Beaux Arts Beauties and Cathedrals of Culture
Length: 1 mile
BART Stop: Civic Center
I followed the crowd crossing the street. I ended up on the library side of the street. The
library is a huge, oddly-laid out building. The library stairs were littered by locals eating
lunch, visitors, and the homeless taking a nap. It was a relief to enter air-conditioned air
after all the smells of urine on the library steps. Not every floor is easily accessible. I had
to study the library maps. I ended up outside twice to get to a different floor but the geometric skylight is amazing.
The Friends of the Library hold a sidewalk sale on Wednesdays. I didn’t have the luggage space to haul books back with me to Texas. Otherwise I’d have saved a bundle on my favorite authors.
Limited by luggage, time, and money, I circled the Main Library to take a gander at the Pioneer Monument in lieu of building my home library.
Although the tourbook recommended a visit to the Asian Art Museum, odd sounds lured me to cross the street the other direction. Cheers. Groans. Ululating. What was going on?
Passing a huge statue pitching an exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, I drew nearer to the sounds but still couldn’t figure out what was going on. There was a huge crowd. There were vans for catering and for sound systems. I could see the top edges of two large screens but a tall man blocked my view of the screens. (It’s not easy being short!) Maneuvering to a place under the trees, I was finally able to figure out what was going on: the World Soccer Games were being broadcast on the Civic Center Plaza temporary screens.
Uninterested in soccer, I crossed the street to City Hall where I was greeted by temporary construction barriers. I rounded the building. According to the guidebook, I was across the street from the War Memorial Veterans Building.
For some strange reason, the War Memorial Veterans Building houses the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery which houses free exhibitions of contemporary artists. Entry is free! In I went to find the “Now and Then” Exhibit featuring works reflecting the history of San Francisco. It was an interesting and thought-provoking exhibit.
The curator recommended that I check out the interior of City Hall. She showed me where I could enter, bypassing all the construction barriers. I decided to follow her advice after I had looked at the Symphony Hall. The guidebook said that the Symphony Hall was grand at night. During the day, it’s still impressive.
Crossing back to City Hall, I was able to enter after going through security. I passed by
several couples in white, preparing to be married at city hall. Children’s art decorated the
foyer. Children ran up and down the stairs and couples posed for wedding photos. It was a lively city hall!
I couldn’t exactly follow the directions of the guidebook because of the construction. It took me a while to find my way to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. I wasn’t very impressed although I did see my first city public toilet across the street.
I was lost. I kind of knew the direction I needed to head to find the Civic Center Bart Station
but I would have to retrace my steps to find my way again. As I retraced, I happened upon a small “green” art gallery not mentioned in my guidebook. All the art in the gallery consisted of recycled and re-used “findings”. It was nice. It was free. And I’ll probably never be able to find that art gallery again.
I headed home to my hotel, sure that my explorations had resulted in my walking more than the mile stated in my guidebook.