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100 Years of Tourism in San Francisco

Discover fascinating facts and trivia about San Francisco and how significant events from the past 100 years have shaped this popular travel destination.


The hospitality and tourism industry is the number one industry in San Francisco, responsible for an economic impact of $9.38 billion per year. Destination marketing is nothing new – San Francisco has been promoting the economic vitality of the region and enticing visitors for more than 100 years. The San Francisco Travel Association’s very first meeting was held at the St. Francis Hotel on November 30, 1909. It was originally called the San Francisco Convention & Tourist League. Their goal was to lure visitors, especially convention groups, to the newly rebuilt city following the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. In its first year, the League reported a total of 27 conventions and events with an attendance of 30,000 people and $1.2 million in revenue for the city.

Below is a fun and interesting list of significant events from the last century that have shaped San Francisco into a unique, innovative and vibrant destination:


  • The San Francisco Convention & Tourist League holds their first meeting at the St. Francis Hotel on November 30.                                 
  • In its first year, the League reports a total of 27 conventions and events with an attendance of 30,000 people and $1.2 million in revenue for the city.


  • Columbia Theater opens at Geary and Mason streets, known today as the American Conservatory Theater.
  • Angel Island Immigration station opens.
  • Chef Victor Hertler creates Celery Victor at The St. Francis Hotel. The dish includes celery stalks immersed in chicken, veal and vegetable stock topped with salt, black pepper, chervil, tarragon vinegar and olive oil.


  • The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra is formed.
  • Congress announces that the opening celebration of the Panama Canal will be held in San Francisco, leading to the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915.


  • The San Francisco Municipal Railway opens on Geary St.  Car No. 1 is piloted by Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph on its very first run.
  • The Bay to Breakers is born, a 7.63 mile race from the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach.
  • John V. Tadich reopens the Tadich Grill after a fire.


  • Visitors from 33 nations attend the Portola Festival, commemorating the 400th year anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
  • The Willis Polk-designed Insurance Exchange Building opens at 433 California St., designed to relate to the Merchant’s Exchange Building across Leidesdorff, also by Polk.


  • Bohemian San Francisco: Its Restaurants and Their Most Famous Recipes, by Clarence Edwords is published.  Edwords writes, “…for in San Francisco eating is an art and cooking a science, and he who knows not what San Francisco provides knows neither art nor science.”
  • Solari’s Restaurant invents Crab Louis.
  • The Stockton St. tunnel is completed.


  • 255,149 people attend opening day of the Panama Pacific International Exposition hosted in San Francisco. 
  • San Francisco Civic Auditorium is built, known today as the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
  • The Clift Hotel opens on Geary St.


  • The Path of Gold lamps lining Market St. from the Ferry Building to Castro St. are lit for the first time.
  • The U.S. National Park Service is established.


  • The main library building opens in the Civic Center.  Today it is home to the Asian Art Museum.


  • Twin Peaks Tunnel begins service and becomes one of the longest streetcar tunnels in the world.


  • Tosca Café opens on Columbus Ave. in North Beach.


  • The Democratic National Convention is held in San Francisco Civic Auditorium, known today as the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.
  • Hang Ah Tea Room, the oldest Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, opens at 1 Pagoda Place.


  • The de Young Museum opens to the public in Golden Gate Park.
  • San Francisco’s last fire horse stables are closed.
  • Julius Castle opened on Telegraph Hill. The restaurant was famous for the panoramic views of the bay.
  • San Francisco State Normal School is renamed San Francisco State Teachers College.  Today it’s known as San Francisco State University.


  • The Castro Theatre is built by the entrepreneurial Nasser brothers.
  • Engineers construct eight cobblestoned switchbacks on a portion of Lombard St.  It is known from that day forward as the “crookedest street in the world.”
  • Comedian/actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle is acquitted by a San Francisco jury after being accused and withstanding three trials for the rape and death of Virginia Rappe.


  • Green Goddess salad dressing is created at the Palace Hotel, paying tribute to actor George Arliss who starred in the popular play, “Green Goddess.”
  • San Francisco Opera is founded by Gaetano Merola and is the second largest opera company in North America.


  • The Palace of the Legion of Honor opens in Lincoln Park.
  • Singer-actress Lotta Crabtree dies. San Francisco continues to remember her through the monumental ornate drinking fountain standing at the intersection of Market, Third, and Kearny streets. The fountain was donated by Crabtree in 1875 and was one of the few structures to survive the 1906 earthquake.
  • The Immigration Act, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, is passed, restricting the flow of immigrants into the U.S. (Angel Island became an important immigrant station for immigrants coming from the east).


