Columbus Tower’s so close to the tourist parts of San Francisco (Chinatown, North Beach) that it’s a building that many visitors to the city have accidentally seen before just by virtue of being here. It’s a conspicuous fixture on Columbus St a few short blocks from North Beach, and when viewed from the famous Columbus and Broadway intersection, the Transamerica Pyramid towers up behind it.
Not so obvious is its notable history – built right around the 1906 quake, it was slow to open after extensive damange to the construction site. It housed a corrupt San Francisco politican (even moreso than the ones we have today – convicted 14 years for bribery) and a famous stand-up comedy club before being sold to Francis Ford Coppola, upon which it became the post-SOMA headquarters for American Zoetrope, co-founded by George Lucas.
Zeotrope was responsible for production only for Lucas’ pre-Lucasfilm movies like THX 1138 and American Graffiti, but most of the Coppola family films, including The Godfather series, Apocalypse Now, and Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola (still my favorite movie).
Published November 28, 2022.