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Where to See the Best Art Deco San Francisco Architecture

Take a San Francisco City Guides Art Deco Walking Tour. Discover the best of Art Deco San Francisco on an SF architecture tour.
San Francisco City Guides offers an amazing array of free walking tours and we have tried a couple of their Art Deco walking tours in different neighborhoods of San Francisco. More specifically, we did "Downtown Deco" and an Art Deco tour of the Marina on two different occasions.

An Art Deco walk was a great opportunity to get some exercise and appreciate the fine array of buildings dotting the San Francisco skyline.  

San Francisco Downtown Deco

We first tried the SF Downtown Deco tour and got a closer look at Art Deco buildings we'd often just passed by without a second glance on our walks around Market Street in the San Francisco Financial District. 

Therese Poletti led the tour -- she's published a book titled Art Deco San Francisco - The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger and is arguably an authority on the subject of San Francisco Architecture.
  San Francisco City Guides Art Deco Walking Tour - 450 Sutter

Art Deco Buildings to Look for On a Tour of Downtown San Francisco

We saw a number of interesting Art Deco buildings as part of our free walking tour including:

Pacific Telephone and Telegraph  Building - communication themes abound in the architecture and two giant eagles sit atop the structure.  Unfortunately, the security guard was not at his post so we weren't able to go inside.  This building is slated to be turned into condos.
Art Deco San Francisco - Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building

Shell Building - amazing gold accents and a lotus motif is visible throughout the lobby. 
San Francisco City Guides Art Deco Walking Tour - Shell Corner

Pacific Coast Stock Exchange and Tower - This Art Deco building that once housed the stock exchange is now an Equinox gym.  The Tower is home to the City Club.  The intricate ceilings in both buildings were amazing to see. 
San Francisco City Guides Art Deco Walking Tour - Pacific Coast Stock Exchange and Tower

Russ Building - The Russ building edged out the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building as the tallest in San Francisco.  There was a beautiful painted ceiling inside but the security guard would not allow photographs. 
Art Deco San Francisco - Russ Building

Hong Kong Bank - an Egyptian theme complete with scarabs on the Art Deco facade holds lots of curb appeal.

Hunter-Dulin Building - Dashiell Hammett placed Sam Spade's office in this building.  The ceiling was ornately painted with warm amber and brown tones.  The columns on the outside of the building were intricately patterned.
San Francisco City Guides Art Deco Walking Tour - Columns Outside the Hunter-Dulin Building

450 Sutter - A medical and dental office building, 450 Sutter boasts an incredibly ornate, Mayan inspired metal ceiling and decorations.  The building is massive and richly decorated with Art Deco motifs.
Art Deco San Francisco - 450 Sutter

You can check out this link to my photo album showcasing Art Deco design and architecture in Downtown San Francisco.

Beyond Art Deco in Downtown San Francisco

We also saw some interesting non-Art Deco sights along the way including this colorful stack of people.  
 
These stone blobs sat across from the colorful statue and seem to be enthralled.
 
I liked the way the different architectural styles flank this moving wheel sculpture on Mission near 1st Street.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for more cool walks in San Francisco? Check out the Barbary Coast Trail.

 

Map of Our Downtown San Francisco Art Deco Architecture Tour

Click on the image of the map below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to see the route covered by our Art Deco walk in the city.
Map of a San Francisco Art Deco Walking Tour

San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour

SF City Guides offers more than just walking tours downtown. Their free walking tours cover a variety of San Francisco neighborhoods. We signed ourselves up for a second Art Deco walking tour of San Francisco, this time focused on the Marina neighborhood. 

San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
We met our guide outside the Marina Library to start the tour.
The Marina Middle School was the first stop on this SF Art Deco walking tour.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
The school features rams head decorations and the ubiquitous Art Deco 'speed lines' (see left side of picture below).
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
We walked down Chestnut Street in the Marina and saw vestiges of Art Deco architecture above the current storefronts.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
I had never noticed this stylized Art Deco eagle before on the top corner of Izzy's Steaks and Chops.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
Sunburst patterns are another common feature of the Art Deco architectural style.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
We started shouting 'Deco!' among ourselves whenever we spotted a potential Art Deco building in San Francisco and starting guessing where our volunteer SF city guide would stop next.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
The Presidio Theatre is another prime example of Art Deco architecture in San Francisco with plenty of stepped-back columns, speed lines, and use of neon.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
We detoured through a more residential part of San Francisco's Marina neighborhood.  While not Art Deco, the buildings and landscape were visually stunning.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
This school had a more Gothic styling but was quite impressive nonetheless.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
Back on target, we spotted apartment buildings with Art Deco flourishes.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
The apartment building below with two stylized busts guarding the entrance was the most over the top example of the style that we saw on our Art Deco walking tour.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
This building with black glass accents and lots of straight lines was another cool Art Deco stop on the tour through the Marina.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
Next we caught a glimpse of probably the most famous Art Deco structure in San Francisco - The Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
This apartment building took Art Deco architecture to the next level with bright and metallic colors.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
The Art Deco accents all over the Marina looked sharp against blue sky and wispy clouds dotted over San Francisco.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
We spotted one building that even used an Art Deco font for the street number!
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour
I stopped to admire some of the flower gardens in the Marina.
Pink rose in the SF Marina neighborhood
That's when I noticed this: a very well coiffed plot entirely designed from synthetic materials!  It's not in Art Deco style but had the technology been available at the time, it very well may have been incorporated.  

The Art Deco movement was about pushing the leading edge of modern industrial technology.
Astroturf garden in San Francisco
We ended our SF City Guides Art Deco walking tour back where we started near the Marina Middle School.
San Francisco City Guides Marina Art Deco Walking Tour

Is a San Francisco Art Deco Walking Tour Worth Doing?

Our San Francisco City Guides tour of downtown SF covered about 1.3 miles and gave some great history of Art Deco buildings that I would often pass on my way to work but never took notice of. 

We lived in Pacific Heights for a few years and visited the Marina often. It wasn't until we took our Art Deco tour of the Marina that all the beautiful Art Deco features leaped out at us and we came away with a stronger appreciation for San Francisco's amazing architectural heritage.

I definitely recommend checking out the two Art Deco tours that we embarked on or any of the others in City Guides' extensive line-up.  There are some fabulous Art Deco buildings in San Francisco with a rich history just waiting to be explored. 

Taking a tour with an expert guide is the best way to truly understand and appreciate that history and put San Francisco's architecture into context.

Did you enjoy this post about Art Deco walking tours in San Francisco? Want to explore more Art Deco architecture? let's head to Miami next for a tour of the Miami South Beach Art Deco Historic District

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Walk Art Deco San Francisco California
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Where to See the Best Art Deco San Francisco Architecture
Where to See the Best Art Deco San Francisco Architecture
Take a San Francisco City Guides Art Deco Walking Tour. Discover the best of Art Deco San Francisco on an SF architecture tour.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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