City Hall

sights / Architecture

City Hall information

Location
San Francisco , USA
Address
400 Van Ness Ave
Tour info
+1 415 554 6139
Art exhibit line
+1 415 554 6080
Getting there
Muni: Civic Center
Bart: Civic Center
More information
http://sfgsa.org/index.aspx?page=1085
Opening hours
8am-8pm Mon-Fri, tours 10am, noon & 2pm
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Rising from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake, this beaux arts landmark echoes with history. Singing protesters determined to end red-scare McCarthy hearings were blasted with firehoses here in 1960 – yet America's first sit-in worked. America's first openly gay official Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated here in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone – but in 2004, 4037 same-sex couples were legally wed here for the first time. Lately City Hall has approved pioneering green initiatives, making SF the nation's environmental leader.

The dome's gilded exterior is a cringe-worthy reminder of 1990s dot-com excess, when the city squandered a short-lived windfall on gold leafing – but at least its foundations are solid now. Designed in 1915 to outdo Paris for flair and outsize the capitol in Washington, DC, the world's fifth-largest dome was unsteady until its retrofit after the 1989 earthquake, when ingenious technology enabled it to swing on its base without raising alarm. Don't miss public art exhibitions, which range from portraits of iconic LGBT performers to photographs of fog banks hovering inside San Francisco buildings.

Free docent-led tours meet at the tour kiosk near the Van Ness Ave entrance, but City Hall is best seen in action. For insight into how San Francisco government works – or doesn't – the Board of Supervisors meets Tuesdays at 2pm in City Hall; check the agenda and minutes online. Theoretically, visitors may be removed for 'boisterous' behavior, but this being San Francisco, democracy in action can get pretty rowdy without fazing security guards.