Following San Francisco’s Great Quake and Fire in 1906, plans were laid for the lower end of Kearny Street, “which had been disfigured for years by rows of rookeries and little stores of shark clothiers,” to blossom into a district of “skyscrapers.”

The first bud of the district was to be a ten-story office building on the northwest corner of Pine and Kearny, the corner parcel now known as 500 Pine Street.

From the San Francisco Call, in May of 1906:

George S. Fife, who is already beginning to build in other sections of the city, has announced this determination to erect a ten-story office building [on the site].

Plans for the structure have already been accepted. The work will be done by the Ferrolite Construction Company, architects and constructors, of 925 Golden Gate avenue. This firm also has the contract to erect another skyscraper for Mr. Fife at California and Market Streets.

The building at Pine and Kearny streets will be a class A structure. The first floor will contain three stores and the rest of the building will be fitted up for modern offices.

The projected cost of building the ten-story skyscraper was to be “more than $197,000.”

UPDATE: Our apologies if Fife’s determination and the building fell short, for as a reader notes, a three-story building was photographed on the site in the 1940’s.

And as such, we have since changed our piece about the primarily four-story building that’s to rise on the 500 Pine Street parcel circa 2014 to read, “upon which a 10-story skyscraper had been approved to rise in 1906,” versus, “upon which a 10-story building once stood.”

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by JWS

    Proposed 10 story building that ended up being only 3…the birth of the SF NIMBY perhaps?

  2. Posted by sanfranciscan

    Not much has changed… a proposed 13-story building was recently called a “skyscraper” by NIMBYs

  3. Posted by Adam

    The building in the vintage photo does not look anything like the building in the rendering above, but the building immediately across the street does. The planning department lists that 5-story tower (353 Kearny?) as dating to 1907, so perhaps that is the actual building? The Planning Department map still indicates the 500 Pine site as being the location of the Kong Chow Temple, based on a 1968 historic resources survey- obviously outdated. The records are a little spotty.

  4. Posted by Hawkins

    I believe what is most logical here is that perhaps SF changed street names in the past, in the Downtown area. This is a fairly common occurrence, even to this day, where street names are changed around to avoid confusion of, say, having two similar street names next to each other or something like that. So I think the most likely thing is that this building was built before SF changed the street names, and probably currently exists somewhere else. Records are notoriously unreliable from this era. I think I have seen this building in another location.

  5. Posted by Luftmensch

    There was (at One California) a Fife Building – So says Emporis 12 Story steel skyscaper – Herb Caen mentioned it – 1960 or so

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