San Francisco City Hall

After visiting friends and family in cities throughout the United States of America over the course of a three-week-long road trip, my parents made a stop in the Bay Area last week to spend some time with their favorite progeny. During their stay we did a butt-ton of super cool stuff, examples of which include lobster boiling, park drinking and riot watching. Although I had planned to spend yesterday, their last full day in San Francisco, introducing them to the nudists of the Castro, we were invited on a private tour of San Francisco City Hall at the last minute so, nudists be damned, we did that instead.

Before I proceed with the private tour lowdown, I think it's important to note that, for those of you who don't follow me on Instagram, it would be a flagrant understatement to say that San Francisco City Hall holds a special place in my heart (er, lens). As the images below prove, it's my general practice to snap a pic of the aforementioned building whenever it's in eyeshot, which is quite often.

Our visit to San Francisco City Hall started shortly after lunchtime when my folks and I were greeted by San Francisco City Treasurer José Cisneros, Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement Bevan Dufty and Bobby, a City Hall engineer. After much handshaking and a little paperwork, the six of us boarded an elevator bound for the top of the Rotunda where our tour began.

With the Rotunda's pink Tennessee marble floor several stories below and the dome several stories above, we gazed at the ornate limestone walls around us, making note of the four medallions (Equality, Learning, Liberty and Strength) created by the famous sculptor Henri Crenier.

After snapping a few pictures, we ducked through a door framed by jagged rock, mounted a tight spiral staircase and began to climb. We trudged up several stories and arrived at the base of the fifth largest dome in the world.

Bobby, the engineer leading the tour, explained that though the pillars appear to be holding up the dome, they're actually made of plaster and are mostly hollow, except for a steel beam tucked in the middle.

Following more pictures, we continued upward.

Our next stop was a platform resting between the building's inner and outer domes, where evidence of the building's recent seismic retrofit is most visible.

Interestingly, the inner dome's original makeup consisting of plaster and horsehair is still in place. Around 1915, the time the dome was constructed, horsehair was commonly used to reinforce plasterwork.

After still more pictures and more facts about the structure of the dome, we entered a dark steel staircase encased in a mesh cage and started our climb over it.

Then, just as my claustrophobia (read: Fear of the dark) had reached its apogee, we were standing outside, our feet planted firmly on top of the dome, our eyes looking out across San Francisco.

Although stunning from below, the fine details of the dome are dazzling up close, due in large part to the 23.5 karat gold leaf finish that makes up the exterior surface.

Bobby noted that the orange glow of the dome made to celebrate the Baseball Giants' World Series participation is simply transparent orange plastic taped to the dome's regular lights.

After we were through snapping pictures and asking questions, we mounted a ladder for the tour's final climb, only a few rungs up to a nest atop the dome.

Following our descent, we were shown more of City Hall, including the Grand Staircase...

...the Board of Supervisors Chambers...

...and the bust of slain Supervisor Harvey Milk.

While my folks were probably a little disappointed that the nudists were back in their homes by the time our tour had ended, I couldn't help but smile knowing that the afternoon had probably bolstered my Insta-cred at least a little bit.