  • The Beach Chalet restaurant opens in a Spanish colonial revival style building facing Ocean Beach.
  • Kezar Stadium opens and later becomes the home of the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Park commissioner Herbert Fleishhacker opens a pool at the end of Sloat Blvd. The pool is 1,000 feet long, the largest swimming pool in the world. It closes in 1971 when locals started driving to sunnier locations to go swimming


  • Prohibition is so unpopular, the San Francisco City’s Board of Supervisors passes a resolution opposing the use of any local police to enforce the 18th Amendment.
  • Approval to purchase land on the Mills Estate, fifteen miles south of San Francisco leads to what is known today as San Francisco International Airport.
  • KYA-AM begins radio transmissions. It is noted as having had the most owners of any radio station in the history of California. Today, 1260 AM is KSFB, a Catholic-oriented station.


  • The film “Old San Francisco” is released, from a story by Darryl F. Zanuck. Its tagline:  “A Romance of the Days When ’Frisco’ Was the Paris of America!”
  • The Canton Flower Shop opens at 118 Waverly Place in Chinatown, where it continues today.


  • “It’s It” ice cream sandwich is created by George Whitney at Playland-at-the-Beach in San Francisco.
  • Alfredo Bacchini, a well-liked waiter in San Francisco, opens a storefront restaurant at 886 Broadway Street in 1928. Today, Alfred’s Steakhouse is at 659 Merchant St.


  • The Academy of Advertising Art is founded by Richard S. Stephens, art director for Sunset Magazine, with his wife Clara and $2000. It grows to become the largest private art and design college in the US. In 2004 the name changes to the Academy of Art University.
  • The 28-story Gothic Moderne Shell Building is built at 100 Bush and Battery streets. 
  • Mae West opens her play “Diamond Lil” at the Curran Theater.


  • A.P. Giannini, who founded Bank of Italy in 1904, merges with Los Angeles-based bank founder Orra E. Monnette. The merger takes the name Bank of America.
  • Dashiell Hammet’s novel “The Maltese Falcon” is published. John’s Grill is one of the settings frequented by main character Sam Spade.
  • Registered Nurse Ellen Church becomes the first flight attendant when she flies from San Francisco to Cheyenne, Wyoming. She later serves with the Army Nurse Corps.


  • The 365 Club opens at 365 Market St. Dolfina, “The Girl in the Fishbowl,” appears to swim nude in the fish tank behind the bar.  She’s now at Bimbo’s 365 Club on Columbus Ave.
  • Seals Stadium is built at 16th and Bryant streets.  It is also home to the Mission Reds until 1938. Seals Stadium was demolished in 1959.
  • Lizzie Glide, a Methodist philanthropist, opens Glide Church and founds the Glide Foundation as a memorial to her husband, cattle baron H.L. Glide.


  • More than 4,000 music lovers gather at the new War Memorial Opera house for a production of Tosca.  Gaetano Merola leads the orchestra.  
  • The SF Opera Company is founded. 
  • The YWCA at 1830 Sutter St. is built with money raised by Japanese immigrants. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan.


  • Construction of Golden Gate Bridge begins.
  • Dianne Feinstein, the city’s first female mayor, is born in San Francisco.
  • The San Francisco Ballet Company, first professional ballet in America, is founded.
  • Coit Tower is constructed and is built with $100,000 in funds bequeathed by Lillie Hitchcock Coit.  


  • July 5th becomes known as “Bloody Thursday” when violence erupts as a result of a strike by the longshoremen and sailors. The National Guard is called in and occupies the Embarcadero to assist restoring peace and order. 
  • Alcatraz changes from a military facility to a federal penitentiary.
  • Coit Tower opens. At least eight frescoes, painted by artists employed by the Works Projects Administration (WPA), are washed out and eliminated because they were “architecturally inharmonious.”


  • Transpacific air mail service begins when Pan American Airways’ China Clipper flies from San Francisco to Manila with 111,000 air mail letters in its hold.  
  • The Museum of Art opens on the fourth floor of the new Veterans Building. The first exhibition included gothic tapestries as well as contemporary art. It will become SFMOMA.
  • The Works Progress Administration (WPA) begins construction at the SF Zoo, including Monkey Island, Lion House and the Aviary. 


  • The Bay Bridge opens, the longest bridge ever attempted.
  • Vanessi’s opens in North Beach and is a San Francisco institution for Italian cuisine until its closing in 1997.
  • Finnochio’s nightclub opens at 506 Broadway. It becomes world famous for its female impersonators.
  • The first Herb Caen column appears in the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • The Pan-Am Clipper begins regular passenger flights from San Francisco to Honolulu.


