History of The Tip

Chapter 9: Hail the great erector

A reform politician named McDonough Norris expressed his outrage at “this grand larceny on a scale never before witnessed” and demanded Grant’s arrest. But no one could find an applicable statute, and anyway this dazzling feat of both engineering and, in one tabloid columnist’s frank opinion, “balls” had already found a place in the town’s legend, just as its author, Adam Grant, had found a place in its people’s hearts.

And the old top of the Tip, all thousand-square-feet of it — many times modified, but never obliterated — is there today, its curious history explaining why a visitor travels via one elevator to the 14th floor, but must change to another for the trip from 14 to 15.

One thing that has changed, if only slightly, is the name of the building atop which perches the Tip. Two years after Adam passed away in Panama during a fishing expedition (literally, he was eaten by an alligator) at the age of 63, San Francisco was struck by the great earthquake of 1906. The US Grant Building was severely damaged. Worst of all, the Tip — “recklessly” tacked on to the building 20 years earlier (according to the city inspector’s failure analysis) —  slipped its moorings, and fully half the structure dangled menacingly over Sansome (the street’s name had been modernized) for more than 17 days. City inspectors marked the entire building a loss and scheduled it for the soonest possible demolition. But, alerted by the newspapers, the stricken population managed to raise a phenomenal hue and cry. In fact, some history books note that the beginning of San Francisco’s post-quake renaissance began when the citizens, seemingly as one, stood up for the Tip.

Once again, the Tip was saved, as was the building. And following the painstaking restoration of the structures, the city’s aroused citizens further petitioned that the U.S. Grant Building be renamed the Adam Grant Building in honor of the roguish local hero who had once captured their hearts.

And so it was. And is.

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Previous · Chapter 8
A slyce off ye olde tip


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Next · Chapter 10
Masons, millionayres & the Birthe of the Cool

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