Montgomery Block

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Montgomery Block
G. R. Fardon (British - (Montgomery Block, Montgomery Street) - Google Art Project.jpg
The Montgomery Block in 1862
Location628 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
Coordinates37°47′42″N 122°24′11″W / 37.795047°N 122.403122°W / 37.795047; -122.403122Coordinates: 37°47′42″N 122°24′11″W / 37.795047°N 122.403122°W / 37.795047; -122.403122
Reference no.80[1]
Montgomery Block is located in San Francisco County
Montgomery Block
Location of Montgomery Block in San Francisco County

The Montgomery Block built in 1853 was San Francisco's first fireproof and earthquake resistant building. It came to be known as a Bohemian center from the late 19th to the middle of the 20th century. It was located at 628 Montgomery Street, on the southeast corner of its intersection with Washington Street, today the location of the Transamerica Pyramid.

The interior of the building in 1958

The four-story building was erected in 1853 by Henry Wager Halleck, later general in chief of the Union Army in the Civil War, in the "Barbary Coast" red-light district.[2] Also known as the Monkey Block,[3] it housed many well-known lawyers, financiers, writers, actors, and artists.[1] It also hosted many illustrious visitors, among them Jack London, George Sterling, Lola Montez, Lotta Crabtree, Gelett Burgess, Maynard Dixon, Frank Norris, Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte, the Booths, and Mark Twain. The site of Montgomery Block is now registered as a California Historical Landmark.[1]

The four-stories Montgomery Block was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1853.[4][5] It was designed by architect G.P. Cummings. San Franciscans called it "Halleck's Folly" because it was built on a raft of redwood logs.[2]

On May 14, 1856, the editor of the Daily Evening Bulletin, James King of William, died in the Montgomery Block, having been shot by James P. Casey,[1] a city supervisor who felt slighted by King's anti-corruption crusading journalism.[citation needed]

The building survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.[1]

The Montgomery Block was demolished in 1959, even though a preservation movement had begun to emerge in San Francisco. It was replaced by a parking lot and later, the Transamerica Pyramid.

The building is remembered for its historic importance as a bohemian center of the city. At his inauguration as Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 1998, Lawrence Ferlinghetti mentioned "the classic old Montgomery Block building, the most famous literary and artistic structure in the West".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Montgomery Block". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  2. ^ a b c Leah Caracappa: The Bohemians of San Francisco's 'Monkey Block' Poetrybay, Winter 2005 edition
  3. ^ Herb Caen, "This Old Town," San Francisco Examiner, December 17, 1967, image 105
  4. ^ William Hjortsberg (1 April 2012). Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan. Counterpoint LLC. ISBN 978-1-61902-045-0.
  5. ^ Matthew Poole; Erika Lenkert (2 February 2010). Frommer's San Francisco 2010. John Wiley & Sons. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-470-59486-5.
  • Jones, Idwal, Ark of Empire: San Francisco's Montgomery Block (New York: Ballantine Books, 1951 / Comstock ed, 1972, ISBN 978-0345028945)
  • O'Brien, Robert, This Is San Francisco (New York: Whittlesey House, 1948; San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994)

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