A Walking Tour of San Francisco – Union Square (Look Up, America!)
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
In 1847 when Jasper O'Farrell sketched out a street plan for San Francisco, he left two spaces open for a public plaza. This was one of them. The area got its name when it was used for rallies and support for the Union Army during the Civil War. Today the battles fought in the blocks around Union Square are for the credit cards of consumers who crowd one of the largest collections of department stores, upscale boutiques, tourist trinket shops, art galleries, and salons in the United States.
From its inception Union Square has played the role of ceremonial heart of San Francisco hosting public events, concerts and holiday celebrations throughout the year. Each year a painted heart from a local artist is installed at each corner of Union Square that will be auctioned off to benefit the San Francisco General Hospital.
In addition to world-famous retail stores the streets surrounding Union Square are stuffed with venerable theaters, grand hotels and historic clubhouses. Originally this was a park surrounded by churches and residences but the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 changed all that. To see how the last century has transformed Union Square we will begin where Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds began, at the center of the square...