New Book Release: “Port City: The History and Transformation of the Port of San Francisco, 1848-2010”

Port City: The History and Transformation of the Port of San Francisco, 1848-2010 is here.

All the deets, after the jump.

New Book Chronicles the Rich History of San Francisco’s Waterfront

SAN FRANCISCO—On February 1, 2011, the nonprofit San Francisco Architectural Heritage will celebrate the port of San Francisco with the release of its new book, Port City: The History and Transformation of the Port of San Francisco, 1848-2010. Authored by Michael Corbett, Port City is the first book to tell the comprehensive—and largely unknown—story of San Francisco’s port, which played a central role in the development of the city.

“Port City attempts to look at the whole history of the port, rather than at specific eras or themes and it selects those aspects of theport’s history that created the twentieth-century port, much of which survives,” said Corbett.

The book not only chronicles the heyday of the port as a flourishing nexus of shipping and commerce, it also puts this story in today’s context. An introduction by Heritage’s executive director Mike Buhler and Jay Turnbull, past president of Heritage, addresses the current challenges and opportunities for historic preservation, development, urban design, and architecture along the waterfront.

“The waterfront boasts one of the richest and most compelling collections of historic resources anywhere in the city,” said Buhler. “Port City will advance Heritage’s ongoing mission to increase community awareness of and involvement in historic preservation, planning, and urban design. With San Francisco selected as the host city for the America’s Cup in 2013, there will be major implications for the city’s waterfront.”

A foreword by Monique Moyer, executive director of the Port of San Francisco, discusses the revival of San Francisco’s waterfront, including the Port-Heritage partnership that resulted in the creation of the Port of San Francisco Embarcadero Historic District, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

“The San Francisco waterfront has undergone a transformation that centers on a renewed appreciation of its significant maritime historic resources,” said Moyer. “The creation of the Embarcadero Historic District ensures that these unique structures will be preserved for future generations.”

For most of its history, the port had a significant impact on the daily lives of a substantial portion of San Francisco’s population. In addition to the sailors, longshoremen and others who worked along the waterfront, workers in factories, warehouses and offices were employed jobs that directly depended on and had regular contact with the port. Port City looks at the geography of these connections to illuminate the role of the port in the city’s life and details the planning, infrastructure, and engineering of the port.

To celebrate the release of Port City, and to increase public awareness of the waterfront’s history and significance, Heritage and partner organizations will host several upcoming events, with more to come.

  • Book launch and panel discussion at the California Historical Society, Tues., March 22, 6 p.m.

Reception and panel discussion moderated by Jasper Rubin with panelists Michael Corbett, Tim Kelley

Chris VerPlanck, and Mike Buhler.

  • AIA/SF lecture with Mike Buhler and Michael Corbett, Thurs., March 31, 6 p.m.

Reception and presentation with Mike Buhler and Michael Corbett on the history and transformation of the port as part of AIA San Francisco’s lecture series.

  • Soiree 2011, Sat., April 9, 6:30 p.m.

Heritage’s annual black-tie fundraiser at historic Pier 35, the Port’s Cruise Terminal.

  • SPUR Lunchtime Forum, Wed., May 11, 12:30 p.m.

Presentation by Mike Buhler and Michael Corbett at the SPUR Urban Center.

Port City is lavishly illustrated with more than 300 historical photos, drawings, maps, and new color photos commissioned especially for the book. The hardback book is 11 ¼ x 10 ¼, 248 pages, and has eight chapters. The book can be purchased for $65 ($52 for Heritage members) on our website or at Book Passage in the Ferry Building, William Stout Architectural Books, and at Pier 1, the Port of San Francisco. Visit to read excerpts, view a photo slideshow, and for event information.

About the author

Michael R. Corbett is a celebrated architectural historian and author who has researched and written about San Francisco since 1973. He is the author of Splendid Survivors: San Francisco’s Downtown Architectural Heritage (1979), the survey that formed the basis of the Downtown Plan and remains a standard reference on architecture in the city.  Michael was also the principal author of the Port’s Embarcadero Historic District nomination report, which was the inspiration for this book.

About San Francisco Architectural Heritage

Charged to preserve and enhance San Francisco’s unique architectural and cultural identity, Heritage works to manage change over time through proactive advocacy efforts and educational programming. Heritage is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization and the owner and operator of the 1886 Haas-Lilienthal House. Two-thousand-eleven marks Heritage’s 40th anniversary and the 125th birthday of the Haas-Lilienthal House. For more information about Heritage, visit

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