  • The Old Mint stops being an actual mint and is used for federal offices. It once stored a third of the nation’s gold supply. The new mint opens on upper Market St.
  • 200,000 people walk across the Golden Gate Bridge on the day before it opens to vehicles.
  • The 1907 Del Monte cannery on Jefferson St. closes. In 1963 Leonard Martin converts it to a shopping complex.
  • Ante “Tony” Rodin and two partners purchase the Golden Pines restaurant at 144 Taylor St. and rename it Original Joe’s.


  • Sears Fine Food opens near Union Square and becomes famous for stacks of tiny pancakes that come 18 to a plate.
  • The 49 Mile Scenic Drive is established, encouraging visitors to see the entire city. 
  • The Stern Grove Festival Association presents a summer series of admission-free, world-class performing arts in Stern Grove, a beautiful outdoor amphitheater in San Francisco.
  • Strybing Arboretum is constructed in Golden Gate Park.


  • The orange Key System trains begins on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge.
  • The Golden Gate International Exposition opens on Treasure Island.
  • The 19th floor penthouse of the Mark Hopkins Hotel is transformed into the Top of the Mark.
  • The first authentic Chinese delivery service in the U.S. is opened by Johnny Kan for his Chinatown restaurant,  Chinese Kitchen.


  • The Rincon Annex to the United States Post Office is built in the Streamline Modern style and sponsored by the New Deal Work Projects Administration. From 1941 to 1948, painter Anton Refregier decorates the lobby with 27 murals depicting the history of California. Like Diego Rivera, he is suspected of being a Communist Party fellow traveler. The National Register listing resulted largely from the significance of these murals. In fact, the National Park Service waived their 50-year rule.


  • The Cow Palace, originally named the California State Livestock Pavilion, opens on the Daly City/San Francisco border.
  • Treasure Island is turned into a naval base.
  • Audley Cole became the first black operator hired by Muni.


  • The world’s first underground parking garage, designed by Timothy Pflueger, opens under Union Square.  Mayor Angelo Rossi presides over dedication ceremonies. 
  • The President authorizes Executive Order 9906, ordering those of Japanese ancestry to evacuate their homes and be sent to internment camps. Around 120,000 Japanese Americans are relocated to internment camps this year.
  • The first San Francisco Sport and Boat Show was held at Cow Palace


  • Mayor Angelo Joseph Rossi asks hotels to provide additional sleeping space for soldiers by putting cots in dining rooms and ballrooms.
  • The dim out ban is lifted in San Francisco, allowing lights in the city to be on during nighttime hours.
  • Fillmore merchants vote to melt down the 14 cast-iron arches that spanned Fillmore from Fulton to California streets to support the war effort.


  • Victor Bergeron creates the Mai Tai at his restaurant Trader Vic’s. Mai Tai is Tahitian for “the very best.”
  • “D-Day” – 150,000 Allied Expeditionary Force lands in Normandy, France. The Jeremiah O’Brien is there.
  • San Francisco Ballet premieres the first full-length production of Nutcracker in the U.S.


  • At the Herbst Theatre, President Harry S. Truman becomes the last signatory of the United Nations Charter which commits the delegates of 52 nations “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to reaffirm “the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”
  • Francis Van Wie, also known as the Ding Dong Daddy of the Muni street car D-line, is convicted of bigamy and sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin.
  • The Tonga Room opens at the Fairmont Hotel.
  • Macy’s opens in San Francisco.  


  • Prisoners on Alcatraz revolt, leaving five men dead.
  • Floyd Jennings builds the Camera Obscura at the Cliff House.
  • The 49ers enter professional football as a member of the All-America Football Conference.
  • Actress Mitzi Gaynor gets her start in San Francisco with the Civic Light Opera Company’s “Roberta.”


  • The Original Tommy’s Joynt opens at Van Ness and Geary. 
  • Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, and actor Danny Glover are born in San Francisco.
  • KPO-AM in San Francisco, California changes call letters to KNBC (now KNBR).
  • The first parking meters in the Bay Area, arrive on Polk St.


  • Doggie Diner is founded and eventually is placed in 30 locations around the Bay Area. The last location still has the famous dachshund head sign, now an historical landmark.
  • The multi-racial Blanco’s Cotton club opens on O’Farrell Street, a block east of Van Ness, in the elegant 1907 showroom now called the Great American Music Hall. Halloween in the Castro District of San Francisco begins as a children’s costume contest at Cliff’s Variety store.


  • Sally Stanford’s brothel at 1144 Pine St. is raided by Pat Brown, then District Attorney of San Francisco.
  • Architect Frank Lloyd Wright renovates the V.C. Morris Gift Shop on Maiden Lane.  It becomes a prototype for the ramp at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
  • Billie Holiday is arrested in San Francisco at the Mark Twain Hotel for possession of opium.
  • KRON begins broadcasting.
  • Herb Caen publishes “Baghdad-by-the-Bay.” 


