Westfield dome hits the century mark

The 102-foot-wide skylit dome that caps the bustling Westfield San Francisco Centre between Fourth and Fifth streets turns 100 years old Wednesday.

One of the few remaining relics of the shopping area’s storied past, the dome once covered the popular Emporium, which in the Roaring ’20s became one of San Francisco’s most popular destinations with its nightly concerts and Christmas celebrations.

The Emporium, built in 1896, suffered the firestorm that followed the 1906 earthquake. It was rebuilt two years later, topped with the stunning glass and steel dome.

The Emporium’s best years followed. In 1936, it was the first big store in San Francisco to install escalators. After World War II, it was known for its Christmas festivities, which included everything from a Ferris wheel to meetings with Santa Claus.

In 1995, it permanently shut its doors and what followed was a squabble about redeveloping the site. Local preservationists wanted the Westfield developers to keep much more of the historic building.

In the end, city officials required the developers to hold on to at least the façade and dome. The dome remains the centerpiece of the Westfield.

The Westfield is hosting an invite-only party for about 350 local dignitaries to celebrate the centennial.

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