Beaux Arts Architecture
From about 1885 to 1920, Beaux Arts architecture flourished in
America's wealthier cities. Architects trained at Paris's Ecole des
Beaux-Arts designed grandiose structures combining classic Greek
and Roman forms with French and Italian Renaissance styles. The
penchant for massive stone buildings festooned with columns, gar-
lands, and other ornamental flourishes was best suited to govern-
ment buildings, railroads stations, public libraries, museums, and
other lofty edifices. The architects were part of the “City Beautiful”
movement that sought to improve the American urban environment
through neoclassical architecture. The creation of more inviting city
centers was expected to inspire civic pride, elevate residents morally
and culturally, and put American cities on par with their European
counterparts. Following the devastating 1906 earthquake, the
rebuilding of SF's entire city center in the Beaux Arts style marked a
deliberate effort to lift the city's spirits and proclaim its resilience.
dome and much of the exterior. The
interior rotunda is made of oak and
limestone, and has a monumental
marble staircase. 400 Van Ness Ave.
(between McAllister & Grove sts.).
y 415/554-4000. Mon-Fri 8am-5pm.
5 Veterans Building. This 1932
structure was designed by Arthur
Brown, the architect of City Hall and
the War Memorial Opera House, as
a tribute to World War I veterans.
Today the theater hosts cultural
events and classical-music recitals.
401 Van Ness Ave. (between
McAllister & Grove sts.). y 415/
621-6600. Mon-Fri 8am-5pm.
6 War Memorial Opera
House. The home of the San
Francisco Opera was built in
remembrance of fallen
World War I soldiers.
It was also the site of
the signing of the
treaty in 1951,
5pm every Thurs; free 1st Tues of
every month. Tues-Sun 10am-5pm
(Thurs until 9pm).
3 Civic Center Plaza. From the
middle of the plaza, take a moment
to appreciate the neoclassically
styled buildings (inspired by the turn-
of-the-20th-century “City Beautiful”
idea—see above) that surround you.
Today the entire Civic Center is desig-
nated a National Historic Landmark
District. Between Polk, McAllister &
Grove sts. & Van Ness Ave.
4 City Hall. The impressive 308-
foot (92m) dome on this 1915 build-
ing is taller than the one on the
U.S. Capitol and is one of the
largest domes in the world. City
Hall, another prime example of
Beaux Arts architecture, is
adorned by real gold leaf
on portions of the
The gold adorning City
Hall's dome is a fine
example of the
displayed in the