Old Ferry Building Topo Map

greenspun.com : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I am told that in the Ferry Building of old (40s-50s) there was a giant relief topographical map of the SF Bay Area. Does anyone know what happened to this feature when they converted the building into office space?

-- James Bettles (sfbridgerunner@msn.com), October 05, 2003


I have no idea of the map's current location, but I do remember it well.

First, the map was much more than a topo of the Bay Area -- it was the entire state of California and had been created for one of the World's Fairs. I remember seeing the map as a kid and it just seemeed to stretch out forever along the length of the Ferry Building's upper concourse. It was put into storage when the building was converted into the abominable World Trade Center.

Years later, I had a "close encounter" with the map while working for the National Park Service at Fort Mason, when a group called Friends of the Great Map contacted me about displaying the map in one of the then-vacant pier sheds at the Fort. As I remember, they said they needed a space of at least 200' (possibly more) to show it assembled. The park turned them down, not willing to dedicate the valuable event space in the piers to such an esoteric -- albeit wonderful -- display use.

-- John Martini (jamartini@slip.net), October 05, 2003.

This topic has been bugging me all day so I just spent an hour on the web and came up with some more info on the model.

The map was called the "Giant Relief Map of California," and was displayed in the Ferry Building from 1924 to 1962. It also appears the map was constructed solely for display in the Ferry Building and had its own curator.

In 1924 an artist named Davis Francis Schwartz was elected artist for the State Board of Harbor Commissioners and came to San Francisco for the installation of the huge relief map. Schwartz established a studio in the Ferry Building and for 30 years acted as custodian of the map. He may have helped build the map or simply oversaw its intallation; the sources are unclear.

The Guinness Book of World Records supposedly lists the map as the largest in the world and states its dimensions as 450 x 18 ft and weighing 43 tons. (Other sources give sizably larger dimensions.)

The map was bought for one dollar in 1962 by an investor/developer from Redding,California, named T.R. "Tom" Woods. In April 2003 the Redding Record Searchlight ran an article on Woods that includes this intriguing bit of information:

"In 1960, he paid $1 for a relief map a 36-year-old replica of California weighing 60 tons and stretching 600 feet long that was due to be destroyed because its San Francisco Ferry Building home was being remodeled.

"Woods reportedly paid nearly $15,000 to dismantle it and move it to Redding, where it remained in storage until he sold it 15 years later, again for $1."

Unfortunately, there's no mention of who bought the model in 1977. Woods died two years later.

-- John Martini (jamartini@slip.net), October 06, 2003.

I hate SF, i visited there this summer and it sucked, there were too many homeless people and finding places was exceptionally hard! SF was total crap! I think that city should under serious repairs or just be broken apart! Have a different view! I will gladly argue, call me at 1-925-323-0366, i live in walnut creek.

-- Slo (yo@hotmail.com), October 08, 2003.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