In the western most part of Fisherman’s Wharf you will find Ghirardelli Square and Aquatic Park. A former chocolate factory, Ghirardelli Square, has three levels of shops and restaurants including, of course, the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Store. Aquatic Park has San Francisco’s only downtown beach!
For many people the taste of Ghirardelli Chocolate immediately brings back their memories of visiting San Francisco. San Franciscans got their first taste of Ghirardelli Chocolate when James Lick brought 600 pounds of it to The City from Lima, Peru where he was a neighbor of Domingo Ghirardelli. Lick had made a small fortune making pianos in South America which grew into a very large fortune through real estate investing in what was then the small village of San Francisco. A year after arriving he convinced Ghirardelli to join him in San Francisco. Domingo Ghirardelli and his sons purchased an entire block of property to serve as headquarters of their growing chocolate manufacturing business in 1893. They added several buildings the the several that already existed including the Clock Tower, Chocolate Building and Cocoa Building. After The Golden Grain Macaroni Company bought Ghirardelli Chocolate and relocated it to San Leandro the complete block was purchased and redeveloped into Ghirardelli Square. Opened in 1964 it was the first major adaptive re-use project in the US. The square was granted National Historic Register status in 1986. Ghirardelli Square has evolved once again with Fairmont Heritage Place private residence club and fractional ownership occupying much of the space formerly housing shops. The Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop is still here along with several other specialty shops, restaurants, cafes and wine bars.
A March 14, 1916 article in The Star recommended establishment of an aquatic park in San Francisco. The City took possession of Black Point Cove in 1925 from Pacific Railroad and the Muni Pier was begun in 1937. Aquatic Park opened to the public in 1939. You can swim at Aquatic Park though most find the water too cold for extended dips. Aquatic Park is a National Historic Landmark District bounded by Van Ness Avenue, Polk Street and Hyde Street. The Dolphin Club, which began in 1877, has a clubhouse here. It was originally a just a small shed at the foot of Leavenworth Street, later a two-story building at the foot of Van Ness which was moved to the foot of Larkin. You are likely to see members swimming in the cove even on the coldest days.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park incorporates the Aquatic Park Historic District and includes a fleet of historic ships at the Hyde Street Pier, a maritime museum and library/research facility.Hyde Street Pier was the automobile ferry terminal for Golden Gate Ferries (Southern Pacific railroad) prior to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. It was considered to be part of US 101. Today you can visit and tour these historic ships at the Hyde Street Pier:
• Balclutha, an 1886 three masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship, built near Glasgow, Scotland is the crown jewel of the park. It’s complex rigging and 25 sails were managed by a crew of 26 in 17 voyages around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. The Balclutha sailed under several names and owners and appeared in the film Mutiny on the Bounty.
• The C.A. Thayer, an 1895 three masted, wooden-hulled lumber schooner was built in Fairhaven, California. In addition to hauling lumber C.A. Thayer had careers in the Salt-Salmon Trade and cod fishing industries.
• Eureka, an 1890 wooden-hulled, sidewheel paddle steamboat looks and feels like a sister ship to the ferryboat Kalamath that I worked on while it served as the headquarters for the Landor Associates design firm at Pier 5 in San Francisco. Eureka, originally named Ukah, was built at Tiburon, California for the North Pacific Railway to serve as a freight-car ferry. It was later extensively rebuilt to be used as a passenger and automobile ferry.
• Alma, an 1891 wooden-hulled scow schooner was designed with a flat bottom to navigate shallow water in the Delta. Scow schooners like Alma were the trucks of their day delivering goods. You can join National Park Service rangers in sailing the 60 foot Alma on San Francisco Bay.
• Hercules, an 1907 steam tug was built in Camden, New Jersey for ocean towing, beginning by towing her sister ship, Goliah, through the Straight of Magellan to San Francisco for the Red Stack fleet.
Hercules worked long ocean tows for many years before being sold to the Western Pacific Railroad Company which used her to shuttle railroad car barges on San Francisco Bay until 1962.
• Eppleton Hall, a 1914 steam-powered, sidewheeler steel tug was built in South Shields, England to tow ocean-going, coal-carrying vessels known as colliers to and from Newcastle on the River Tyne.
Eppleton Hall was sold for scrap in 1967 but later served as a private yacht and eventually steamed through the Panama Canal to San Francisco arriving in 1970.
• San Francisco Bay Ark, was one of several little wooden houseboats moored out as summer hideaways in Belvdere Lagoon near Tiburon, California. The San Francisco Bay Ark is on Hyde Street Pier, near the entrance, and open for visiting free of charge.
The Maritime Museum building was constructed in the shape of an ocean liner as a bath house during the 1930s as a WPA project of Roosevelt’s New Deal. It was known as the Aquatic Park Casino when Alma deBrettville Spreckels moved a collection of ship models she rescued from the Exposition of 1939 on Treasure Island to the building. The U.S. Army commandeered the building during WWII, but it returned to use as a Museum after the war. Ten years after it was initially conceived Alma’s original idea for the Maritime Museum was expanded to include the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier by Karl Kortum. A multi-year restoration project is scheduled to end with the building’s reopening in 2009. Other Maritime Museums with historic sailing ships can be found in New YorK City and San Diego.