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Thursday, July 19, 2007

History of the Familiar

Today I was wondering how Union Square got its name. It just never occurred to me before. I've been there a million times and never gave the place itself much thought, except when it's time to shop. So I looked it up (courtesy of verlang.com) and the picture is of Union Square, circa 1910. (You can click on the photo to get a great look at this panoramic photo).

Union Square has been the heart of San Francisco's shopping and hotel district since well before the 1906 earthquake leveled its first commercial buildings.

Laid out in 1850 during the mayoralty of John W. Geary, the informal grassy plot, then the heart of a residential district, acquired its name in the 1860s when pro-Union rallies were held there. Its civic status was further assured by the erection of the monument to Admiral Dewey's 1898 victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay. The 95-foot high column was designed in 1901 by Robert Aitken, sculptor, and Newton Tharp, architect. The monument survived both the 1906 disaster and the 1942 transformation of the square into the first-ever under-a-park garage, designed by Timothy Pflueger in cooperation with the city park department. Built in wartime, the concrete structure was meant to double as a bomb shelter.

I wonder if all of the ladies who are lunching at the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus realize they've just parked their new Mercedes in a former bomb shelter.