From Spanish military encampment to 19th century commercial hub and beyond, San Francisco’s rich history lives on through its distinctive architecture — and many historic buildings throughout the city are available for meetings and events. Each venue has its own story to tell, from cultural centers designed by notable architects to old ships redolent of the city’s maritime heyday. Here are five preserved places that are sure to infuse your event with historical flavor.
Bently Reserve (301 Battery Street)
For lavish events that require inspiration and sophistication, consider the former lobby of the 1924 Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, now known as the Bently Reserve. This National Historic Landmark is drenched in Gatsby-era glam, from solid bronze doors and European marble to breathtaking bronze chandeliers and a 34-foot tall-coffered ceiling. The venue’s main space, the Banking Hall, offers generous capacity, from 250 guests (theater-style) up to 650 guests (standing). For smaller events, consider the Conference Center, which can hold up to 70 guests and includes access to eight separate boardrooms — some of which famously hosted the Federal Reserve’s original board of directors.
Chinese Historical Society of America Museum (965 Clay Street)
Designed by esteemed architect Julia Morgan (California’s first female architect), this landmark has been a mainstay in Chinatown for more than 80 years. Despite a change in ownership, it never lost sight of its Asian heritage — it now operates as a museum for the oldest Chinese-American cultural institution in the country. Eastern motifs adorn each space, complementing the museum’s fascinating collection of Chinese-American artifacts. Upstairs, three galleries and an outdoor courtyard make up 10,000 square feet and can accommodate as many as 200 standing guests (120 seated). For intimate gatherings of 50-60 attendees, consider the 400-square-foot lower level, ideal for performances and receptions.
Haas–Lilienthal House (2007 Franklin Street)
If it's an authentic Queen Anne Victorian venue you’re in search of, look no further than the Hass-Lilienthal House. Built in 1886 by renowned local architect Peter Schmidt, this property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is available for small weddings, social gatherings, corporate retreats and more. Entertain guests with a private docent tour where they’ll learn how the home miraculously survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Featuring original furniture and exceptional artifacts, the Hass-Lilienthal House is ideal for intimate soirees of 90 (seated) to 100 (reception) guests. Since all rental proceeds go toward the historic home’s preservation, planners can play a part in maintaining this San Francisco gem.
Marines’ Memorial Theatre (609 Sutter Street)
Between Union Square and Nob Hill, this stately venue sits in the heart of San Francisco’s theater district. Built in 1926 and dedicated to fallen WWII Marines, this jewel box theater can seat 564 guests and accommodate myriad events, including presentations, performances and keynotes. An expanded lobby and upgraded orchestra seating are among the theater’s newest renovations. Show hall amenities abound, from top-of-the-line A/V packages and in-house catering to fun advertising opportunities using the theater’s prominent marquee sign. Planners in need of additional space might consider banquet rooms on the 10th and 11th floors, which feature vaulted ceilings, crystal chandeliers and sweeping city views.
Maritime National Park Association (2905 Hyde Street / 976 Beach Street)
Docked in the San Francisco Bay, the impeccably preserved Baclutha Tall Ship (circa 1886) is prepared to host your next seafaring event. Climb aboard this historic vessel, complete with three mammoth masts, a restored Victorian-era captain’s quarters and a vast display of nautical artifacts. Enjoy sunset views atop the antique upper deck, and then move down to the mid and lower decks for dinner and dancing. The ship can accommodate parties of 80 (seated) to 120 (standing). Need a bigger space? Consider the Maritime Museum along Beach Street in Aquatic Park. Art Deco décor and dazzling waterfront views make this 450-person venue another fantastic choice.
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