Port historic resources range in type from the architectural landmark Ferry Building and the Neo-Classical piers on the Northeastern Waterfront, to the largely invisible three-mile long seawall that reshaped the San Francisco waterfront in the 1800’s. The Port’s historical resources also include industrial relics like the Pier 84 Copra Crane which is significant because of its association with labor and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). While not part of a historic district, the Fish Alley of Fisherman's Wharf includes several architecturally significant structures.
Port stewardship of waterfront historic resources has resulted in the creation of three National Register historic districts that comprise the majority of the Port’s properties:
• Central Embarcadero Piers Historic District, Piers 1-5
• Embarcadero Historic District, Piers 45 to 48 (designated May 12, 2006)
• Union Iron Works Historic District, Pier 70 area (designated April 17, 2014)
The Central Embarcadero Piers Historic District (Piers 1-5) was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 in response to a recommendation of the State Historical Resources Commission that the Port pursue historic district designation and to allow the rehabilitation of these piers to qualify for Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits. This district is located within and was the precursor to the Embarcadero Historic District that was listed on the National Register in 2006.
The Embarcadero Historic District encompasses three miles of waterfront including the seawall, bulkhead wharf, pier and bulkhead buildings from Pier 45 in the north to Pier 48 at China Basin. The district’s period of significance is 1878 to 1945 and was created in part to respond to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s (BCDC) San Francisco Waterfront Special Area Plan, San Francisco’s Historic Preservation community and their advocacy for the formal recognition and preservation of the historic waterfront, as well as the Port’s interest in qualifying waterfront rehabilitation projects for Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits.
The Union Iron Works Historic District at Pier 70 encompasses the 68 acre former Union Iron Works/Bethlehem Steel Shipyard between Mariposa, Illinois and 22nd Streets and is a part of the Central Waterfront, Dogpatch/Potrero Hill neighborhoods. The district’s period of significance is 1884 to 1945 and includes numerous contributing industrial resources that formed the physical plant of the shipyard. A 14 acre portion of the former ship yard is leased to BAE Systems and continues to operate as a ship repair yard as one of three operating drydocks on the west coast. Like the Embarcadero Historic District the creation of this district satisfied a number of purposes including the development of a Pier 70 Preferred Master Plan that established Port policies for the rehabilitation of many of the site’s numerous historic resources utilizing Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits, new infill development on the site’s large vacant areas, as well as the retention of the on-going ship repair operations.