AKA: Chronicle Building #2, Financial District, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Burnham and Root, Architects (firm); Daniel Hudson Burnham (architect); John Wellborn Root (architect)

Dates: constructed 1888-1890, demolished 1906

10 stories

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Kearny Street and Market Street
Financial District, San Francisco, CA 94102

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The Chronicle Building was located on the northeast corner of Kearny and Market Streets.


This landmark Richardsonian Romanesque building, designed by the renowned Chicago architectural firm of Burnham and Root, was the first office building in San Francisco to utilize a steel frame for support, rather than load-bearing masonry. During the 1880s and 1890s, Chicago architects and engineers were very progressive in their application of steel framing to support high-rise commercial towers. Steel framing's strength during severe ground movement made it the ideal structural method for use in San Francisco, along the active San Andreas Fault. The value of adequately insulated steel framing would be proven during the catastrophic San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906.

Building History

Occupying a prominent location on the northeast corner of Market Street and Kearny Street, the Richardsonian Romanesque Chronicle Building towered above its neighbors, suggesting the paper's centrality and visibility in San Francisco's daily life. The building's first floor was clad in the heavy rusticated stone with round-arched openings typical of the Richardsonian style. Above the first floor and the mezzanine, the floors above were covered in less expensive brick. A prominent cornice with corbeling define the parapet. Above the parapet, a dark stone clock tower with turrets at its corners served as a landmark. Construction of the Chronicle Building #2 occurred in 11/1888 and 06/1890, with a dedication ceremony occurring on 06/16/1890.

San Francisco Chronicle owner, Michael H. de Young (1849-1925) wanted a prominent architect to design his landmark building. He selected the busy Chicago firm of Burnham and Root in 1887. Burnham and Root produced only a small handful of buildings on the West Coast, before Root's premature death in 1891. These included the Chronicle Building and Mills Building in San Francisco and the Luzon Building in Tacoma, WA. Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912) would later live in San Francisco, CA, between 1904-1905 developing his new city plan for the city with Peirce Anderson (1870-1924), William E. Parsons (1872–1939) and Edward H. Bennett, Sr., (1874-1954). He would design some signficant buildings in San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake, including the Merchants Exchange Building (1904).

Beginning in the early 1880s, de Young and Claus Spreckels (1828-1908), sugar king and publisher of the San Francisco Call, became bitter business and personal rivals. In 10/1881, the Chronicle published articles indicating that he ran his Hawaiian sugar estates like Southern ante-bellum cotton plantations. Three years later, just before a shareholders' meeting of Spreckels's Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company (chartered on 03/31/1882),the Chronicle charged that he had swindled his corporate stockholders.Claus's son, Adolph (1857-1924), stormed into de Young's office on 11/19/1884, and fired two shots breaking the publisher's left clavicle and causing a flesh wound on his left side. Though seriously injured, de Young recovered. Claiming temporary insanity, Adolph was acquitted, but the feud between the two families boiled into the next century.

After de Young finished his colossal skyscraper in 1890, Spreckels launched a plan to outdo his hated rival. In 1895, he bought the San Francisco Call newspaper, and announced his intention to build a larger and more impressive skyscraper across Market Street from the Chronicle Building #2. While the Chronicle Building stood 208 feet tall, huge by the standards of the day, the Call Building rose to a staggering 310 feet, the tallest building west of the Mississippi at the time.


A small penthouse was added to the roof's southwest side to create an 11th story by 1901.


This high-rise with its masonry skin was badly damaged in the Great Earthquake of 04/18/1906; the Chronicle rebuilt at this location and remained here until moving to new offices at 5th Street and Mission Street in 1924.

PCAD id: 13476