Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

The Embarcadero Freeway

 
 
The Embarcadero Freeway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 14, 2014
1. The Embarcadero Freeway Marker
Captions (top row, from left to right): Elevated Embarcadero Roadway with Aviation Platform, 1927. Drawn by architect Louis Hobart fro the Regional Planning Association; Embarcadero Freeway as completed by February 26, 1956. Opened on February 26, 1959. Call Bulletin photograph, San Francisco Public Library; Embarcadero Freeway during commute on December 22, 1985. San Francisco Public Library; Embarcadero demolition, photographed by Fran Ortiz on April 11, 1991 for the San Francisco Examiner; Collapse of Freeway during demolition, photographed by Steve Ringman on April 17, 1991 for the San Francisco Chronicle; Darius Aidala photographed the Embarcadero Freeway in February 1991, and after the demolition from the same place in August 1991 (above and below).

Captions (bottom row, left to right): September 17, 1957. Anti-Freeway Demonstration , Golden Gate Park, Malvina Reynolds, Singer; (editorial cartoon) March 5, 1959; (editorial cartoon) 1957; Step-by-step demolition.
Inscription. The Embarcadero “Freeway to Nowhere” 1956 – 1991

The first proposal for an elevated Embarcadero roadway appeared in 1927 when the Regional Planning Association published their plan for an aviation platform on the waterfront with a two-tier highway carrying stacked traffic from China Basin to Fishermanís Wharf. It was rejected as unsightly. By 1950 state highway engineers called for a fast elevated superhighway connected between the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate, with the Central Freeway extended through the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park. Embattled San Franciscans would have none of it, but it was determined that they must have some of it. The “Freeway to Nowhere” opened for automobiles in 1956 with a sawed off stub of Broadway: it had stopped short. “When this prime piece of ghastly goofrey opened – it caused traffic jams,” editorialized the Chronicle, “There is nothing wrong that a thorough wreaking job canít cure.”

Itís A Sowís Ear For All That

Christened “The Dambarcadero” by Herb Caen. Anyone caught in the endless traffic delays with no escape possible remembers when no traffic could move to get on the Bay Bridge after 4:25 p.m. on the ferry clock. Trucks, busses, and automobiles maneuvered through three
Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 14, 2014
2. Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker
Captions (left, right): Elevated Embarcadero Roadway with Aviation Platform, 1927. Drawn by architect Louis Hobart fro the Regional Planning Association; Embarcadero Freeway as completed by February 26, 1956. Opened on February 26, 1959. Call Bulletin photograph, San Francisco Public Library
traffic lanes at ground level, while bumper-to-bumper cars inched along above to have dinner in Chinatown, sweating drivers pulled over-heated engines into illegal places. Find the only happy commuters in the view directly above: heading up the gangway onto the Larkspur Ferry. It wasnít much better on foot underneath, alongside the immense cement footings. The YMCA Hotel hung heavy curtains over bedroom windows less than 25 feet away from squealing brakes, as waterfront property values inched down. Who wanted property within sight, sound, or smell of a freeway? For more that a decade the city master plan said get rid of it.

It Took The 1989 Earthquake To Do It

If there was any fear worse than you car skidding off the broken concrete edge of the Bay Bridge on October 17, 1989, it was the sight of crumpled freeways flattening cars with passengers beneath tons of cement and steel. For more than two years the underside of the Embarcadero Freeway stood braced with sturdy wood scaffolding. Why not tear it down now? Once again anti-freeway warriors protested, loudly, and with effect. Architectural critic, Allan Temko, in the Chronicle, April 12, 1990: “If the Board of Supervisors decides that this damned thing is not worth saving and should be torn down, the central waterfront – and with it the whole heart of the city – will be
Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 14, 2014
3. Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker
Captions (left, right): Embarcadero Freeway during commute on December 22, 1985. San Francisco Public Library; Embarcadero demolition, photographed by Fran Ortiz on April 11, 1991 for the San Francisco Examiner.
open to a radiant future.” Just a year later, “Big crash on the Embarcadero” refers to the April 17, 1991 picture above. Demolition got out of hand when one huge section crumpled with spectacular display. Tear-down resumed April 25, 1991.

Reunite San Francisco With The Bay

Satisfying from any angle, people gathered along the waterfront to watch the chunks of concrete and steel rods collapse in clouds of pulverized cement. The 1989 earthquake cracked freeways and mandated funds to fix or demolish the double-decker freeway. From February 1991 to January 1992 – as each section collapsed, light and space and the breadth of view of San Francisco Bay returned to the people. “Freeway warriors” of the 1960ís spoke up again in 1990 when determined merchants pushed for rebuilding. The voice of Supervisor Susan Bierman, joined with 1960 Supervisor Jack Morrison, and Rudy Nothenberg, Chief Administrative Officer to reunite the city with the bay. Joined by Jean Kortum on behalf of San Francisco Tomorrow, these Freeway Warriors, along with many others, had kept the Central Freeway out of the park and stopped the Embarcadero Freeway at Broadway – at last San Francisco was reunited with the bay.
 
Location. 37° 47.786′ N, 122° 23.734′ W. Marker
Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 14, 2014
4. Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker
Captions (left, right): Collapse of Freeway during demolition, photographed by Steve Ringman on April 17, 1991 for the San Francisco Chronicle; Darius Aidala photographed the Embarcadero Freeway in February 1991, and after the demolition from the same place in August 1991 (above and below).
is in San Francisco, California, in San Francisco City and County. Marker is at the intersection of Embarcadero and Washington Street, on the right when traveling south on Embarcadero. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 398 Embarcadero, San Francisco CA 94105, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Captain Leidesdorff (within shouting distance of this marker); Herb Caen Way (within shouting distance of this marker); Piers 1½, 3 & 5 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Abraham Lincoln Brigade (about 400 feet away); The River Lines (about 400 feet away); Bustle of the City (about 600 feet away); Klebingat Recalls The City Front (about 600 feet away); Freeway Supports (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
 
Also see . . .  Embarcadero Freeway - Preservation Institute. In 1986, San Francisco voters rejected the Board of Supervisorsí plan to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway, after a campaign where opponents said over and over that removing the freeway would cause gridlock. At the time, it seemed that the vote on this initiative killed the proposal. People who hoped that San Francisco would follow Portlandís lead, starting a national movement to remove urban freeways, seemed to have lost. Then, in 1989, the Loma Prieta
Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 14, 2014
5. Detail from The Embarcadero Freeway Marker
Step-by-step demolition: How the structure will come down.
1) Breaking upper deck
2) Breaking lower deck
3) Removing debris
4) Repaving road

Preventing disaster
As steel restrainer hinge clamp is fastened to the columns at structure to prevent lateral movement.

Concrete pulverizer
This equipment crushes concrete, slowly chewing away at structure with a high-grade steel jaw, exposing rebar frame.
earthquake damaged the Embarcadero Freeway and other freeways in the Bay Area - reopening the debate about whether the city should remove or repair this freeway.
(Submitted on January 23, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.) 
 
Categories. Roads & Vehicles
 
The Embarcadero Freeway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 14, 2014
6. The Embarcadero Freeway Marker
On the pedestal, "Embarcadero Freeway to Nowhere Comes Down!"
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 23, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 552 times since then and 64 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on January 23, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
Paid Advertisement