‘Did You Know That [There Was a Pedestrian Bridge at SF’s Ferry Building]?’

Constructed sometime in the late 1920s, San Francisco had a large pedestrian bridge on the Embarcadero that saw thousands walk across it daily.

Opened in 1898, San Francisco’s Ferry Building began primarily as a welcome portal for people arriving by train. As the Gold Rush continued until the 1930s, thousands of people a day passed through the iconoclastic structures by way of shipping and fishing boats and, of course, ferries. At its peak during this era, SF’s Ferry Building saw as many as 50,000 people walk through the two-story public structure on a daily basis to commute by ferry.

Lana Del Rey reminded us earlier this year that there is, indeed, “a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard” in Long Beach, California — an underground passage opened in 1927 to provide a safe passage to the beach for pedestrians, which was later closed in 1967. But did you also know that SF’s Ferry Building had a pedestrian bridge that stretched across from it? Because, yes reader, it did (and, coincidentally enough, the bridge was built quite close in time to the same passageway Lana Del Ray mentioned in said early 2023 song.)

Photo: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory / wnp36.03790

Knowing the massive foot traffic SF’s Ferry Building retained, it makes all-out sense why this remarkably large pedestrian bridge once spanned the Embarcadero, helping allow safe passing out of the plaza and transit hub. The enormous, two-way bridge connected the second floor of the Ferry Building to the less busied ground near what is now Sue Bierman Park; the structure positioned pedestrians atop The Embarcadero roadway, over a then-present traffic circle (with an appealing green median), and onto another walkable area.

Information on the bridge, itself, is sparse; it’s unclear exactly how it was designed, constructed above the busy roadway, etc.; SF’s Ferry Building pedestrian bridge exists as an enigmatic apparition of a past, more walkable San Francisco.

Photo: Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library

Ironically though, there are a good number of images of the structure — largely thanks to the ongoing work from OpenSFHistory, a local nonprofit dedicated to creating an online archive of historic San Francisco images and text. (I did manage to find one image of well-dressed pedestrians traversing the bridge from the San Francisco Public Library.)

Alas, the Embarcaderos’ fascinating pedestrian bridge was a short-lived walkway. Sometime in the 1940s, the bridge was dismantled to provide refuse metal for World War II. But because of OpenSFHistory’s ever-growing digital catalogs, images of the bridge will remain accessible for years and years to come on the interwebs.

Now… we just need a modern-day songbird to weave SF’s Ferry Building pedestrian bridge into a minutes-long, crooned metaphor.

Check out some of our other favorite images of the bridge below:

Photo: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory / wnp5.50064
Photo: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory / wnp5.50064
Photo: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory / wnp30.0291
Photo: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory / wnp4.1374

Feature image: Courtesy of OpenSFHistory / wnp4.1377

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