Portal banner.jpg

Author: John King, Portal

San Francisco's Ferry Building and the Reinvention of American Cities
Wednesday, 11/29/2023
5:45 - 7:30
Saroyan Area - 6th Floor
Main Library

100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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Come early for a special Hands On History experience, then stay to hear two-time Pulitzer finalist, John King, discuss his new book, Portal, that explores the story of American urban design through San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building. King will be in conversation with author Jasper Rubin.

5:45 p.m. Hands on history: a portal into San Francisco's Ferry Building history!
Participants connect, see (and touch!) San Francisco archives through original documents, manuscripts and photographs which John King used as source materials for writing Portal: San Francisco's Ferry Building and the Reinvention of American Cities. Collections on view will include San Francisco Ephemera Collection, San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection and San Francisco Department of Public Works Proposed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges Records.

Image removed.6:15 p.m. Author Talk

In Portal, architectural critic John King chronicles the Ferry Building's history, highlighting the individuals who fought to preserve its character, including architect Arthur Page Brown, columnist Herb Caen, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Built in 1898 during the Gilded Age, the Ferry Building served as San Francisco's gateway to the world, initially as the endpoint of the transcontinental railway. Its iconic clocktower symbolized the city in early films and postcards. However, the rise of automobiles and freeways in the 20th century disconnected the city from this beloved landmark and its waterfront.

The story reaches its climax with the earthquake-induced destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway, allowing San Francisco to reclaim its connection to the bay. King's book spans 125 years of history, exploring the tensions affecting urban infrastructure, public spaces, tourism, deindustrialization, development and globalization. It concludes with a vibrant portrayal of San Francisco's waterfront today.

Portal is a must-read for city enthusiasts, architecture aficionados and anyone interested in San Francisco's history and the future of American cities.

King will be joined in conversation with San Francisco State University Urban Studies professor Jasper Rubin, the author of A Negotiated Landscape: The Transformation of San Francisco's Waterfront Since 1950.

King is an esteemed urban design critic at the San Francisco Chronicle and a two-time Pulitzer finalist, residing in Berkeley, California.


John KIng - Twitter | John KIng - The San Francisco Chronicle

Engage with your favorite writers and discover your next read.

Learn from world-class designers, artists and experts in their fields. 

This program is sponsored by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

Attending Programs

For questions about the program or help registering, contact sfplcpp@sfpl.orgAll programs are drop-in (no registration necessary) unless otherwise noted. All SFPL locations are wheelchair accessible. For accommodations (such as ASL or language interpretation), call (415) 557-4557 or contact accessibility@sfpl.org. Requesting at least 3 business days in advance will help ensure availability.

Notice: This event may be filmed or photographed. By participating in this event, you consent to have your likeness used for the Library’s archival purposes and promotional materials. If you do not want to be photographed, please inform a staff person or the photographer. A sticker will be provided to help identify you so that we can avoid capturing your image.

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The views and opinions expressed in programs presented by groups unaffiliated with SFPL do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SFPL or the City.