Market Street: San Francisco's Main Street

San Francisco 1906

Before the Great Fire, Market Street was the pride of San Francisco and the envy of the world.

Thousands of people each day poured in through the Ferry Building and up Market Street.  They came from Chicago and  New York, as well as from all the cities of Europe.  They came to do business, meet important people, and see the sights.

Market Street runs for over three miles from the Ferry Building to Twin Peaks, but the most splendid part, before the quake, was the mile and a half stretch from Montgomery to Van Ness.  Each block held a new wonder: The Palace, the largest, most luxurious and most expensive hotel in the world;the Call Building, the tallest building in the West;  the Chronicle Building boasting the largest clock in the world; the finest shops gathered together in one huge Emporium.  Topping it off, at the corner of Market and Van Ness was the magnificent City Hall.

Cable and street car lines ran along Market to all parts of the city, all beginning at the Ferry Building then veering off Market at various intersections along the way.  Everyone complained about the streetcars -- they cost a nickel and were often crowded -- but they took you everywhere you needed to go.

Many of San Francisco’s greatest moments took place on Market Street. Market Street is 120 ft wide, twice as any other street, except Van Ness.  This made is a natural gathering place for welcoming dignitaries or for great celebrations as in this 1903 photo:

Photos  courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, Historical Photo Collection
Photo links:  Ferry Building Call Building at night

Today: Tour and Explore

SF City Guides FREE walking tours of Historic Market Street: Path of Gold.  
Tours last about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Tour Guides carrying clipboards dependably show up at designated starting points rain or shine.  Please consider making a small donation at the end of the tour to help keep the program going.  Find a complete schedule of City Guides tours at:

Ride a Historic Streetcar - Beautifully restored vintage streetcars run regularly along Market Street and go to go to Fisherman's Wharf or the Castro.  Routes, schedules and fares, as well as information on the restoration of the cars is at

Learn More

Take a trip down Market Street in 1905 - Go to the home page of the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, and type "A trip down Market" in the search box.  Click on the first film on the list.  T here is also a version of this film on YouTube.

 This three-part film is a last look at Market Street in September 1905, seven months before all was destroyed by  the Great Quake.   A camera  was mounted on a cable car traveling down Market from below City Hall around 8th St to the Ferry Building.

You can see a bigger, clearer version of this film, with narration, at the Street Car Museum at 77 Steuart Street (map), just across from the South end of the Ferry Building.


"Market Street stretches diagonally across the peninsula from the Ferry Building to the base of Twin Peaks...A resplendent thoroughfare by day, 100 feet wide,Market street takes on a sorcery all its own at night...Market street is then the most dazzling of boulevards "
--Fred Brandt and Andrew Y. Wood, Fascinating San Francisco

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