The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Tag: plaque

Emperor Norton Plaque Restored

A well-known and fondly regarded Emperor Norton plaque created in 1939 most recently was installed at San Francisco’s old Transbay Terminal for 34 years — from November 1986 until the terminal was prepared for demolition in late 2010.

The weathered bronze plaque has been out of the public view for the last 8 years. But, recently, the plaque was lovingly restored — and plans are moving forward to reinstall the plaque at the new Transbay Transit Center.

Read on for a photograph of the plaque as most have never seen it — and for details on the location now being eyed for this rare and wonderful tribute to the Emperor.

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New Transbay Transit Center Is in Norton's Old Neighborhood

Most people who see a connection between Emperor Norton and the site occupied by the new Transbay Transit Center see the connection only in terms of a beautiful Bay Bridge-oriented commemorative plaque that the fraternal society E Clampus Vitus commissioned and dedicated in 1939 and moved to the old Transbay Terminal some fifty years later, in 1986.

In fact, the new transit center is just a few steps from the former sites of some of the most important properties owned and used between 1850 and 1855 by the "pre-imperial" businessman known as Joshua Abraham Norton.

This points to an opportunity: The transit center is situated in the midst of the oldest of Old San Francisco. How about a prominent feature in the Center that would direct visitors to historically significant sites that are within walking distance? How about putting a plaque or some other historical marker on all of these sites?

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What Ever Happened to the Plaque of '59?

In 1959, "the Society of California Pioneers in cooperation with the San Francisco Chronicle" proposed an Emperor Norton memorial plaque at the intersection of California Street and Grant Avenue — where the Emperor collapsed and died on 8 January 1880. A design for the plaque was created by Hubert Buel, the Chronicle's art director. Indeed, the design and text for the plaque were approved by resolution of the San Francisco Arts Commission on 1 June 1959.

And yet, today, there is no Emperor Norton plaque at California and Grant. In fact, it appears that the project never made it before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — which typically would have to have given final approval for a project like this in order for it to move forward.

How did an Emperor Norton plaque with the collaborative backing of two storied institutions like the Society of California Pioneers and the San Francisco Chronicle get pushed off the tracks — and who did the job? 

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