Washington Square

sights / Parks & gardens

Washington Square information

Location
San Francisco , USA
Address
Columbus Ave & Union St
Getting there
Tram: Powell-Mason
Bus: 30, 39, 41, 45
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Wild parrots, tai chi masters and nonagenarian churchgoing nonnas (grandmothers) are the company you'll keep on this lively patch of lawn. The parrots keep their distance in the treetops, but like anyone else in North Beach, they can probably be bribed into friendship with a focaccia from Liguria Bakery on the square's northeast corner.

The park's 1897 statue of Ben Franklin is a non sequitur and the taps below his feet falsely advertise mineral water from Vichy, France. This puzzling public artwork was donated by certifiable SF eccentric Henry D Cogswell, who made his fortune fitting miners with gold fillings. Originally the monument was topped by Cogswell himself, but after it was mocked as ugly and toppled by self-appointed art critics in 1894, Ben Franklin was raised in the dentist's stead. Cogswell buried a time capsule under this monument in 1879, and in accordance with his instructions, a century later it was opened to reveal an early women's liberation manifesto, a San Francisco Chinese-language newspaper and sundry dental tools.