Discovery of 1906 Plan for Market Street

Exploring the Donohue Rare Book Room at the University of San Francisco, with help from librarian John Hawk, I cam across this long forgotten plan for Market Street. 



After the 1906 earthquake, Reed & Co presented this plan to San Francisco officials proposing to:
“. . . construct an elevated roadway known as ‘New Market Street Boulevard’ beginning at the present second floor of the Ferry Building … and extending up Market Street a distance of practically three-quarter of a mile to Third Street, where the Boulevard would terminate at the present level of Market Street . . .The Boulevard level will be used exclusively by pedestrians and pleasure vehicles while the lower level (the present grade of Market Street) will be used for electric railways, steam railways, and heavy cartage of all kinds.”

Private cars were considered “pleasure vehicles” in 1906 and peacefully mixed with pedestrians, at least in the Reed's sketch.  In the Reed plan, the upper level would contain 
“A wide and beautiful center Park or Plaza with fountains, monuments, grass plots, trees, flowers and shrubs, and occasional highly ornamental air shaft or stairway one at each street corner leading to the Electric Car Station upon the lower level … in each of these corner stations will be large and sanitary lavatories for men and for women, as well as news-stands, shoe-shining parlors and other requisites of modern depots.”
Sounds good to me – particularly the sanitary lavatory part. But how do the pedestrians get to that narrow strip of park in the center?  And there was still the problem of how to handle the crush of ferry passengers (as many as 50,000 every day until the 1930s when the bridges opened) and load them onto the street cars. 


 Reed & Co promised to"systematize the whole matter of loading and unloading passengers" at the Ferry Building as follows:
 “. . . a number of large circular switches will be provided opposite the center entrance to the Ferry Building, with a dispatcher or switchman always in charge, who by the simple turning of a lever permits each car as it arrives to pass upon the proper switch and to stop only before a designated platform. This platform is reached by the passenger . . . without crossing the track . . .  and is so constructed that it will be impossible for any passenger to take other than the right car. . .It can readily be seen that this arrangement will do away with all danger."
The Reed & Co plan was ambitious for its time.  It was ingenious and impractical and ultimately it was rejected. But the ideas in it weren't all crazy. Today BART and Muni trains run underground, while at street level there's wide sidewalks, decorative streetlamps and historic street cars.  The city continues to experiment with ways to control traffic on Market to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.  A hundred years later, we're still struggling  to make San Francisco’s Market Street the grand boulevard it was designed to be.


Photos used with permission of USF's Gleeson Library.  

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