  • San Francisco 49ers (formerly AAFC) play their first NFL game and lose 21-17.
  • The city’s population is 775,357. The census says 4 of 10 people own their own homes with a median value of  $11,930. The average adult completes 11.7 years of school and over 19% continue to college.
  • Fred and Rose Evangelisti open the Pistola Saloon on Powell St. In 1973 the saloon become the Washington Square Bar and Grill. Fred won Rose in a liar’s dice game.


  • The California Supreme Court rules that the Black Cat Café’s license cannot be suspended solely on the grounds that it serves patrons who are homosexual.
  • The first separate food section makes its Chronicle debut.
  • The first transcontinental wireless phone call is made from San Francisco to New York City.
  • President Truman addressed the nation from the Japanese peace treaty conference in San Francisco in the first live, coast-to-coast television broadcast. 


  • Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista, challenges international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create a highly touted “Irish Coffee” served at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Intrigued, Stan accepts Jack’s invitation, and the pair began to experiment.  The results introduce Irish Coffee to America.
  • The Broadway Tunnel opens.
  • Local surfer Jack O’Neil steps into the Pacific Ocean wearing the first neoprene wetsuit. 


  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin open the independent bookstore City Lights Book on Columbus. It is the first to sell only paperback books.
  • The 6th annual World Trade Fair opens in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel with products imported from 21 nations.


  • Joe Di Maggio and Marilyn Monroe are married at City Hall.
  • KQED goes on the air, the sixth public broadcasting station in the U.S.
  • Supervisor Clarissa McMahon serves as acting mayor, the city’s first female mayor.
  • San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2 opens with a ceremony led by Mayor Robinson. (Terminal 2 reopens as the home of Virgin America and domestic American Airlines flights in April 2011).


  • The Sky Tram opens as a tourist attraction offering a cable ride from the Cliff House to Point Lobos.  It closes in 1961.
  • Allen Ginsberg reads his 3,600-word “Howl” at the Six Gallery at 3119 Fillmore. Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were in the audience.
  • Jack LaLanne in handcuffs swims from just south of Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf in 56 minutes, where he does 12 one-handed pushups.


  • Giovanni Giotta opens Café Trieste at 601 Vallejo St. at Grant, the first espresso coffee house on the West Coast.
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti is arrested on obscenity charges for publishing “Howl and Other Poems” by Allen Ginsberg
  • The first Dear Abby column appears in the Chronicle.
  • The Republican National Convention is held at the Cow Palace in 1956 and 1964. 
  • Martin Luther King is the featured speaker at the NAACP convention at Civic Auditorium.


  • The first San Francisco International Film Festival opens and goes on to become the oldest continuously running film festival in the Americas.
  • The San Francisco Seals win their last PCL pennant.
  • Herb Caen writes his 5th book “Caen’s Guide to San Francisco.”
  • C.Y. Lee authors his novel “The Flower Drum Song,” a story of San Francisco’s Chinatown. It inspires a Rogers and Hammerstein musical and was made into a 1961 film.


  • Herb Caen coins the phrase “beatnik” in his Chronicle column.   
  • Chuck Williams, founder of William-Sonoma, relocates his store from Sonoma to San Francisco.
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” is released. The movie is filmed around the city, including at the Empire Hotel, now the Hotel Vertigo.
  • KTVU TV signs on the air as an independent station.
  •  Brooks Hall – named after the city’s Chief Administrative Officer – is dedicated, more than doubling the Civic Center convention area.


  • Nikita Khrushchev, premier of the USSR, visits the Bay Area.
  • The double-decker Embarcadero Freeway is erected.
  • The last ballgame at Seals Stadium is played.
  • American Airlines lands the first commercial jet, a Boeing 707, at SFO.   It carries 106 passengers from Chicago. 


  • Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, opens with Richard Nixon throwing out the first ball. The name of Candlestick Park is selected in a name-the-park contest.
  • The 12-story Jack Tar Hotel opens on Van Ness Ave., with a 2-acre 4th floor patio, a circular swimming pool and rectangular year-round ice rink. In 1982 it was sold, remodeled and renamed as the Cathedral Hotel.
  • Herb Caen writes his sixth book “Only in San Francisco.”


  • Tony Bennett, starring in the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel, makes his 1st solo public performance of “I  Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
  • The Fairmont adds a 29-story addition.
  • The Smothers Brothers release one of their most popular record albums, Live at the Purple Onion, recorded in San Francisco.
  • Rice-a-Roni becomes known as “The San Francisco Treat” in television advertising featuring the Hyde St. cable car.


