Columbus Tower (San Francisco)

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Columbus Tower
Columbus Tower, San Francisco.JPG
A view of Columbus Tower with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background.
Alternative names Sentinel Building
Flatiron Building
General information
Type Mixed-used
Location 916 Kearny Street
San Francisco, California
Coordinates 37°47′47″N 122°24′18″W / 37.7964°N 122.4049°W / 37.7964; -122.4049Coordinates: 37°47′47″N 122°24′18″W / 37.7964°N 122.4049°W / 37.7964; -122.4049
Completed 1907
Owner Albert & Connie Der Family Trust
Technical details
Floor count 8
Floor area 22,700 sq ft (2,110 m2)
Design and construction
Architect Salfield & Kohlberg
Developer Abe Ruef
Designated 1970[1]
Reference no. 33

Columbus Tower, also known as the Sentinel Building is a mixed-used building in San Francisco, California, completed in 1907. The distinctive copper-green Flatiron style structure is bounded by Columbus Avenue, Kearny Street and Jackson Street, straddling the North Beach, Chinatown, and Financial districts of the city. It is San Francisco Designated Landmark No. 33.[3]


Despite the 1907 finish, building work had begun before the San Francisco earthquake the previous year, but extensive damage to the building site, and the rest of the city, slowed down the construction considerably. For a relatively small building such as Columbus tower, with the extensive workforce available in San Francisco at that time, taking more than a year to complete the building was slightly longer than would have been expected.

The top floor initially housed the headquarters of the notorious Abe Ruef, a local political figure at the time. Also featuring early in the building's history is the restaurant 'Caesar's', which is the restaurant widely credited with the creation of the popular Caesar Salad.[dubious ] Despite its flourishing business, the restaurant was closed down during prohibition under the Eighteenth Amendment. The Kingston Trio owned the building and used it as their corporate headquarters during the 1960s. They built a recording studio in the basement which they used themselves and for many other artists including the We Five.

By the early 1970s the building was falling gradually into a state of mild disrepair. The film director Francis Ford Coppola chose then to purchase the building, and renovate it into the building that can be seen today. Coppola then set up his own business in the building, and remains there to this day.[4]


Cafe Zoetrope at ground level of the building
Columbus Tower, San Francisco

Currently occupying much of the tower is Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope studio.[5]

Other tenants include independent public media producers for NPR and PBS, as well as independent sound designers for Pixar and Skywalker Sound, among others.

On the ground floor is the Cafe Zoetrope (previously Cafe Niebaum-Coppola), which has occupied part of the building since 1999. The cafe is a bistro and wine shop satellite of the Inglenook Estate Winery in the Napa Valley.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks". City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  2. ^ Columbus Tower (San Francisco) at Emporis
  3. ^ "San Francisco Landmark 33: Sentinel Building". NoeHill. 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  4. ^ "The Lost City: Columbus Tower". The Things That Were. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  5. ^ "Citylights, Vesuvio Cafe, Columbus Tower San Francisco". LocationSite Panorama Cityguides. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  6. ^ "Welcome to Cafe Zoetrope". Francis Ford Coppola Presents. Retrieved 2010-04-21.