History of Ghirardelli Square

Domingo Ghirardelli came to San Francisco during the 1849 Gold Rush, making his fortune by selling chocolates.

In 1893 Ghirardelli purchased the Pioneer Woolen Mill, an entire San Francisco city block, in order to expand the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.  In 1895 the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company relocated to what is now Ghirardelli Square.

In the early 1960’s The Golden Grain Macaroni Company bought the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.  Soon after they put the square up for sale and relocated the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company to a modern new facility across the bay in San Leandro.

William Matson Roth and his mother, Mrs. William P. Roth, purchased the Ghirardelli site in 1962. The Roths restored many of the original historic brick structures and converted the square into a courtyard of specialty shops and fine restaurants, turning the area into a neighborhood with a vibrant atmosphere.

Ghirardelli Square opened in 1964 and is considered the first successful major adaptive reuse project in the country.  The City of San Francisco declared Ghirardelli Square an official city landmark in 1965.  In order to ensure its preservation for future generations, Ghirardelli Square has been granted National Historic Register status.

Today, Ghirardelli Square is a unique San Francisco destination that includes a mix of upscale shopping, fine dining, wine bars, spa facilities and live entertainment.

Chronological History

1852: Domingo Ghirardelli establishes his first chocolate factory in San Francisco, CA

1864: Architect William Mooser designs one of San Francisco’s oldest surviving buildings, the Pioneer Woolen Mill building.

1893: Ghirardelli Company buys the Pioneer Woolen Mill and construction begins.

1899: Ghirardelli Chocolate Building constructed.

1900: The company sells its coffee and spice franchises to focus on chocolate and dried mustard. It builds a two-story warehouse called the Cocoa Building.

1906: Ghirardelli complex survives the great San Francisco earthquake.

1911: Clock Tower built.

1915: Power House and Apartment Building constructed.

1923: Two floors added to Cocoa Building, which becomes the base for the famous”Ghirardelli” lighted sign, whose 15-foot-high letters are visible for miles.

1962: William Matson Roth and his mother acquire the buildings and commission the Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons architectural firm to design a modern “festival marketplace”. The Chocolate Building, Mustard Building, Cocoa Building, Apartment Building, Power Plant and Clock Tower are saved and renovated.

1964: Ghirardelli Square opens as a modern specialty shopping complex.

1965: San Francisco declares the square an official city landmark.

1967: Ghiradelli’s chocolate-making operation moves to San Leandro, CA.

1968: Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Real Property West acquire Ghirardelli Square.

1981: Ghirardelli Square is purchased by a partnership of Capital & Counties USA and Northwestern Mutual Life.

1982: Ghirardelli Square granted National Historic Register status.

2004: JMA Ventures acquires Ghirardelli Square from longtime owner Capital & Counties USA.

2005: JMA Ventures, Pacific Coast Capital Partners and Fairmont Hotels begin dramatic transformation and renovation of retail space and development of Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square.

2008: Completion of major renovations and opening of Fairmont Heritage Place.