  • The Philadelphia Warriors move to San Francisco.
  • San Francisco Giants face the New York Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees take the Series in seven games.
  • The city designates the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau as its official visitor promotion agency. With a larger operating budget, the Bureau revamps and revitalizes its program and expands its staff to include a News Department, an information service and a regional visitor promotion program.


  • Thomas Fong opens the Wax Museum at 145 Jefferson in an old grain mill on Fisherman’s Wharf.  
  • Glide Memorial Church is established by Cecil Williams.
  • Alcatraz Federal Prison closes after 27 years of holding the some of the countries’ most notorious criminals.
  • The Chinese Historical Society of America opens in San Francisco.  It is the first of its kind in the country.


  • The cable cars became a National Historic Landmark.
  • 19-year-old Carol Doda becomes the first topless dancer of the era at the Condor Club on Broadway.
  • Grace Cathedral is completed and is the third largest Episcopal cathedral in the nation. Construction on the Cathedral had started in 1928.
  • The Hilton San Francisco opens its doors.


  • The Matrix opens in the Marina district.  A new band called Jefferson Airplane performs on opening night.
  • The new Silver Cable Car Award honors individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of San Francisco’s visitor industry.  Among the first honorees are Symphony Chairman Phillip S. Boone, Opera Chairman Robert W. Miller, Jerd Sullivan of Crocker Bank and SPUR, philanthropist Mrs. Walter A. Haas and Frieda Klussman, the “savior of the cable cars.” 


  • The Beatles play their last paid concert at Candlestick Park.
  • Ken Kesey organizes one of many Acid Test parties at the Fillmore Auditorium.  The Grateful Dead perform. 
  • The Sutro Bath House burned in a fire and the remains demolished leaving only the cement foundation.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to philanthropist and author Harold L. Zellerbach, Ghirardelli Square developer William Matson Roth and Golden Gate Bridge developer Joseph B. Strauss (posthumous).


  • More than 20,000 people from around the country gather in Golden Gate Park for “The Great Human Be-In.”
  • The song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” is written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, and recorded by Scott McKenzie.
  • Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason found The Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco.
  • The American Conservatory Theater comes to San Francisco. It was founded two years earlier in Philadelphia.


  • Steve McQueen races through the city in the movie “Bullitt.”
  • Nihonmachi, also known as the Japan Center opens.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to San Francisco Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli, M. Justin Herman of the Redevelopment Agency, Airport Director James K. Carr and Cannery developer Leonard V. Martin.


  • The Exploratorium is founded. 
  • A group of Native Americans take over Alcatraz for two years.
  • The first Gap Store opens on Ocean Ave. 
  • San Francisco guitarist Carlos Santana and his band record their first album featuring such tunes as “Evil Ways.”
  • A Gallup poll pegs San Francisco as the city where most Americans would like to live and the Bureau quickly adopts “Everybody’s Favorite City” as its slogan for years to come.
  • Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Herb Caen and others.


  • The first version of the modern San Francisco Pride celebration was held.
  • Playland-at-the-Beach closes.  The 1906 Charles Looff carousel moves to Long Beach and now lives in Yerba Buena Gardens.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Opera Director Kurt Adler, Walter S. Johnson for the restoration of  the Palace of Fine Arts and Giants star (1958-1971) Willie Mays and others.


  • Clint Eastwood stars in the film “Dirty Harry,” filmed in various locations in and around the city.
  • Alice Waters opens Chez Panisse in Berkeley.
  • The first modern bottling of Anchor Steam beer takes place on April 23. 
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Giants player (and father of Barry Bonds) Bobbie Bonds, Jackson K.  Hu of the Chinese New Year celebration, San Francisco Symphony Music Director Seiji Ozawa and others.


  • In January, the SFCVB offers a “3 days and 2 nights” hotel package for as low as $29.95 per person. The mini-holiday is available through travel agents and includes two nights at a choice of 19 hotels and motels.
  • “What’s Up, Doc?,” starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, is released. The film is shot on location in San Francisco.
  • Mayor Joseph Alioto and delegation of civic and business leaders embark on a four-day travel mission to Mexico.


  • Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) begins service.
  • The television police drama “The Streets of San Francisco” airs on ABC, starring Michael Douglas and Karl Malden.  The show is a hit and continues for many seasons.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Macy’s President Edward Finkelstein, Levi Strauss President Walter Haas, Sr., wine leader Otto E. Meyer, Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken of St. Mary’s Cathedral. 


  • Alcatraz opens to the public as part the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation area.
  • The Hyatt Hotel in Union Square and the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Embarcadero Center open.
  • Mayor Joseph L. Alioto and 27 San Francisco officials and business leaders make a sales mission to Mexico City.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to artist/muralist Ruth Asawa, restaurateur Johnny Kan, cable car advocate and historian Dr. Albert Shumante and others.


