side and the adjacent Post Street.


The Victoria of the Dewey Memorial (329kb).

In the middle of Union Square, a 30-meter-high Corinthian granite column, the Dewey Monument, commemorates the victory of the American Navy under Admiral George Dewey over the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in 1898, making the then Spanish colony of the Philippines USA fell. The bronze Victoria on top of the column allegedly represents Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, founder of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum. Other sources cite the teacher Ida Clark as a model for the artist Robert Aiken. The column dates from 1903 and also survived the earthquake of 1906 unscathed. All around them, Union Square offers a central granite meeting place 83 meters long and 51 meters wide. Small artists and musicians perform here, but exhibitions are also held here.

Unfortunately, I only saw Union Square from the bus myself. During our city tour, due to the congestion, I had around 2 minutes to look at him and his surroundings from my window seat, or should we say to take a photo. In the pictures you can see him before his redesign. Nevertheless, I remembered this place so much that I wrote an article about it and will definitely take a closer look at it on one of my next visits.

(c) Stefan Kremer - All rights reserved