Originally named for the rallies once held in this location to show support for the Union Army during the Civil War, Union Square continues to play a central role in the city as a backdrop for various ceremonies, art shows, cultural activities, the occasional protest, and its annual Christmas Tree and Menorah lighting during the Winter holidays. In terms of historical significance, the 97 foot tall Corinthian column and winged Victory statue were erected in 1903 to commemorate Admiral George Dewey’s victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish American War. In 1941, the world’s first underground parking garage built beneath the plaza was opened.
It’s no mystery why this part of the city is a desirable tourist destination for its proximity to the theater district, landmark hotels like the |Westin St. Francis|, fine dining restaurants, and plenty of places to shop. Major department stores |Neiman Marcus|, |Sak’s Fifth Avenue|, and |Macy’s| have flagship locations bordering the square along with national retailers such as |Williams Sonoma|, |Levi’s|, and |Nike Town|. Union Square is also a destination for luxury goods with stores like |Louis Vuitton|, |Salvatore Ferragamo|, |Prada|, |Gucci|, |Dior|, |Chanel|, |Bulgari|, and |Tiffany & Co.| all having locations in this area. Access to the plaza is served by numerous bus lines, two cable car lines (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason) that run along its Western perimeter, and the Powell Street BART station located just a few blocks away.