The title of “San Francisco’s tallest building” has changed hands 12 times since the mid 1800s. In a few years, it will change for the 13th time. Here’s a brief history of the city’s tallest buildings in chronological order…
628 Montgomery Street
Year tallest: 1853 – 1854
Height: 50 feet, 4 Floors
Location: 628 Montgomery Street
Interesting fact: 628 Montgomery, or more commonly known as Montgomery Block, was billed as the safest building in San Francisco when it was first built. Indeed, it was the only major downtown building to survive the devastating 1906 earthquake and fires.
Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral
Photo: Cathedrals of California
Ca. October 14, 1890
Years tallest: 1855 – 1874
Height: 90 feet, one floor
Location: 660 California Street
Interesting fact: While only boasting one floor above ground, Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral held the title of San Francisco’s tallest building for nearly 20 years. When it first opened, the cathedral was the tallest building in San Francisco and California.
Years tallest: 1875 – 1890
Height: 120 feet, 7 floors
Location: 120 Montgomery Street
Interesting fact: When the original Palace with 775 rooms was constructed, it was said to be the largest hotel in the Western United States.
Years tallest: 1890 – 1898
Height: 218 feet, 10 floors
Location: 690 Market Street
Interesting facts: The Chronicle Building was San Francisco’s first skyscraper and the tallest building on the West Coast when it was first completed in 1890. In 1905, a celebration of the re-election of Mayor Eugene Schmitz stopped in front of the building and launched fireworks, which ignited the wooden clock tower atop the building. The damaged clock tower was removed and two additional floors were added along Market Street and a 16-story annex along Kearny Street.
Call Building (previously the Spreckels Building, now Central Tower)
Years tallest: 1898 – 1902
Height: 315 feet, 15 floors
Location: 703 Market Street
Interesting fact: The Call Building was gutted by the fires that followed the 1906 earthquake. Though badly burned, the exterior structure survived the flames. In 1938, Albert Roller renovated the building removing the baroque dome, and reduced the height by 298 feet.
Standard Oil Building (now 225 Bush Street)
Photo: Time Shutter
Year tallest: 1922 – 1925
Height: 328 feet, 22 floors
Location: 225 Bush Street
Interesting fact: Architect George W. Kelham designed the Standard Oil Building for John D. Rockefeller and modeled it after New York City’s Federal Reserve Bank building.
PacBell Building (now 140 New Montgomery Street)
Ca. May 23, 1928
Years tallest: 1925 – 1965
Height: 435 feet, 26 floors
Location: 140 New Montgomery Street
Interesting fact: There are eight statues of eagles that are nested at the top of this iconic art deco landmark. Today, Yelp headquarters is one of its main tenants.
Ca. March 8, 1930
Years tallest: 1927 – 1965
Height: 435 feet, 31 floors
Location: 235 Montgomery Street
Interesting fact: For 38 years the Russ Building and the Pacific Telephone Building were co-holders of San Francisco’s tallest building title. The Russ Building had the city’s first indoor parking garage.
Years tallest: 1965 – 1967
Location: 650 California Street
Height: 466 feet, 33 floors
Interesting fact: When the tower was completed in 1964, it was the second building in San Francisco larger than 400,000 square feet. It also became the tallest building in all of California, replacing both the Russ Building in San Francisco and the Los Angeles’ City Hall building.
44 Montgomery Street
Years tallest: 1967 – 1969
Height: 565 feet, 43 floors
Location: 44 Montgomery Street
Interesting fact: 44 Montgomery Street building has direct underground access to the Montgomery Street Station. While it hasn’t held the title of “San Francisco’s tallest building” for more than 45 years, it does still currently rank as the city’s 11th tallest building.
Bank of America Center
Years tallest: 1969 – 1972
Height: 779 feet, 52 floors
Location: 555 California Street
Interesting fact: 555 California, or “Triple Five,” has appeared on the big screen in such films as Dirty Harry, The Towering Inferno, and An Eye for an Eye.
Years tallest: 1972 – present
Height: 853 feet, 48 floors
Location: 600 Montgomery Street
Interesting facts: Built on the same block as Montgomery Block, it estimated that several thousands of dollars in change were thrown into the pit for good luck by onlookers while the foundation was poured. Reigning as San Francisco’s tallest building for 43 years, it will be surpassed by…
Renderings: Salesforce Tower
Years tallest: (currently under construction) 2018 – ?
Height: 1,070 feet, 61 floors
Location: 415 Mission Street
Interesting fact: San Francisco’s future tallest building will boast 1.42 million square feet of space.