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15 historic American skyscrapers that aren't the Empire State Building

By: Matt Hickman on March 4, 2016, 12:53 p.m.
The Russ Building in San Francisco

Photo: grizzlehizzle/Wikipedia

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Russ Building, San Francisco

The Transamerica Pyramid. Millennium Tower. 555 California Street. The Marriot Marquis. San Francisco, the West Coast’s second most vertically inclined city behind Los Angeles, has had more than a few iconic fogscrapers built within the last 50 years. But what about historic high-rises?

While largely dwarfed by shiny new-ish edifices, the City by the Bay also boasts a wealth of pre-war skyscrapers dating back to the construction of the Chronicle Building in 1890. Other landmark towers followed in the early 20th century, including the much-beloved terra cotta curiosity, the Hobart Building (1914). However, it wasn't until the skyscraper boom of the 1920s and '30s that the city's profile truly started to shoot upwards. The most prominent building to dominate the city skyline during this period was the 32-story Russ Building, a hulking neo-Gothic office tower located at 245 Montgomery St. in San Francisco's Financial District. At 436 feet, the steel-framed Russ Building reigned as the city's tallest from 1927 all the way through 1964 when the Hartford Building, a boxy modernist rectangle at 650 California St., snatched away its title by a mere 30 feet. Home to San Francisco's first indoor parking garage, the Russ Building, elegant in its execution and breathtaking in its height, towered over San Francisco during this period alongside an unofficial twin: 1925's Art Deco PacBell Building, which is roughly the same height. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the Ross Building in 2012: "More than 30 buildings here now are taller — but for sheer vivid tower, this remains San Francisco's peak."