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Downtown San Francisco: The Union Square Parking Garage

Today’s lead image literally takes us underground to the Union Square Garage which is located underneath Union Square, a public plaza the size of a city block located in downtown San Francisco; the space is enclosed by Geary, Powell, Post, and Stockton Streets.

The idea to construct an underground facility of this type was first purposed in 1910 by W.P. Fennimore, the president and creator of the Downtown Association due to traffic congestion and lack of parking in the area. Twenty-seven years later the Union Square Garage Corporation, a private enterprise that leased the land under the public space was formed to oversee the planning and construction of the facility. Work began in April of 1941 on the four underground levels containing parking spaces for 1,700 cars and was completed in the summer of 1942.

  • Union Square photographed from one of the surrounding buildings circa 1937.

The enlargeable photo below found via Vintage San Francisco apparently was taken soon after the Garage opened in 1942. The image shows parking valet’s about to drive half a dozen cars into the parking spaces in the facility. Tell us what you find of interest in this photograph and anything you know about the year and make of the automobiles.

The complete history of the public space and Parking Garage, now operated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, can be learned from “Union Square After 1906” at FOUNDsf the origin of the pre-construction photo of the Square.

7 responses to “Downtown San Francisco: The Union Square Parking Garage

  1. The 1940 Lincoln-Zephyr sedan had a custom tan padded canvas top covering which covers the quarter windows. Its in the manner of those applied by Derham beginning about that time and their stock and trade after the war. Though it could be a Derham custom, being a west coast car, likely was installed by a custom shop there.

    In front of the Lincoln is a 1941 Pontiac Torpedo C-body sedan, the line beyond a ’41 Studebaker Champion Delux-tone sedan, 1941 Chrysler Windsor or Royal six sedan, a ’40-41 Hudson coupe and a ’40-’41 Mopar five window coupe.

  2. In your lead photograph, in the left foreground, looks like a customized 1940 LINCOLN with “Toper Grace” behind the wheel.

  3. That is an interesting ’40 Lincoln Zephyr, a ForDor Sedan fitted with a foux convertible top to give it the appearance of a Convertible Sedan, last produced in ’39, not offered in ’40.

  4. SOME of “old SanFrancisco ” remains to this day; an example that you can experience, yourself is: “Lombard Street”: A narrow brick paved -one way- downhill “serpentine” street that requires your complete attention to navigate it ! Another thing to pay attention to is : Cable Cars: 7 MPH maximum, Also: it is a city of hills and you will receive a ticket plus tow- away if you don’t point your front wheels correctly —according to if you are parking uphill or downhill, to prevent run-aways !

  5. The photo of the square was probably taken from an upper room in the St. Francis Hotel on the corner of Powell Street and Geary .

  6. In the island behind the two rows of cars, over on the right side in a little cordoned off area, two women, who appear to dressed as staff not patrons, stand either side of a….. well, just what that is, is what I want to know! Possibly some sort of hose reel for selling gasoline? But that would be kind of scary underground.

    Also, interesting how the distortion of the camera lens makes that Zephyr look nearly as wide as it is long. Looks like you could almost fit four people in the front seat.

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