San Francisco is home to hundreds of landmarks, representing the city’s proudest moments of historical, scientific, and cultural innovation. If you want to consider yourself a true San Franciscan, you’d better get familiar with the city’s most interesting landmarks to gain a deeper understanding of its history.
Museum, Shop, Store
From 1972 until 1972, Castro Camera was owned and operated by Harvey Milk in the Castro district. The store doubled as a retail shop for photography supplies and the headquarters for Milk’s political campaigns. The shop quickly became a hub for LGBT activists as Milk ran for public office on four occasions, the fourth of which led him to become the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Milk also lived above the store and used it as headquarters to rebuild the Castro Village Association and launch the first ever Castro Street Fair.
Today, Milk is commemorated at the store’s former site with a plaque detailing his contributions to the city, and various memorabilia from Castro Camera are preserved at the GLBT Museum.
Castro Camera, 575 Castro St, San Francisco, CA
Neptune Society Columbarium
Neptune Society Columbarium
The Neptune Society Columbarium is a gorgeous, Neo-Classical architectural icon that hosts the remains of over 8,000 people. The building was once part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery and known as the San Francisco Columbarium, but it fell into abandonment after a law was passed in 1910 prohibiting cremations in San Francisco.
After the Neptune Society acquired the columbarium in 1979, it was beautifully restored to incorporate a copper dome, stained glass windows, and a number of rooms named after mythological winds. Today, it remains the only public non-denominal burial place in San Francisco that still has spaces available.
Neptune Society Columbarium, 1 Loraine Ct, San Francisco, CA
Jimbo's Bop City & Marcus Books
Jimbo’s Bop City & Marcus Books
This building in the Fillmore district has a rich history of rejecting and overcoming racial norms. As Jimbo’s Bop City, it was a famous jazz club in at the center of San Francisco’s music scene from 1950 to 1965. The club hosted such legendary musicians as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday and promoted a racial integration that was uncommon during its time. After its closure, the building became the location of Marcus Books in 1980. This bookstore became ‘a haven for Black intellectualism’ in the 80s, remaining the longest-running Black-owned and Black-themed bookstore in the country until its closure in 2014.
Jimbo’s Bop City/Marcus Books, 1712 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA
Built in the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park in 1902, the Dutch Windmill was designed to capture the Pacific Ocean’s winds in order to fuel the park’s irrigation system. A caretaker and his wife maintained the windmill and grew vegetables around it for several years, finding enough success to inspire the building of a second windmill in the park’s southwest corner, but eventually the Dutch Windmill fell into disrepair and stopped functioning.
The windmill was cosmetically restored in 1980 in accompaniment with the planting of the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, named after the longest-reigning monarch of the Netherlands.
Dutch Windmill, Golden Gate Park, 1691 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA
The Golden Triangle Light Standards
San Francisco’s so-called Golden Triangle is located downtown between the Montgomery and Powell St. BART stations. The area is bound by Market, Sutter, Powell, and Kearny Streets, famously the first section of the city to have advanced light standards erected on its streets. The Golden Triangle light standards were among the most innovative types of street lighting to exist in the early twentieth century, distributing uniform light without casting large shadows or harmful ultraviolet rays. Today, these light standards remain standing in the Golden Triangle, and many more have been built throughout the city.
The Golden Triangle, Market St & Sutter St, San Francisco, CA
Doggie Diner Sign
Doggie Diner Sign
At the intersection of Sloat Boulevard and 45th Avenue stands a massive cartoon dog head, overlooking the cars driving around Lakeshore and the San Francisco Zoo. This fiberglass sculpture is a remnant of Doggie Diner, a fast food chain distributed throughout the Bay Area from 1948 to 1986. The landmark recalls the onset of the fast food chains in the US, when American soldiers serving in the Korean War were served meals in Doggie Diner wrappers. This was done as a way to remind them of the ‘drive-ins, hamburgers, [and] necking in the back seat’ that awaited them back home while they were ‘making the world safe for democracy and all the other things they were fighting for.’
Sloat Boulevard and 45th Avenue, San Francisco, CA