History Tour

To celebrate its 150th Anniversary, the Port of San Francisco is proud to present the city with the gift of a Port History Tour, which features iconic historical photographs and stories that showcase the history of the waterfront as it transformed, influenced and evolved with the City. Throughout the year, the city will be able to experience the History Tour three different ways: in person (along the waterfront), online (on this website), or online through a mobile tour optimized for viewing with a smartphone.

Pylon at Rincon Park

Pylons History Tour (along the waterfront)

The best way to experience the History Tour is to visit the twenty pylons, or columns which have been installed along the waterfront. Each of these pylons features both an enlarged photograph that tells a story about the development of the waterfront near that location and a tidbit about Port history.  Pylons are located on three main streets within Port property (The Embarcadero Roadway, Illinois Street and Cargo Way), between Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf and Heron's Head Park in the central waterfront. To see all pylons in person, take a walk or a bike ride along the waterfront. For directions, see below.

Take a photo with a pylon and send it to your friends! Tweet us your photos at @sfport and tag them with #sfport150 to appear on our feed.

Online History Tour

Another way to experience the History Tour is to view some of the content online, on this website. Select content includes the historical photographs and their stories.

View the Online History Tour

Mobile History Tour

If you have a smartphone and plan on taking the History Tour by foot or by bike, stay tuned for a mobile version of the tour. We will provide a link on this site to an alternate version which will look best when accessed with a smartphone. Link coming soon. 

Topics and Locations


History Tour Overview Map

North of the Ferry Building

Family Business
Pier 45
Building the Seawall
Pier 43
Luxury to the Tropics
Pier 35
Discarded Treasure
Pier 29
Italy Harbor
Pier 9, north
Business on the Wharf
Pier 9, south
World War II 
Pier 7
Bustle of the City
Ferry Building, north
Splendid Survivor
Ferry Building, south

South of the Ferry Building

Captain Shorey
Rincon Park
Waterfront Railroad
Wharf north of Pier 30
Shipbuilding at Steamboat Point
Pier 40
Tides of Shrimp
Pier 48
Saving the Bay
Pier 50
Whaling on the West Coast
Pier 52
The Bay in Mission Bay
Aguavista Park
The West's Industrial Center
Pier 70
24th & Illinois Streets
Copra Is Coconut
Cargo Way & Illinois Street
Fill Becomes a Marshland
Heron's Head Park


Directions north and south along the history tour coming soon.

Photograph Credits and Sources

Don Maskell Photography. Otto Hagel and the Collection Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation. David Dawson. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. California Historical Society. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Save the Bay. International Longshore Worker's Union Archives.

View the Port History Tour Join us for Maritime Day Participate in the Treasure Hunt