Art Hearts at Union Square San Francisco

A favorite place of mine is Union Square San Francisco.

"Hearts at Union Square San Francisco"

Union Square San Francisco

The plaza is bounded by Geary, Stockton, Post and Powell Streets. At each corner of the square are heart sculptures painted by Bay Area artists. Every year, new heart sculptures replace ones that are auctioned for the benefit of San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. The heart at the far left depicting the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge was painted by singer Tony Bennett, renowned for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

Union Square was named for the pro-Union demonstrations held before and during the Civil War. The Dewey Monument in the center of the square commemorates the victory of Admiral George Dewey and the American fleet over Spanish forces in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

Tourists, residents, nearby workers and shoppers are attracted to the square all year round. But warm temperatures and sunshine make it a special place to visit with friends, have lunch or people watch.

Art exhibits, festivals and other special events are often held at Union Square. During my visit this week, workers were setting up for a Red Cross event on Friday, April 15th. Many years ago when I worked in the area, I saw Tony Bennett performing there during lunch time on a summer afternoon.

The square is surrounded by many upscale department stores, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, theaters and hotels. Tiffany, Macy’s, Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hermes, and Ferragamo are a few well-known stores directly across from the square. Nearby are Barney’s New York, Prada, Cartier and many more.

There was some unexpected excitement as I was taking this photo of Prada. Further down the street, I heard someone yelling and turned to look. I was just in time to see a man charging directly toward me. He ran past and turned left at the end of the block. A police car with sirens blaring sped past, turning left as well. I followed the action and just a short distance away, several police vehicles were gathered and the officers already had the man in handcuffs. Nice work, SFPD!

A San Francisco landmark is Gump’s at 135 Post Street, which is celebrating its 150-year anniversary. When it first opened during the California Gold Rush it sold “looking glasses”. Now they have an eclectic selection of products from glassware, furniture, jewelry, linens, women’s clothing, books, chocolate, artwork and much more (including mirrors, of course). The tall multi-colored vase in the photo is a limited edition production by Moser, a Czech company. There are only two of its kind in the United States and it has a price of $13,420! I was very careful not to get too close.

Maiden Lane is a small side street off of Stockton that was once the center of San Francisco’s red light district. Now there are cafes, galleries, salons and high-end shops like Chanel along both sides of the street.

Maiden Lane

On the opposite side of Union Square on Powell, you can catch one of San Francisco’s famous cable cars in front of the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel. On this spring weekday there was no wait to get on, but there could be long lines in peak seasons. It’s a fun and memorable ride!

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30 thoughts on “Art Hearts at Union Square San Francisco

  1. John in France

    I loved reading this. I’ve just seen a news item with the ex Mayor of SF during their earthquake recovery process and he was so good, and the city looks amazing now! Sorry I have missed on reading you lately I’ve been so busy and struggling seriously with but I think I am making progress!!!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Gump’s is a fun store for browsing. Everywhere you look there’s something unusual or exclusive. Great place to look for gifts.

  2. Michael Figueiredo

    I love San Francisco! I need to get up there again soon…. I didn’t realize that there were four of those heart sculptures in Union Square–I only saw the Golden Gate Bridge one. (BTW, My mom is 4th generation San Franciscan. We have some antiques that were damaged in the 1906 earthquake still!)

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for mentioning your mom and her San Francisco family background. How cool to have antiques that survived the 1906 earthquake!

    1. Cathy Post author

      City Hall and Union Square aren’t quite close, but it is another great area of San Francisco. Nice to have a happy family event to remember at City Hall!

  3. jade

    Ah, union square! I’ve only been to San Fran during the late fall and winter months, so usually the cable car line is super long and there are some festivities going on in the square. I can’t believe you caught someone getting arrested, too! A very excited day for sure.

    Loved this inclusion for Travel your own City. It’s so great to hear more about the history combined with so many things to do now.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I certainly didn’t expect to see an arrest in progress in broad daylight around there. It is a place where people can feel safe (taking the ordinary precautions they do anywhere) to visit.

      Hope you get a chance to ride the cable cars sometime on a visit. It’s a real San Francisco experience.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I really like the hearts. The first ones were installed there in 2004. Hope you get a chance to come back and see them!

    1. Cathy Post author

      You’re welcome! I actually didn’t know the background about the square until this last visit either. Funny how little we sometimes know about very familiar places.

  4. Renee

    What fun! I miss SFO and I never really thought of the meaning behind the song until I visited. You’ve shown me places that I need to check out the next time I’m there, Catherine! I find the history behind Maiden Lane and its name ironic….lol.

  5. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    We lived just a few blocks away from here (in the Tenderloin) for a year after college, and I loved spending sunny afternoons people-watching in Union Square. *Sigh*… I miss it! 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      I love the hearts, too. I also like what San Francisco General Hospital Foundation says on their website about why a heart icon was chosen: ” .. appropriate for a city that is recognized for its acceptance and tolerance, as well as being perennially open-hearted”.

  6. Raymond

    Those hearts are pretty cool. In Calgary once they put painted scuptures of cows throughout the city, cuz we’re known as ‘”Cowtown”. Much prefer the hearts though… 😉

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Raymond. Chicago also had cow sculptures throughout the city in 1999. It was called “Cows on Parade”. I guess cows were appropriate because of the important of the stockyards in the city’s history as well as the stories of how Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

  7. Laurel

    I love Union Square in San Francisco, interesting to learn more about the history and I love the hearts. What a great way to blend art and fundraising. In my home city of Calgary, they did that one year with painted cows and they were quite the hit.

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