  • Steve Silver’s “Beach Blanket Babylon” takes the stage and soon becomes a San Francisco institution.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Bicentennial Chairman Paul B. Fay and Dr. Steven P. Morena of the San Francisco School District.
  • Neiman Marcus acquires the City of Paris department store on Geary St. facing Union Square. 
  • Francis Ford Coppola directs the film “The Conversation” in the Bay Area.  It stars Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford.


  • Rock promoter Bill Graham builds and donates a huge menorah. The Union Square menorah-lighting by Rabbi Chaim Drizin — the first outdoor menorah-lighting celebration ever outside of Israel – is the first public observance of a Jewish holiday in San Francisco.
  • The SFCVB opens a Washington, DC sales office.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Margot Patterson Doss, author of Bay Area at Your Feet and Golden Gate Park at Your Feet.


  • The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau opens its Visitor Information Center. Conversion of the facility in Hallidie Plaza is financed by a gift to the city from the family of hotelier Benjamin Swig, long-time head of the Fairmont Hotel Company.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Giants owners Robert Lurie and Bud Herseth, Zoo benefactor Carroll Soo-Hoo and wine author Ernest Mittelberger.


  • The first San Francisco Lesbian & Gay International Film Fest opens.
  • Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center is established in the Mission District, sponsoring and implementing murals and art education in the Bay Area and internationally.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to William Dwyer, Manager at San Francisco International Airport; Jean McClatchy for the Bicentennial and Lloyd Pfueger of the Downtown Association.


  • Gilbert Baker creates the rainbow flag as a symbol of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender pride.
  • Pier 39 opens at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Diane Feinstein, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, presides over the opening in a one-piece bathing suit.
  • “Tales of the City,” the first book in a series by Armistead Maupin, is serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle.
  • The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is founded, the world’s first and largest openly gay choral organization.
  • ODC’s 16 dancers, painters, writers, photographers and musicians move from Ohio to San Francisco.  In 1979, it becomes the first modern dance company in the nation to build its own home facility.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Dr. George Edmond Lindsay of the Exploratorium and Samuel B. Stewart of Davies Symphony Hall.
  • City Hall and the Civic Center are declared national landmarks.


  • The “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibit opens at the de Young Museum.
  • “Escape From Alcatraz” with Clint Eastwood is released.
  • The annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival begins.
  • Perry Mann organizes the first Exotic Erotic Ball.
  • Willie Mays, former outfielder for the Giants, is elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame.
  • The first Susan B. Anthony dollar coin is struck in San Francisco.


  • Davies Symphony Hall is built.
  • San Francisco City Guides becomes a program of the San Francisco City Library.
  • “True West” by Sam Shephard premieres at the Magic Theatre, starring Peter Coyote. 
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to San Francisco Ad Club and artist Alec Stern.
  • San Francisco celebrates completion of the 650,000-square-foot George R. Moscone Convention Center. 
  • The 49ers win their first Super Bowl Championship.
  • George Kirkland, former president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City CVB joins the SFCVB as president.
  • The first Fleet Week celebration is held in San Francisco. 
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to James J. Mulpeters of Gray Line and John Igoe, Moscone Center project manager.


  • The Crocker Galleria opens, modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle in Milan.  
  • The first Gay Games (originally called the Gay Olympics) are held in Kezar Stadium.  
  • Mayor Feinstein accompanies a 40-person delegation representing Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco departs for a five-city promotional tour to Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong. 
  • The SFCVB opens its first sales office in Washington, DC.


  • The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival begins with a production of The Tempest in Golden Gate Park.
  • The Bureau moves to the ninth floor of Convention Plaza, 201 Third St., across from the new Moscone Center.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Mayor Dianne Feinstein.


  • The Democratic National Convention is held at Moscone Center.
  • The Puerto Rican oil tanker explodes in the San Francisco Bay, releasing 30,000 barrels of oil into the water.
  • Now in its 75th year, the Bureau has an annual budget of $4,963,000 and employs 53 people.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Joseph Byerwalter of United Air Lines, Kenneth Derr of Chevron and Virgil Caselli of Ghirardelli Square for the Save the Cable Car campaign.


  • Cleve Jones and Mike Smith form the Names Project to remember those who died of AIDS. The project went on to develop the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Governor George Deukmejian.
  • The 49ers defeat the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium.
  • The first A La Carte A La Park festival in Golden Gate Park is held over Labor Day weekend.


  • San Franciscan Larry Harvey and friends burn a nine-foot structure of a man on Ocean Beach, beginning the annual Burning Man festival.  It eventually moves to the Northern Nevada desert because of its huge popularity.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Supervisor John L. Molinari for his work on Hotel Tax legislation.
  • Moscone Center is slated for another expansion, this time on the north side of Howard St.


