Link to Composit Photo of a 3-D Model of SF in the 1940s


The link above shows a 42′ by 38′ detailed wooden replica of the city of San Francisco as it was in 1940 in 158 pieces at a scale of 1 inch to 100 feet.

The model was built by The Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the late 1930s, under the New Deal. It was first displayed in sections in the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in 1939. In 1940-1942 it was displayed in San Francisco City Hall. The model was used as an urban planning tool by San Francisco city agencies and departments through the 1960’s. In 1968, the downtown portion of the model became a research and planning tool in the Environmental Simulation Laboratory in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley.

The model has not been on public view, in its entirety, since 1942. UC Berkeley is the current owner of the model. The intent of the makers of the model was to have it updated as the city changed over time.

The condition of the model is generally good except for the downtown and South of Market portion which needs restoration – many blocks have been removed and lost, probably from the time it was used and updated as a planning tool.

In 2018 and 2019 the model was cleaned and made available for public viewing both physically and digitally as part of the joint program of SFMOMA and the San Francisco Public Library called Public Knowledge: Take Part, with these participants: Artist Team: Bik Van der Pol; Project Manager: Stella Lochman; Project Director: Tomoko Kanamitsu; Curatorial Lead: Deena Chalabi. The model pieces were individually photographed by Beth LaBerge. David Rumsey created the large Composite image of the 158 pieces, as well as the image and metadata database of all the images, which he hosts. Visit the web site for Public Knowledge:

Categories: History

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