Just as San Francisco was emerging as the economic powerhouse of the west coast, the 1906 Earthquake and Fire leveled the city. But from the ashes arose not only a renewed social and economic fervor, but a drive to redesign and rebuild a San Francisco more beautiful than ever. Just as the City Beautiful movement spawned San Francisco's great Civic Center, the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal triggered an interest in developing the city's waterfront. With the reduction in sailing time to New York, San Francisco was reconnected by water with the East Coast, just as it had become the gateway to the Pacific. Leaders focused their efforts on creating not only a more efficient port, but a more beautiful one as well - anchored by the city's great welcoming point, the Ferry Building.
In 1989, the city was again rocked by a great quake - and again mined opportunity from the rubble. The damaged double-decker Embarcadero Freeway was torn down, opening the path for an extraordinary renaissance along San Francisco's northern waterfront. It's a rebirth that continues today. Newly vacant space along the Embarcadero emerged as a great opportunity for the city to revitalize the Barbary Coast neighborhood and for the Port to reconnect San Francisco with its waterfront.