  • The Handlery Motor Inn and Hotel Stewart are combined into the Handlery Hotel Union Square.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Sign, Display & Allied Crafts Local #510.
  • An estimated quarter-million people crowd onto the Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate the structure’s 50th birthday a few days before the actual anniversary.
  • The deluxe 160-room Hotel Nikko San Francisco opens in May 1987.
  • John Marks is named president and CEO of the SFCVB.


  • Conde Nast Traveler announces the results of its first annual Readers Choice Poll of the world’s best city. Top U.S. city honors go to San Francisco.  
  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is established, with vessels, visitor center, museum and library.
  • The San Francisco Shopping Centre (now Westfield) opens with the first spiral escalator in the nation.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to the San Francisco 49ers.


  • As the World Series is about to begin at Candlestick Park, the Loma Prieta Earthquake shakes the Bay Area.
  • The San Francisco Marriott opens on October 17, the same day as the earthquake.  
  • A short video “San Francisco – Still Everybody’s Favorite City” is filmed a few days after the earthquake.
  • Mayor Art Agnos, SFCVB staff and city leaders host a series of press and customer conferences in Chicago, Washington, DC and New York to promote the city post-quake.


  • The 221-room Tuscan Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf is built.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Paul R. Handlery, Handlery Hotel; Richard L. Swig, Fairmont Hotel;  Henri Lewin, San Francisco Hilton; Werner Lewin, San Francisco Hilton; Peter Goldman, Fairmont and Hyatt Regency hotels; and Robert Wilhelm, St. Francis.
  • The Ritz-Carlton opens on Stockton St. in the former western headquarters of Metropolitan Life Insurance.


  • Fire in the Oakland hills destroys 1,520 acres of land and close to 3,000 homes, taking the lives of 25 people.
  • The epic play “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner premieres at the Eureka Theater.
  • A City referendum allows gay and lesbian couples to register as domestic partners at City Hall.  
  • The 313-room Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf is built.
  • The Esplanade Ballroom at Moscone Center opens. 
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Richard Shaff, General Manager of Moscone Center.
  • Demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway begins.


  • H. Welton Flynn of H. Welton Flynn & Associates is the SFCVB’s first African-American Chair.
  • San Francisco is the host city for the Travel Industry Association’s (now US Travel Association) Discover America Pow Wow.   Now called International Pow Wow, returns to San Francisco in 2011.
  • The first San Francisco Fringe Festival is held.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Rudolph Nothenberg, San Francisco Chief Administrative Officer.


  • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opens. 
  • Robin Williams stars in Mrs. Doubtfire which is shot on location in San Francisco.
  • The Chronicle launches SFGate on the Internet.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Eddie Powell of the Theatrical State Employees San Francisco Film & Video Coalition.
  • Wired Magazine publishes its first issue as a bimonthly with 12 employees.


  • The Presidio becomes part of the National Park Service after 218 years of military use.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Steve Silver of Beach Blanket Babylon.
  • A miniseries based on “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin airs on television.


  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) opens in a building designed by Mario Botta.
  • Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) assumes his post as the San Francisco Symphony’s eleventh Music Director.
  • The San Francisco 49ers win their fifth Super Bowl against the San Diego Chargers.
  • Willie Brown Jr. becomes the first African American Mayor of San Francisco.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Carmen Policy of the San Francisco 49ers.


  • Herb Caen wins the Pulitzer Prize, or as he calls it the “Pullet Surprise,” for his “extraordinary and continuing contribution as a voice and conscience of his city.”
  • San Francisco’s new Main Library opens.  It is prominently used in the 1998 film City of Angels.
  • National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park is dedicated. 
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Steven Giraudo and Boudin Bakery San Francisco Sourdough Bread.


  • Farallon restaurant opens near Union Square and becomes an instant bay area favorite. Built in 1924 for the Elk’s Club, this building was featured in a ten-page article in the inaugural issue of Architectural Digest.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Carey Campion of the Golden Gate Bridge in celebration of the 60th anniversary of this San Francisco icon.
  • San Francisco mourns the passing of Herb Caen.


  • Cleopatra Vaughns of Blue Shield of California is the first female to chair the SFCVB Board of Directors.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Sunset Magazine on their 100th anniversary.
  • In January 1998 the SFCVB launches its first Web site:  and a city-wide hotel reservation system at 1-888-STAY-N-SF (782-9673).  The number today is 800-637-5196 within North America or 415-391- 2000 or 415-392-0328 (TTY/TTD) elsewhere).


