Our Mission

The San Francisco Historical Society exists to uncover, preserve, and present, in engaging ways, the colorful and diverse history of our city from its earliest days to the present.

How We Do This

We engage residents, visitors, and the next generation of history enthusiasts in exploring how San Francisco’s history has shaped its unique identity. We do this through history programs, walking tours, publications, mobile history apps, special events and exhibits, and ongoing collaborations with other local history groups and cultural institutions. Our museum and event space is located at the epicenter of old San Francisco, on the site of the city’s first branch mint at 608 Commercial Street.

What We Do

We are devoted to bringing together San Francisco’s past, present and future. SFHS has more than 2,000 members and fulfills its mission of preserving Bay Area history through a broad spectrum of programs and special events, such as monthly presentations, guided history walks, the Barbary Coast Trail and the annual Awards Luncheon.

The Society produces two publications: The Argonaut, a beautiful journal featuring photographs and in-depth reviews of our city’s history; and Panorama, a quarterly newsletter for members that features upcoming programs and events of interest to our members.

SFHS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization (Tax ID 68-0104888). Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. Donate now!

Our History

The San Francisco Historical Society was founded by renowned San Francisco historian Charles Fracchia in 1988. In 2006 the administration of Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. granted the stewardship of the Old Mint at Fifth and Mission Streets to SFHS. That stewardship lasted for ten years. In 2019 SFHS moved into its permanent home, the site of the first Branch Mint in the West at 608 Commercial Street in the heart of San Francisco’s historic core. The SFHS Museum is the new center for administration, exhibits, presentations, and educational programs, and is also available as a venue for events.

Our Neighborhood

The San Francisco Historical Society and its Museum is located in the heart of the city’s Financial District at 608 Commercial Street, on the site of the first Branch Mint in the West. (1854–1877). The US Government purchased the building from a private assay and smelting operation to handle the massive amount of gold coming in from mines during the Gold Rush.) It became a Subtreasury in1877, when coin minting moved to the second SF mint at 5th and Mission Streets. During the 1906 earthquake and fire, the main floor and the brick vault underground survived the inferno and saved more than 13 million dollars in silver and gold. The district surrounding Commercial Street has served as the core of San Francisco’s business sector since the Gold Rush. Commercial Street is also the site of the Long Wharf, also called the Central Wharf, which housed dozens of Gold Rush-era ships and served as the main unloading station for goods coming by ship into San Francisco.

The San Francisco Historical Society Museum is both a city and a state historic landmark. It is situated where Chinatown, North Beach, the Barbary Coast, and the Financial District converge. Many other historic landmarks exist (or once existed)n nearby, including the site of the Hudson Bay Trading Company, the Pony Express office, the first Wells Fargo Bank, Domenico Ghirardelli’s chocolate factory, the What-Cheer House (California’s first free public library and museum), and U.S. Customs House. The central gathering place for early San Franciscans, Yerba Buena Plaza (now known as Portsmouth Square) is just around the corner from us. The plaza has served as San Francisco’s main assembly area since the days of Spanish rule.

Before or after your visit to the Museum, we encourage you to explore the neighborhood. The San Francisco Historical Society Museum is steps from Chinatown; a variety of historic restaurants in the Financial District; and the legendary streets of North Beach, where Beat poetry emerged. We offer both in-person and self-guided walking tours of the historic neighborhoods that converge at our museum, including The Barbary Coast, Chinatown, North Beach, Jackson Square, and the Financial District. The Gold Rush/Sunken Ships tour explores the places where Gold Rush ships are still buried beneath the streets of the Financial District.

Discover our Events and Tours!

Plan a visit that includes a meal in number of great eateries nearby!

Directions to the Museum

Public Transportation:
BART: Montgomery Street Station

• Clay & Montgomery (#1 California going east)
• Sacramento & Montgomery (#1 California going west)
• Cable car Stop: California and Kearney St. (CA)
• [The # 8 stops on Kearny & Clay] • We should probably mention the new Central Station linking Chinatown to the rest of the MUNI system]

San Francisco Historical Society
608 Commercial Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

Nearby Parking:
565 Clay Street
550 California Street

SF Historical Society Leadership

Meet Kevin P. O’Brien, SFHS’ Executive Director

Kevin P. O’Brien earned a B.A. in history/philosophy from Georgetown University in 1965 and an MBA in marketing from Xavier University in 1983. In 1965–68 he was an airborne officer with a top-secret clearance from the U.S. Army Security Agency. O’Brien has almost 40 years’ experience in TV station and group management, working in Kansas City (MO), Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Washington DC, and New York. While working at Cox Enterprises 1986–2001, he was executive vice president of the Cox Independent group he was responsible for five Cox television stations, including KTVU in Oakland. As president of Meredith Television from 2001 to 2004, he oversaw fifteen television stations. Since 2004 he has been president and CEO of Global Broadcastings. O’Brien serves on the boards of directors of various charitable institutions and has received various awards, including the John Carroll Award, the most prestigious award given to an alumnus of Georgetown University.

Board of Directors

Read about our board of directors.

Advisory Board

Read about our advisory board.