San Francisco - Financial District: 505 Montgomery

If you are approaching SF from the Bay Bridge, or if you are up around Nob Hill/Russian Hill looking towards the Financial District, you will note that there is a replica of the Empire State building on top of the one of the FiDi high rises. A little Google search informs me that it’s on top of 505 Montgomery. But my question is – why? It’s so random… what’s the story there?

“I hate to give you a disappointing answer, but it actually isn’t the Empire State Building,” said Martin Brown, president of the Empire Group, which built the building (the group’s name is etched onto a visible cornerstone).

“People associate it with the Empire State Building for a few reasons. One, of course, is our name. But I think the main reason is that at our 1988 grand opening, our partner at the time was a large Japanese company (Mitsui Fudosan) that was a big fan of King Kong, so we had a 40 foot gorilla put up on the building as a publicity stunt.”

Um, COOL. Now all we get are Levi’s Workshops.

“It’s also a stylized 1930’s generic tower,” Brown told me over the phone. “The entire building is modeled after that decade, the lobby has a lot of art deco references as well — and if you look carefully you’ll see that it’s not a square [like the Empire State Building] but a cylinder with metal fins melded onto it.”

Brown said he’s always happy when people notice the building (the entire building, not just the mini one on top, silly people) and want to know more about its history. “It took us ten years to build, and we’re very proud of it.”

Photo: Wally Gobetz

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