  • San Francisco hosts the Summer X Games at Pier 30 and 32.
  • Local San Franciscan Ron Siegel is the first American to win the Japanese Iron Chef competition.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Visa U.S.A.
  • The Landmark Preservation Board votes to bestow landmark status to the Doggie Diner restaurant across from the Zoo.   
  • Foreign Cinema opens at 2548 Mission. 


  • Pacific Bell Park opens.  The name later changes to SBC Park, now AT&T Park.
  • The new International Terminal opens at San Francisco International Airport.  It is the largest international terminal in North America.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Peter Magowan, president of the San Francisco Giants.
  • The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association holds its 17th Annual Convention in San Francisco. 


  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Alessandro Baccari, Jr. “the Mayor of Fisherman’s Wharf.”
  • The Bureau develops a new Japanese language Web site for the travel industry in Japan:
  • Mayor Willie L. Brown joins SFCVB officials and 25 representatives of the city’s tourism industry on a sales mission to Chicago and Washington, DC to host “San Francisco’s Crab Feast with the Mayor” luncheons with some 275 top convention planners.


  • Cupid’s Span, a sixty foot tall bow and arrow sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, is installed on the Embarcadero waterfront.
  • The SFCVB creates two signature events: Dine About Town (still held annually in January and June), and the  San Francisco Crab Festival (in 2002 and 2003, with some festivities continuing).
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Charles Huggins of See’s Candies.


  • Moscone West opens, adding 300,000 square feet of event space to San Francisco’s inventory.
  • The Ferry Building Marketplace opens, housing regional food-related businesses. 
  • The Asian Art Museum re-opens in the former San Francisco city library building opposite the San Francisco Civic Center.
  • Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Robert Begley of the Hotel Council of San Francisco.


  • Thousands of gay and lesbian couples flock to City Hall as Mayor Gavin Newsom authorizes same sex marriage. Legal challenges continue.
  • Virgin USA chooses SFO as its home base.
  • Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Kary Schulman of Grants for the Arts.
  • Jon Handlery of the Handlery Union Square Hotel becomes Chair. Jon’s father, Paul Handlery, was chair in 1970-71.  They are the first of two families in which both father and son were SFCVB chair (the other is Richard and Rick Swig).


  • The new M.H. de Young Museum opens in Golden Gate Park, designed by Herzog & de Meuron with principal architects Fong & Chan.
  • The Museum of the African Diaspora opens.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Brian O’Neill of the Golden Gate National Parks.
  • Rick Swig is the second of two chairs in which both father and son were SFCVB chair. His father, Richard Swig, was SFCVB Chair in 1968-69.  (The other family is Jon and Paul Handlery).


  • More than 300 restaurants in the city and around the Bay Area receive Michelin stars and reviews.
  • The first Valentine’s Day San Francisco Pillow fight breaks out at the stroke of 6pm at the Embarcadero.
  • Joe D’Alessandro is appointed president and CEO of the SFCVB, effective July 5, 2006.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to the Lindsay Jones and the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade and Celebration.
  • After 19 years, John Marks retires as president and CEO of the SFCVB and is presented with the Silver Cable Car Award.


  • Barry Bonds hits his 756th home run, breaking Hank Aaron’s previous record.
  • The COSCO Busan hits a bridge tower.  Oil spills into San Francisco Bay.
  • Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Carole Shorenstein Hays.


  • The Contemporary Jewish Museum opens at its new location on Mission Street, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind in the former 1907 PG&E power station designed by Willis Polk.
  • The California Academy of Sciences, founded in 1853, moves into a new LEED Platinum home in Golden Gate Park.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to San Francisco’s Hotel Door Staff.
  • The first John A. Marks Leadership Scholarship is presented in partnership with the SFCVB Foundation and the Hotel & Restaurant Foundation.


  • The San Francisco Board of Supervisors elects David Chiu as its first Chinese American president.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum opens in the Presidio.


  • A London production of Peter Pan The Show opens in a high tech tent on the Embarcadero.
  • The Silver Cable Car Award is presented to the Cable Car Operators.
  • The first Crystal Bridge Award is presented.
  • The SFCVB celebrates its 100th Annual Luncheon.


  • The SFCVB changes its name to San Francisco Travel Association.
  • San Francisco International Airport Terminal 2 reopens as the home of Virgin America and domestic American Airlines flights in April 2011.
  • US Travel’s International Pow Wow returns to San Francisco May 21-25 after 19 years.


  • The Exploratorium opens in a new location on Pier 15 after a $300 million renovation.
  • The Bay Lights are turned on for the first time. This LED light sculpture, created by French artist Leo Villareal, lights up The Bay Bridge and becomes a popular fixture in San Francisco’s night sky.


  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will reopen its newly transformed building featuring double the museum’s exhibition space, free-to-the-public galleries, and open the building to the surrounding neighborhood.