Marshall Square

Source: California State Library

City Hall, circa 1900. As photographed from the rooftop of the Mechanic’s Pavilion at Hayes and Larkin, the old City Hall is bounded in front by the diagonal slash of City Hall Avenue extending rightward to Leavenworth and McAllister from Larkin Street on the left.

Marshall Square was a plaza between Market Street and City Hall Avenue (originally named Park Avenue), a short street between Larkin and Leavenworth fronting the old City Hall. After the old City Hall was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake, the design for a new Civic Center made both City Hall Avenue and Marshall Square obsolete. When City Hall Avenue was filled in, Hyde Street was extended to intersect with Market Street, such that part of what had been Marshall Square became the foot of Hyde. The theater and office building later erected on the northeast corner of Hyde and Market was thus named the Marshall Square Building.

Source: Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

San Francisco Business District Map (detail), 1904. Marshall Square is circled in red.

Source: California State Library

City Hall, circa 1890s. Shot from Eighth Street just below Market, this view looks directly across the Pioneer Monument in the middle of Marshall Square to the main dome of the old City Hall.

Source: California State Library

City Hall Avenue, 1899. Looking northwest from atop the Odd Fellows Building at Seventh and Market, we see the east end of City Hall Avenue intersecting with McAllister and Leavenworth Streets, opposite the Hall of Records on the left.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Pioneer Monument, Marshall Square, 1906. A view looking north across City Hall Avenue, with the ruins of the old City Hall in the background. Built in 1894 with money bequeathed by real estate magnate James Lick, sculptor Frank Happersberger’s Pioneer Monument mythologizes the story of California’s “manifest destiny.” It is an unabashedly romanticized story of empire building that depicts Native Americans as a subservient people, conquered by Argonauts (the name pioneering gold miners had given themselves) and places Mining and Metal at the front, ahead of Agriculture, contrary to Lick’s final wishes. The figure that crowns the monument is Minerva, taken from the Great Seal of California.

City Hall Avenue, 1910
Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

City Hall Avenue, 1910. Looking southwest from Leavenworth Street, no sign remains of the old City Hall except for the domed Hall of Records, which was razed in October 1916 by the Dolan Wrecking Company.

Illustration, SF Call, 29 May 1912
Source: California Digital Newspaper Collection

Illustration, San Francisco Call, 29 May 1912. “Scheme B” plan for the Civic Center. Note the extension of Hyde Street, where the site of Marshall Square has been circled in red. The consulting architects were John Galen Howard, Frederick H. Meyer, and John Reid, Jr.

Market & 8th, 1912
Source: Bancroft Library, Jesse B. Cooke Collection

Market and Eighth, 1912. The view is to the northeast along Market Street as photographed from the southwest corner of Eighth Street, opposite Marshall Square. On the left is the Hall of Records on City Hall Avenue.

Marshall Square, 1914
Source: Bancroft Library, Jesse B. Cooke Collection

Marshall Square, 1914. When this photograph was taken, Marshall Square and City Hall Avenue were little more than artifacts of former times. The old City Hall had been demolished, construction of the new Civic Center was fast moving forward, and City Hall Avenue would soon disappear. With the construction of the UN Plaza in 1975, the Pioneer Monument was moved to fit the east/west alignment of the revamped Civic Center, and today it stands between the new Main Library building and the Asian Art Museum at Larkin and McAllister, originally the Main Public Library, built where once stood the old City Hall.


“Asian Art Museum and Federal Buildings” (2008)

With the construction of the new Civic Center, a Federal Office Building was later erected on the site of the old Hall of Records. Empty since 2007, it faces the UN Plaza, a 2.6 acre pedestrian mall designed in 1975 by Lawrence Halprin to commemorate the 1945 signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco. The new Federal Building is on Mission, across Seventh Street from the US Court of Appeals.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (R.J. Waters & Co.)

New City Hall, circa 1915. Looking south from Larkin and McAllister, the new Civic Auditorium is in the background to the left. Note the appearance of the Civic Center Plaza.

Marshall Square Building, 1926
Source: Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley

Marshall Square Building, 1926. The Marshall Square Building had arcaded storefronts that as recently as the early 1980s were occupied by a drug store on the corner and various small businesses that added much to the character and color of Market Street. One businessman I particularly remember was a tour guide with a waxed and elaborately curled, twelve-inch handlebar mustache, who called himself and his business “Mr. San Francisco”.

Source: Bancroft Library, Jesse B. Cooke Collection

Marshall Square Building, 1928. When most of the storefronts were closed up and stuccoed by its current owner, the Shorenstein Hays Nederlander Organization, the building’s antecedents were obscured, and thus now it is known simply as the Orpheum Theater. Where once were variety and commerce, there now are anonymous windows and blank wall, prosaic and drear. Visible on the left of this photo is a corner of the Pioneer Monument.

Marshall Square Building

“Marshall Square Building” (2011)

Orpheum Theater

“Orpheum” (2008)

1192 Market Street. Marshall Square Building; office building, theater, and storefronts. 4B stories, steel frame and concrete construction; cast concrete and stucco facade, two-story bays with casement windows and spandrels; three-part vertical composition; Spanish Moorish/Spanish Baroque design. Alterations: theater entrance and marquee; decorations stripped from spandrels; finials removed; storefronts filled in and stuccoed. Current owner: Shorenstein Hays Nederlander Organization. Architect: B. Marcus Priteca. 1926.

Opened as a vaudeville house in 1926 to replace the original Pantages Theater at 939 Market Street, the theater was sold to RKO a few years later and soon afterward reopened as a first-run movie house named the Orpheum. From the premiere of This Is Cinerama! on Christmas Day 1953 until the final showing of Ice Station Zebra early in 1970, the Orpheum was San Francisco’s foremost Cinerama cinema. The theater was closed for a short time and then reopened in 1977 as a venue for live theater, but the conversion was unsuccessful and the theater was closed once again. It was purchased in 1981 by the Shorenstein Hays Nederlander Organization and since then has been a successful showcase for traveling Broadway shows.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library

Orpheum Theater, 1931.

Source: San Francisco History Center, S.F. Public Library (Photo: Larry Moon)

Orpheum Theater, 1962.

About these ads


Filed under Mid-Market

5 responses to “Marshall Square

  1. John Freeman

    Finally Marshall Square and the location of the old City Hall are clarified on line. The street called City Hall Avenue is hard to visualize, because it paralleled Market Street, confusing the grid, but adding the map really helps. There is one error to correct. The Hall of Records, completed in 1872 was the cornerstone of the City Hall complex and built like a masonry battleship. Dolan Wrecking Co. lost money on the job in mid-October 1916, trying to demolish the building. This building was gutted by the fire of ’06, but had no structural damage, unlike city hall which was built over a 25 year span, with multiple unwise design changes and corrupt contractors. Thanks for the article and with the changing of the dating of the demise of the Hall of Record from “by 1914″, you’ve got everything correct.

  2. Craig

    This is a fantastic write-up. Looking at Google Earth and Wikipedia, though, it looks like the Pioneer Monument was able to stay put in its pre-earthquake location in the corner of the newly laid-out block, which otherwise remained empty until the current library was built. Only then, around 1993, was the monument moved to the middle of Fulton.

  3. Great bit of research here, thanks for sharing!

Comments, please! I value your feedback.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s