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History, art, music ... free December discoveries in San Francisco's Financial district; an easy side trip for Union Square Christmas shoppers.

History, art, music . . . free December discoveries in San Francisco's Financial District

An easy side trip for Union Square Christmas shoppers

A forest of towering corporate headquarters and bank buildings, San Francisco's Financial District can be a hard place to get to know. But it holds all kinds of free surprises: noontime concerts, displays on local history, even some splendid art.

School vacations are a good time for a family outing, since most of the commercial buildings are open only on work days.

We list 14 of the best free attractions. Numbers correspond to those on our map. As you stroll, glance into lobbies and keep your eye out for sculpture, handcrafted ship models, and Christmas decorations.

1. World Trade Center, Ferry Building. See the grandeur of yesteryear, when this was the eastern portal of the city before the Bay Bridge was built. Five huge murals of the Pacific by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, done for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, line the rampway from the first to the third floor.

2. One Market Plaza (Southern Pacific Building), 1 Market Street. This month, holiday decorations replace the changing art exhibits near the elevators in the expansive lobby--past the restaurants, shops, and skylit fountain.

3. World of Economics, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 101 Market Street. Hands-on exhibits highlight this innovative lobby museum. In one computer game, you must, as president, control spending and taxation to keep both unemployment and inflation down; if you fail, you're booted out of office. The museum is geared for ages 12 and up, but younger children will have fun reading the cartoon displays. In the auditorium, 20-minute video programs (on the state of the economy, international borrowing, and other topics) are screened at 12:15 and 12:40.

4. Teleguides, Embarcadero Center, Buildings 1 through 4 (below the escalators). Installed a year ago, there are now 139 Teleguides around the Bay Area. Push a button, and a computer screen gives information about almost any aspect of the city you choose--neighborhoods, transit, cultural events, landmarks. The Embarcadero Center sponsors daily Christmas music performances this month; for a schedule, call (415) 772-0585.

5. Crown Zellerbach Building, 1 Bush Street (at Market Street). Changing art exhibits are on view in the lobby. December 3 through 14, you'll see paintings by the Marin Society of Art; Christmas displays round out the month's offerings.

6. A World of Oil, Chevron Building, 555 Market Street. Glorifying the slippery substance that fuels the world's economy, exhibits on oil exploration, production, and refining include a microscope through which you can see fossils of the type that make hydrocarbons. The museum's auditorium shows a film each noon (many subjects). A lobby gallery--closed for repairs this month--has changing art exhibits.

7. Montgomery Washington Tower, 655 Montgomery Street. Small but excellent displays on 19th- and 20th-century San Francisco--and, charmingly, on the history of this street corner.

8. Transamerica Corporation, 600 Montgomery Street. Changing art exhibits are presented in the lobby; this month, you'll see miniature dollhouses. From 9 to 4 weekdays, you can take the elevator to the 27th-floor observation platform.

9. Pacific Heritage Museum, Old San Francisco Sub-Treasury, Bank of Canton of California, 608 Commercial Street. In its 107-year-old home, this brand-new museum (scheduled to open in November) features displays on the heritage of Asian-Americans. You'll see pottery and everyday items from a 19th-century Chinese settlement, now the site of the Moscone Convention Center.

10. Wells Fargo Bank History Room, 420 Montgomery Street. Below maps of the Mother Lode and Comstock Lode are gold samples from major mines. You can look at letters sent by pony express or stagecoach, read a poem by Black Bart, the famous outlaw. The Wells Fargo History Library (open 10 to 3) is on the 11th floor at 475 Sansome Street.

11. Museum of Money of the American West, Bank of California, 400 California Street (basement). In 19th-century San Francisco, money meant gold, and there's lots of it here--ingots, nuggets, and coins-- as well as maps and historic displays.

12. Bank of America, 555 California Street. There's a photographic history of the bank, plus antique banking paraphernalia on the balcony level (enter from the plaza). Three galleries (one in the main lobby off the plaza, two in the concourse below) have changing art shows; look for Christmas decorations in the plaza gallery. For a schedule of noon entertainment in the building, call 953-1000.

13. Galleria at Crocker Center, 50 Post Street. On the third floor, where you'll find several cafeteria-style restaurants, musical performances of various kinds are given from noon to 1 weekdays in December, three times a week other months.

14. Joseph Dee Museum of Photography, Brooks Camera, 45 Kearny Street. Hundreds of cameras (including a spy camera hidden in a cigarette lighter) plus a changing photography display form the show. On the first floor, you can get city maps and information.

Photo: Corinthian-columned Bank of California (11) has a gold museum; Transamerica Building at upper right (8) displays dollhouses this month

Photo: Deardorff 11-by-14 view camera has squeeze ball to fire shutter, bellows for focus. It's in museum at Brooks Camera (14)

Photo: Computers flash graphics on screens at Embarcadero Center (4). Machines are push-button tour guides

Photo: Financial District has surprises in these buildings: 1. Ferry. 2. One Market Plaza. 3. Federal Reserve Bank. 4. Embarcadero Center. 5. Crown Zellerbach. 6. Chevron. 7. Montgomery Washington. 8. Transamerica. 9. Bank of Canton. 10. Wells Fargo. 11. Bank of California. 12. Bank of America. 13. Crocker Galleria. 14. Brooks Camera.

Photo: Century-old stagecoach in Wells Fargo History Room (10) was built in New Hampshire. Nine rode inside, nine on top. Leather boot was for bags

Photo: Unusual perspective gives immediacy to Federal Reserve mural (3) on relation of consumers to producers
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1984
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