San Francisco – Embarcadero

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It’s where my father brought our family when he returned to the land of his birth. We arrived on a huge ocean liner one morning 50 years ago.

First to greet the California Gold Rush ’49ers and later where so many soldiers and marines and sailors left to fight Japan in World War 2, San Francisco’s Embarcadero no longer greets either America’s returning military – as it did my parents during World War 2 – or her new immigrants, either.

Due to the loss of the commercial container shipping to other ports, San Francisco’s historic waterfront has had to be refashioned in these intervening decades. A cruise ship gateway has been part of the planning, but my family was one of the last to actually arrive to live in San Francisco this way.

And, as it is at the end of Lombard Street (our last post was about this “crookedest street in the world”), it’s logical to speak about the Embarcadero and its neighborhoods, next.

I’ll do most of these in detailed posts of their own, but here’s a quick overview.

The port is still lined with deep-water piers. The Embarcadero is literally where one embarks. Anchoring the whole area, at the foot of Market Street, is the Ferry Building, which now is a vibrant public space housing a food hall, restaurants and a farmers market.

The Ferry Building is also still the terminal for ferries to Marin County, Vallejo, Oakland and Alameda.

Piers 7 and 14 offer splendid vistas of SF’s skyscrapers of the Financial District (where my husband worked for more than a decade) and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Much of the Jackson Square area nearby, which is one of 11 historic districts, has many buildings dating from the mid-1800s, and many of them have ship’s masts built into their foundations!

While my husband worked nearby, we used to be frustrated that the beautiful Ferry Building was marred by a 1950’s horrific, ugly, belching freeway. The Embarcadero became a rundown, freeway-choked area of downtown. But that all changed when the San Francisco experienced an earthquake in 1989 – the Loma Prieta quake.

It damaged and forced the dismantlement of the hated freeway, even as a matching one in the Oakland area killed many people and was also changed later.

The road, which many San Franciscans had hated since it was built and which prevented the City’s further extension, was torn down. The San Francisco Embarcadero is back to following the path of the old State Belt Railroad, which transferred cargo from ships to main line railroads and cars onto ferries for trips across the bay.

Now, a beautiful 2 mile stretch of wide-open shoreline in northeast San Francisco has been reclaimed — extending from the the baseball stadium north along Embarcadero Boulevard around Telegraph Hill — this area is enjoying a renaissance.

I’ll share that tomorrow!


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