The Emperor's Bridge Campaign

TO HONOR THE LIFE + ADVANCE THE LEGACY OF EMPEROR NORTON

RESEARCH • EDUCATION • ADVOCACY

Filtering by Category: Tributes

The Emperor Norton Rooms of 1961

In spring 1961, two establishments opened in San Francisco.

One was a hotel bar on Geary Street. The other was a lunch spot and cocktail lounge on Maiden Lane.

Both were less than two blocks from Union Square.

One was created by a designer who went on to be celebrated in the pages of the Architectural Digest. It had an "Emperor Norton" doorman. And, per Herb Caen, it once was host to Jack Dempsey and Lefty O'Doul — sharing a bowl of peanuts on the same night.

The other was home to a new portrait of the Emperor commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Both were called the Emperor Norton Room.

Here’s the intriguing story of two Nortonian stars that briefly rose and just as quickly fell in the same San Francisco season.

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Emperor Norton Plaque Restored; Site Eyed for Reinstallation at New Transbay Center

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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Herb Caen's "Norton Bridge" Campaign of 1947 (And the 1960 Letter from Berkeley That Watered the Seed)

Did you know that the longstanding call to name the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton traces part of its pedigree to legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen?

Exactly 70 years ago — in what may be some of the earliest published statements of the idea that a San Francisco Bay-spanning bridge should bear the name of the Emperor — Caen, with some persistence, called for a planned "second Bay Bridge" to be named the "Norton Bridge." 

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Naming of Meadow in Golden Gate Park Would Set a Helpful Precedent for Emperor Norton Bridge Effort

There is a proposal afoot to name the Sharon Meadow, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, for the late comedian and actor Robin Williams. The rationale being used strengthens the case for naming the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton. 

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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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A True San Franciscan, or, What Tony Bennett and Emperor Norton Have in Common

Today, in celebration of his 90th birthday, Tony Bennett was on hand in San Francisco to receive a well-deserved tribute: the unveiling of a larger-than-life statue of him in front of the Fairmont Hotel, where he made his San Francisco debut in 1954 — and where he introduced his immortal signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," in 1961.

Bennett was given the tribute because — although he wasn't born in San Francisco, and although he never lived here — he was a true San Franciscan.

Emperor Norton is another gentleman who — like Tony Bennett — became a true San Franciscan by loving the city and being loved in return.

It is long past time for Emperor Norton to be honored with a tribute that rises to the level. A tribute that recognizes the Emperor for setting out the original vision for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and for being one of the earliest champions of the values of openness, tolerance, fair play and the common good that came to be identified with San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay Area — and that celebrates him for doing all of this with the whimsical and irrepressible style that is the hallmark of his adopted city. 

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The Emperor Norton Sundae: Vintage Ghirardelli Menus Edition

For at least 50 years, it appears, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company featured on the menu of its shops an Emperor Norton Sundae. Ghirardelli discontinued the Emperor Norton in 2004, possibly earlier but evidence of the Emperor remains in this little collection of Ghirardelli menus from the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

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