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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.

Portal Book Cover6:15 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