The “Great Nave” of the Ferry Building in 1900. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building was completed in 1898 as a ferry terminal along the city’s waterfront. Designed by architect A. Page Brown, the Beaux Arts style building was the world’s second busiest transit terminal until the completion of the Bay and Golden Gate bridges during the 1930s. Originally, ferry passengers used the second floor of the building while the ground level was occupied by the movement of baggage, freight and mail. After the opening of the bridges, passenger ferry use significantly declined, leading the Ferry Building to fall into despair. During the 1990s, a plan evolved to restore the historic building with a new mix of uses. Understanding that the historic demand for ferry service would never return, the use of the first floor as a marketplace with a focus on local and sustainable products was introduced. In 2003, the restored Ferry Building opened to the public. Today, the Ferry Building is nationally known as a destination for local residents and tourist alike, anchoring the new collection of attractions along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Here’s a look at the Ferry Building today.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at