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Pyramid Redwood Park: Financial District, San Francisco

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White-collar oasis was once a haunt of Mark Twain and 2 feral dogs

Tucked next to San Francisco's tallest building in the Financial District is an oasis of evergreens, ferns, flowers and fountains. As one of the most popular privately owned public open spaces — known as Popos — in the city, Pyramid Redwood Park provides a lunchtime sanctuary for white-collar workers.

LOUNGE AREA

Established in 1972, the park is owned by the Transamerica Pyramid and is open during business hours. A high fence seals it off on evenings and weekends.

REFRESHING GIANTS

Approximately 50 redwood trees, transplanted from the Santa Cruz Mountains, provide shade.

GROWING GARDENS

Beginning with Pyramid Redwood Park and continuing with the 1985 Downtown Plan, the number of Popos has grown sharply over the last half-century. There are now almost 70.

The Transamerica Redwood Park on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010

LITERARY INSPIRATION

The park and pyramid are on the site of the legendary Montgomery Block, an office building and bohemian center that thrived from 1853 to 1959. Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London all wrote there, and also drank in the ground-floor saloon.

A LINK TO CINEMA HISTORY

The Transamerica Pyramid was designed by William L. Pereira. Among other accomplishments, Pereira shared the Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1942 for his work on the Cecil B. DeMille action-adventure “Reap the Wild Wind.”

KEEP IT SMALL

Plans to increase the park’s size by 40 percent were in a proposal to construct a corkscrew-shaped skyscraper next door. The Board of Supervisors voted it down on April 21.

The Transamerica Redwood Park on Monday, Aug. 30, 2010. (Adithya Sambamurthy/ The Bay Citizen)

TWAIN'S TURF

A fountain commemorating a famous short story by Twain, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” sits by the park’s Clay Street entrance.

FEAR OF HEIGHTS

Since the late 1990s, the viewing platform on the 27th floor of the Transamerica building has been closed to visitors.

NOBLE BEASTS

The “Bummer and Lazarus” plaque in the park honors two stray dogs that roamed the area in the 1860s. They were famous for their friendliness and their “ratting” skill: they allegedly killed 85 rodents in 20 minutes. Both dogs were stuffed after their deaths and displayed in local saloons.

This article also appears in the Bay Area edition of The New York Times.

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