A Brief History of San Francisco’s Rapidly Evolving Skyline

March 7, 2019
San Francisco

San Francisco is full of statement-making people, attractions and cuisines. But perhaps the most statement-making feature of the city is its architecture. For over a century, architects and developers have constructed taller and flashier buildings within the city’s 47-or-so square miles. And, located in the SoMa district, The Harrison is smack-dab in the middle of it all. Here’s how San Francisco’s skyline first got developed and how it’s evolved over the last hundred or so years.

The Beginnings

This upward revolution began in 1890 with a modest (by today’s standards) 10-story building which would house the San Francisco Chronicle. Believe it or not, at the time, this was the tallest building on the West Coast (now, even parking structures are taller than that).

Fast-forward 5 years and a rival publication, The Call, erected an 18-story building of their own, complete with a 60-foot terra cotta Baroque dome. It was visible from just about every hilltop in the city—an impressive feat at the time.

The Opposition

For decades, the city grew, crumbled a few times (due to major earthquakes in 1906 and 1989), and rebuilt itself. During the 1960s and 1970s, specifically, San Francisco underwent an impressive growth spurt, which was met with protests from all sides. Free-loving hippies and working class business owners alike were against both the aesthetics of industrial buildings and the promise of increased costs of living they’d inevitably bring.

Reaching New Heights

Protests and failed propositions aside, San Francisco continued to soar to new heights—all the way up to 853 feet, that is. The Transamerica Pyramid quickly became a familiar landmark and focal point of the city. It’s still one of the most recognizable buildings in California to this day.

And from 1972 until 2018, it claimed the spot as the tallest building in San Francisco. The new owner of that title is, of course, the SalesForce Tower, standing at a whopping 1,070 feet. We wonder how long it’ll be until someone attempts to top this new record.

The Harrison: In the Heart of it All

Amid the buildings high and low in San Francisco and within range of some of the most spectacular views on the West Coast is The Harrison. Its design, though modern and functional, is infused with the character and style San Francisco is known for. Plus, with its central location in Rincon Hill, The Harrison offers residents opportunities to admire some of the other high-rise buildings and unique architecture it neighbors.

*Photo Courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

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