SF Travel announced that San Francisco is about to celebrate some serious milestones including the cable car system’s 150th anniversary, the Ferry Building’s 125th anniversary, Alcatraz’s 50th anniversary as a national park site, SF Opera’s 100th anniversary, and the Golden Gate Bridge’s 90th anniversary. Here we’ve taken a closer look at all the landmarks hitting 50+ year anniversaries, but scroll to the bottom for even more milestones in the 20-49 year range. Here’s to discovering all we have to celebrate in San Francisco during 2023!
Table Of Contents
SF anniversaries over 100 years
1. Cable cars – 150th anniversary
Scottish immigrant Andrew Smith Hallidie invented the first cable car in 1873. The cars were tested on August 2 and began public service on September 1 of that same year. SF’s cable cars are the only moving national landmark in the United States.
There are 2 types of historic cable cars in service in San Francisco today: 12 California cars, which are larger and may be operated from both ends; and 28 Powell cars, which are slightly smaller and operational from one end only. You can learn more about the cable cars at SF’s free Cable Car Museum.
Did you know that you can actually watch master carpenters restore the cable cars? Take a peek through the fence at Woods Division Carpentry Shop in the Dogpatch.
2. Levi’s San Francisco – 150th anniversary
Levi Strauss (1829–1902) is of course the founder of Levi Strauss & Co., world-famous for manufacturing blue jeans. He was a German immigrant who moved with his family to New York city in 1847, later arriving in San Francisco and starting Levi Strauss & Co. as an extension of his family’s dry goods business in 1853. Two decades later Strauss went into business with Latvian immigrant and tailor Jacob Davis to create blue jeans, famous for using copper rivets to reinforce points of strain. The flagship store at 815 Market Street continues to keep the Levi’s legacy alive. You can also find Levi Strauss’s grave in nearby Colma.
3. Ferry Building – 125th anniversary
American architect A. Page Brown designed the Ferry Building in 1892, taking inspiration from the Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain. Construction was completed on the edge of the Bay in 1898, and it served as the city’s portal for ferry fleets and trains for decades.
The Ferry Building underwent an intensive 4-year restoration and reopened in 2003 as we know it today. Plans are in the works to upgrade its outdoor plaza, but the building is much the same as it was 125 years ago.
Coincidentally, the popular Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
4. John’s Grill – 115th anniversary
This old-school steakhouse near Union Square dates back to 1908 and is famous for hosting celebrities and big local names. As the first downtown restaurant to open after the 1906 earthquake, John’s Grill has been an essential gathering place for over a century. Take a seat in its dark paneled dining room for a trip back in time.
Popular menu items include the Jack LaLanne seafood combo salad, Sam Spade’s lamb chops, the New York steak, and clam chowder.
5. SF Opera – 100th season
San Francisco Opera dates back to 1923, making 2022-2023 its Centennial Season. It’s housed in the historic War Memorial Opera House, which was built during the Great Depression as a memorial for San Franciscans who served in WWI. SF Opera continues to spread the joy of musical storytelling through seasonal performances, opera training programs, K-12 education programs, and community outreach. Be sure to take advantage of its unprecedented 3×1 deal via the Future of Opera Subscription, which runs through March 22, 2023!
SF anniversaries over 50 years
6. Golden Gate Bridge – 90th anniversary
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge receives over 10 million visits a year and is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks. The 1.7-mile-long suspension bridge was built in 1933 and has remained a symbol of world-class engineering and local pride ever since.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg paid a visit to SF earlier this year, revealing that the Golden Gate Bridge will receive a $400M federal investment in order to fund seismic retrofitting upgrades to improve the bridge’s resiliency against earthquakes.
7. Coit Tower – 90th anniversary
This simple white tower has embellished San Francisco’s iconic skyline since its construction in 1933. It was named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who left a bequest upon her death in 1929 “for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city I have always loved.” Visitors can travel to the top of the 212-foot-high tower and marvel at 360° views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, and much more.
In addition to the gorgeous views, the tower contains 26 colorful frescoes painted inside the base by local artists in 1934. The murals represent the first major project commissioned by the U.S. Government’s Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), part of the Depression’s New Deal program meant to employ artists and beautify public spaces.
8. SF Ballet – 90th season
San Francisco Ballet is the country’s oldest professional ballet company, dating back to 1933. This is where Artistic Director Willam Christensen staged the nation’s first full-length productions of Coppélia (1938), Swan Lake (1940), and Nutcracker (1944).
SF Ballet is currently in the midst of its Next@90 Festival which showcases 9 international choreographers in their world premieres. Some productions to look for include Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet.
9. City Lights Bookstore – 70th anniversary
City Lights Bookstore is best known for its ties to the Beat movement and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who passed away in 2021. Ferlinghetti moved to San Francisco in 1951 and opened the legendary bookstore two years later as the first all-paperback bookstore in the country. He was a publisher of many poets through the City Lights Pocket Poets Series, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Carlos Williams, Julio Cortázar, and more.
City Lights Bookstore continues to operate 70 years later in North Beach. Find a wide range of books from both major publishers and smaller specialty ones, about topics including poetry, translation, fiction, politics, history, music, and much more.
10. Alcatraz – 60th anniversary of prison closing and 50th anniversary as a national park
Alcatraz Island is an essential part of San Francisco’s history, having served in multiple different roles for generations of San Franciscans. It acted as a military base known as “Fort Alcatraz” during the Civil War, eventually housing a military prison until 1933. From 1934-1963, the island was home to the famous federal prison that housed Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and other notorious criminals from across the US. It was later the site of a Native American civil rights movement before becoming part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area in 1972.
Alcatraz became a national park site in 1973, earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. It’s served as a public museum for decades and is accessible via a ferry from Pier 33.
SF anniversaries over 20 years
We’re thrilled to celebrate these milestone anniversaries of 50+ years in San Francisco, but the celebrations don’t end there! Here are even more SF institutions hitting major anniversaries in 2023:
- Pier 39 – 45th anniversary
- SFJAZZ – 40th anniversary (and SF Jazz Center – 10th anniversary)
- Creativity Explored – 40th anniversary
- House of Nanking – 35th anniversary
- One Market – 30th anniversary
- Noise Pop – 30th anniversary
- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – 30th anniversary
- Exploratorium – 20th anniversary