The San Francisco Ferry Building

The San Francisco Ferry Building is a terminal for ferries that sail across the San Francisco Bay, it’s a marketplace, and it also has offices.  It’s located on The Embarcadero in San Francisco.  The building has a gorgeous 245-foot tall clock tower with four clock dials, each 22 feet in diameter.  They can be seen from downtown San Francisco.

Designed in the Beaux Arts style in 1892, the ferry building was completed in 1898.  When it opened, it was the largest project undertaken in the city.  The clock tower was designed to resemble the 12th-century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain, and the entire length of the building is based on an arched arcade.

The highest quality materials were used, such as marble and mosaics for the state seal. The 660-foot-long Great Nave on the second floor was the major public space for arriving and departing ferry passengers.

With decreased use of ferries after the various Bay Bridges were built, the building was adapted for office use in the 1950s.  Its public spaces were broken up without an eye for aesthetics.  In 2002, restoration and renovation were undertaken to redevelop the entire complex.

The 660-foot long Great Nave was restored, together with its height and materials. A marketplace was created for the ground floor, the former baggage handling area. The second and third floors were adapted for office and Port Commission use. During daylight, on every full and half-hour, the clock bell chimes portions of the Westminster Quarters. The ferry terminal is a designated San Francisco landmark, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

San Francisco’s most well-known farmers’ market is held in the ground-floor of building on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am – 2pm, year-round. Outside, a wide walkway allows pedestrian access to the waterfront behind the building.

The beautiful ferry building has survived changing styles, fires, earthquakes, and humans.  It is a true gem.

Writer: Meredith Blevins, featured travel writer for the Authentic Wine Country.  Join her at for wine-country mysteries, classes, and the untamed we

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