Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Bliss and Faville, Architects (firm); Meyer and O'Brien, Architects (firm); Walter Danforth Bliss (architect); William Baker Faville (architect); Frederick Herman Meyer (architect); Michael Smith O'Brien (architect)

Dates: constructed 1902, demolished 1906

116 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-3607

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Building History

The Rialto Building #1 was one of the earliest steel-frame skyscrapers in San Francisco, CA, completed in 1901. It stood for five years before it was compromised in the temblor of 04/18/1906 and the resulting fires that spread in its aftermath.

A review of the Rialto Building's performance by the United States Geological Survey stated: "The Rialto Building was a steel-frame structure, with expanded metal and cinder-concrete slabs, expanded-metal and plaster column covering, and furred expanded-metal ceiling. It had two main wings, in each of which it is said attempts were made to dynamite the building, the explosions causing the collapse of a portion of the interior structural work. A hole in the roof was produced by the same cause….The fact that the building was dynamited makes it impossible to draw any useful conclusions as to its fire-resisting qualities; but there seems to have been only a moderately hot fire in this building, and the fireproofing, while seriously damaged, was not a total failure as a result of the fire alone. The north front was badly racked by the earthquake, resulting in many cracks in the walls. The south front of this building was also damaged by the earthquake; the interesting diagonal cracks in the walls were plainly visible. A considerable amount of face brickwork was thrown off on this front, probably owing to the fact that it was laid without bond.” (See Grove Karl Gilbert, Richard Lewis Humphrey, John Stephen Sewell and Frank Soulé, “The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906, and Their Effect on Structures and Structural Materials,” Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Bulletin #324, Series R, Structural Materials, 1, [Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1907], p. 103.) As noted in the report, the building had a masonry skin that broke free from the steel framing, causing large portions to come down on April 18 and 19, 1906.

Building Notes

Realtor and historian David Parry noted of the Rialto Building: "Meyer and O'Brien visited Chicago to gain an appreciation of office building architecture and returned to design the Rialto Building at 116 New Montgomery Street in a U-shape with a central light court and a uniform window arrangement for flexibility in subdividing floors." (See accessed 12/05/2003; no longer active 12/02/2011; web site again available at:accessed 03/05/2012.)


The Rialto Building was rebuilt along similar lines to the original in 1910 by Bliss and Faville.


The Rialto Building #1 was largely destroyed in the fire following the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 04/18-19/1906.

PCAD id: 1003