Some speculate that the best place to hide something is within plain view, and the effect is no different when it comes to monuments. San Francisco may be a well-known place, but many of its historic markers go unnoticed despite the fact that they exist in heavily populated areas. Today we discover some of the hidden monuments of downtown San Francisco in the manner most preferred by historians (probably): a photographic scavenger hunt.
Get your cameras ready, because the trip begins behind the Ferry Building Marketplace. When you’re done snapping photos of the Oakland Bay Bridge, seek out the Statue of Mohandas Gandhi. The Gandhi Memorial International Foundation placed the waving sculpture here on October 3, 1988, and it remains mostly intact today (his signature spectacles were since stolen). Similar statues were proliferated in other cities across the world prior to the organization’s controversial dissolution.
Before taking off further, energize yourself at Gott’s Roadhouse in the Ferry Building Marketplace for plates of intense garlic fries, fresh ahi tacos and pints of IPA. Dine outside if it’s a sunny day.
Next, head toward Justin Herman Plaza across the Embarcadero. Just beside the Vaillancourt Fountain, you’ll find two faces frozen in a precarious situation. What you’re witnessing are Robert Arneson’s Yin and Yang Eggheads, an art installation recreated from the Eggheads found on the UC Davis campus. And it’s not surprising that they’re so riled up, as they’ve found themselves a long way from home.
When you’re done posing ridiculously in front of their giant nostrils, head down Market Street until you reach the Mechanics Monument, a rising statue at Bush Street. Renowned artist Douglas Tilden created this sculpture of hardworking men who must not have been familiar with construction safety, as they’re mostly unclothed. Industrialist Paul Donahue is one of these five men depicted working a sheet of metal with an anvil, propeller and locomotive wheel. After the 1906 earthquake, the statue acted as a source of inspiration for those rebuilding the city.
Ignite your taste buds with a kimchi burrito at John’s Snack and Deli a few steps away, where the fusion of Korean flavors into Mexican forms is only surpassed by the ridiculously friendly service.
Head further down Market until you reach Post Street and the Admission Day Monument, another creation by Tilden. The marker celebrates California’s admission into the Union, unveiled on September 5, 1897. In a truly romantic gesture, the artist designed the angel at the top of the monument after his wife.
Just a block further along Market Street, Lotta’s Fountain is Tilden’s modest memorial to the devastation of the 1906 earthquake. It features golden lions that once spewed water into their basins below. Show up here on April 18 and you’ll witness an annual memorial for those that passed over a century ago.
Time for a drink! Head over to Rickhouse for some speakeasy-inspired cocktails. It’s managed by the same owners as the popular Bourbon & Branch, though reservations aren’t required at this ambient lounge.
Walk deeper into Chinatown until you reach Portsmouth Square. Amidst the crowd of elderly folks playing card games, Chinese Chess and practicing Tai Chi, you’ll find the site where the American flag was first raised in San Francisco by Commander Montgomery of the U.S.S. Portsmouth. It was July 9, 1846, but today what remain are a plaque and a series of trees. Try and spot the golden pirate ship nearby. It’s the commemorative marker for Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson.
When you’re done, set sail back toward Union Square, taking a stop to admire the San Francisco Fountain by the Grand Hyatt. You’ll find all of San Francisco’s most popular attractions depicted here. Take a few macro shots of the engravings as you explore this miniature version of the city.
The monument placed in plainest view can be found in the heart of tourist central. The Dewey Monument stretches high above Union Square, San Francisco’s downtown meeting plaza, yet it goes unnoticed by many who live here. George Dewey was a well-regarded admiral who won a victory in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. Dedicated in 1903, the 97-foot tall pillar features a glorious statue at the very top, entitled “Victory.”
By now, you’re probably pretty tired. Why not end the afternoon with a chocolate brioche and a cup of espresso at Emporio Rulli? This cafe located in Union Square provides the perfect place for watching the sky change colors into night.