Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square is a convert|2.6|acre|ha plaza bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Street in San Francisco, California. It also refers to the central shopping, hotel, and theater district that surrounds the plaza for several blocks. The name "Union Square" stems from the fact that the area was once used for rallies and support for the Union Army during the Civil War. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide/sf/neighborhoods/unionsq.shtml San Francisco Neighborhood Guide] , "San Francisco Chronicle".] Today, this one-block plaza and nearby area is one of the largest collection of department stores, upscale boutiques, tourist trinket shops, art galleries, and salons in the Western United States, which continue to make Union Square a major tourist draw, a vital, cosmopolitan place in downtown San Francisco, and one of the world's premier shopping districts. Grand hotels and small inns, as well as repertory, off-Broadway and single-act theaters also contribute to the area's dynamic, 24-hour character.


Union Square was built and dedicated by San Francisco's first American mayor John Geary in 1850 and is so named for the pro-Union rallies that happened there before and during the United States Civil War. Since then, the plaza underwent many notable changes with the most significant first happening in 1903 with the dedication of a 97-ft tall monument to Admiral George Dewey's victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War. It also commemorates U.S. President William McKinley, who had been recently assassinated. The figurine at the top of the monument, "Victory", was modeled from the likeness of a local heiress, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. The second major significant change happened between 1939-1941 when a large underground parking garage was built under the square that relocated the plaza's lawns, shrubs and the Dewey monument to the garage "roof." It was the world's first underground parking garage and was designed by Timothy Pfleuger. [ [http://www.unionsquareshop.com/History.html History of Union Square - SanFranciscoShop - Most Unique Shopping Districts in the San Francisco Bay Area - 2,000+ Stores ] ]

During the late 1970s, and through the 1980s and 1990s, the area became a bit derelict as the homeless began to camp in the space. San Francisco's rowdy New Year's parties used to happen yearly at the plaza with some sort of civil disruption and rioting happening afterward. In early 1998, city planners began plans to renovate the plaza to create more paved surfaces for easier maintenance, with outdoor cafes, and more levels to the underground garage. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1998/03/15/SPECIAL1010.dtl&hw=Union+Square&sn=005&sc=763 BAYLIFE 98. FUTURE] , "San Francisco Chronicle".] Finally in late 2000, the park was partially closed down to renovate the park and the parking garage. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/12/27/MNC24678.DTL&hw=Union+Square&sn=018&sc=535 Remodel To Close Union Square] , "San Francisco Chronicle".] On July 25, 2002, the park reopened and ceremony was held with then Mayor Willie Brown. "Use it; it is your square," said Mayor Willie Brown. [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/07/26/BA82511.DTL&type=travelbayarea A square is born] , "San Francisco Chronicle".]

Today, Union Square retains its role as the ceremonial "heart" of San Francisco, serving as the site of many public concerts & events, art shows, impromptu protests, private parties and events, and the annual Christmas tree and Menorah lighting. Public views of the square can be seen from surrounding high places as the St. Francis Hotel tower, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Macy's top floor, and the Grand Hyatt hotel.

Nearby attractions

Union Square has also come to describe not just the plaza itself, but the general shopping, dining, and theater districts within the surrounding blocks. The Geary and Curran theaters one block west on Geary anchor the "theater district" and border the Tenderloin. Union Square is also home to San Francisco's TIX Bay Area, a half-priced ticket booth and Ticketmaster outlet. Run by Theatre Bay Area, tickets for most of San Francisco's performing arts can be purchased the day of the performance at a discounted rate.

At the end of Powell Street two blocks south, where the cable cars turn around beside Hallidie Plaza at Market Street, is a growing retail corridor that is connected to the SOMA district. Nob Hill, with its grand mansions, apartment buildings and hotels, stands to the northwest of Union Square. Directly northeast is Chinatown, with its famous dragon gate at Grant Avenue and Bush Street.

The city's historic French Quarter is one block north of Union Square and centers on the Belden Place alleyway, between Bush Street and Pine Streets, and Claude Lane off of Bush Street. This area has many open air French Restaurants and Cafes. Every year the area is the site of the boisterous Bastille Day celebration, the nation's largest, and Bush Street is temporarily re-named "Buisson".

Directly east of the Square off of Stockton Street is Maiden Lane, a short and narrow alley of exclusive boutiques and cafes that leads to the Financial District and boasts the Xanadu Gallery, San Francisco's only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright — with its interior most notable for being the predecessor for New York City's Guggenheim Museum.


Over the years, Union Square became a popular shopping destination. It boasts six major department stores: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Barneys New York, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. Union Square is also home to several famous upscale boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Boucheron, Hugo Boss, Tiffany & Co., Piaget, De Beers, Bulgari, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier, Bijan, Marc Jacobs, Hermes and Ermenegildo Zegna. It is also home to the country's first Goyard boutique (located on the corner of Powell and Post). There are more stores located inside the newly renovated Westfield San Francisco Centre, just south of Union Square along Market Street. Old Navy, Forever 21, Anthropologie, Apple Store, United Colors of Benetton, Abercrombie & Fitch, and American Eagle Outfitters are also located along Market Street, just 2-3 blocks south of Union Square respectively. Two venerable San Francisco institutions, jeweler, Shreve & Co, and clothier Wilkes Bashford, are also located within one block of the square.

There are also several cases of redundancy among retailers. H&M has three stores in Union Square (on Powell, on Post, and inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre). Gap has two stores, one on Post and another on the corner of Powell and Market. Zara, MNG by Mango, Kenneth Cole New York, Guess, Juicy Couture, Tumi, BCBG Max Azria, Banana Republic, and Coach both have stores around Union Square and inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre. One of two shopping malls in the area with the other being the Crocker Galleria at the far eastern end of the area bordering the Financial District.

A campus of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising is also located in the area on Stockton Street.


Two cable car lines (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason) serve the Union Square on Powell Street.

In addition, Union Square is served by numerous trolley and bus lines and the F Market heritage streetcar. The Muni Metro and BART subway systems both serve the area at nearby Powell Street Station on Market Street. Muni now planned to build an extension of its Muni Metro system to connect the Union Square and Chinatown. The extension, known as the Central Subway, is currently scheduled for completion by 2016.

In film

In 1974, Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes of "The Conversation" in Union Square, where the bugged conversation which forms the foundation of the movie takes place. Scenes of the square and the surrounding neighborhood were featured in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Vertigo.


External links

* [http://geoimages.berkeley.edu/worldwidepanorama/wwp305/html/JedClark.html 3D panorama of Union Square]

ee also

*List of upscale shopping districts
*Belden Place
*49-Mile Scenic Drive

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