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TransAmerica Pyramid, San Francisco, CA

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TransAmerica Pyramid, San Francisco, CA

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Date Posted:August 3rd, 2005
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Description: The Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest and most recognizable skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline. It has a structural height of 260 meters (853 feet) and contains 48 stories of retail and office space. Construction was begun in 1969 and finished in 1972. Although it no longer houses the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation, it is still strongly associated with company and is depicted in the company's logo. Designed by architect William Pereira, it faced considerable opposition during its planning and construction, and was sometimes referred to by detractors as "Pereira's Prick."

The building itself is a tall, four-sided pyramid with two "wings" on opposite sides of the building. The wing to the east of the building contains an elevator shaft, while the wing to the west contains a stairwell and a smoke tower. The top 64.6 meters (212 feet) of the building is the spire. There are four cameras pointed in the four cardinal directions at the top of this spire. Four monitors in the lobby broadcast the cameras' views 24 hours a day.

The Transamerica Pyramid was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi from 1972-1974, at which point it was surpassed by the Aon Center in Los Angeles.

The Transamerica Pyramid is built over the most important literary site of the 19th and early 20th Century American West. An expensive four-story building was erected here in 1853 by General Henry W. Halleck. Known as the Montgomery Block, the building was first used for offices but later became the studios of (literally) thousands of bohemian artists and writers.

Ambrose Bierce lived here, as did Kathleen Norris, Joaquin Miller, Gelett Burgess, W.C. Morrow, George Sterling, and James Hopper. Also known as the "Monkey Block," this is the place where in 1911 exiled Dr. Sun Yat-sen wrote the Chinese constitution that was later installed after the fall of the Manchu dynasty.

Mark Twain gamboled here in the 1860s when he met a San Francisco fireman named Tom Sawyer in the Montgomery Block sauna. Twain later used the man's name for his 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. SF Bulletin editor James King of William was shot dead in front of the Montgomery Block in an 1856 confrontation with James Casey. Casey was later executed by the Vigilante Committee.

The storied Montgomery Block survived the 1906 Earthquake and Fire but was torn down in 1959 for a parking lot. The Transamerica Pyramid was completed on the site in 1972.


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