Ferry Building to Undergo Two-Year Restoration

by Brock Keeling | Curbed SF

The building will not only get a fresh coat of paint, but also a new color

San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Photo by Shutterstock

Sixteen years after reopening to the public as both a transit hub and a gastronomic destination, the San Francisco Ferry Building will receive a light renovation starting later this month.

Portions of the 1896 building’s facade, battered due to natural weathering, will be repaired and brought back to their original splendor. The entire exterior will also get a fresh coat of paint sporting a new color.

The exterior’s new hue will be “Ferry Building Gray,” a custom blended paint by Sherwin-Williams to represent the gray tones of the building’s original Colusa sandstone. Windows, trim, and decorative spandrels will see a slightly darker color. And the new clocktower color will match the hue of adjacent pier bulkheads to “tie the building to its maritime neighbors as the crowning jewel of the San Francisco waterfront,” according to Ferry Building’s restoration page.

The restoration should take approximately two years and will be completed in phases. The renovation won’t disrupt activity at the Ferry Building, including ferry services, shops, restaurants, businesses, or the weekly CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Designed in 1892 by American architect A. Page Brown, the Ferry Building proved popular because ferries were the only way to reach the San Francisco other than coming north from the Peninsula. (This was before the erections of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.) The ferry building served people arriving by train from the east, as well as commuters from the East Bay and Marin.

By the 1950s, commuters preferred to drive over the bridges rather than boat across the bay. Ferry travel soon dropped. In 1955, the building’s large open hall were filled in with office spaces. Most egregiously, in 1957 the infamous double-decker Embarcadero Freeway rose in front of the Ferry Building, cutting it off from the rest of the city.

Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Embarcadero freeway was damaged badly enough to lead to its demolition in 1991.

The 2003 restoration removed the ’50s-era office partitions and converted the first floor into a marketplace, highlighting the exposed beams and vaulted ceiling, making the seaside structure one of San Francisco’s sweetest pieces of eye candy.