New Fisherman's Wharf sign a near replica of old crab wheel 

click to enlarge The effect may be subtle, but an extensive makeover has taken years off the iconic Fisherman's Wharf sign and restored its yellowing facade to a sparkling white. - ALEX LEBER/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Alex Leber/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • The effect may be subtle, but an extensive makeover has taken years off the iconic Fisherman's Wharf sign and restored its yellowing facade to a sparkling white.

Tourists from around the world snap pictures of the crab wheel sign at Fisherman's Wharf all the time, and a discreet new replacement has been installed to help ensure the iconic symbol will appear in scrapbooks for years to come.

The original sign, installed in 1968 at the corner of Jefferson and Taylor streets, was constructed of sheet metal, plywood and plastic, according to Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District CEO Troy Campbell. But the sign's close proximity to the waterfront meant it was subjected to the elements, especially corrosive saltwater.

"It has been somewhat silently decaying over time," Port of San Francisco Executive Director Monique Moyer said during a recent agency meeting.

Campbell said the metal in the sign was rusted and the plastic front had become brittle, with letters blowing off on windy days in years past.

"It was looking extremely shabby," he said.

Instead of letting it get to the point of not being repairable — and potentially having to be removed — several groups and The City decided to replace it with a nearly identical sign that used more durable material.

The new sign contains aluminum instead of steel to prevent rust, Campbell said, and a high-density foam material replaced the plywood. The plastic front was replicated, and the original wood handles from the exterior were refurbished and reused — both of which help make the new sign look identical to the old one, Campbell said.

The sign, which was installed just before July 4, also includes LED lights, which better illuminate it while using less energy, according to Campbell. Instead of the yellow tint the sign used to give off, it's now bright white.

The Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District helped pay for the $115,000 sign, along with the Fisherman's Wharf Merchants Association and the Port, according to Campbell.

Campbell called the new sign one improvement to the Fisherman's Wharf area in a long line of recent upgrades, which include the overhaul of two blocks of Jefferson Street to make them more accessible for pedestrians.

The new sign, Campbell said, is the crown of the improvements and one of the most popular in representing the area.

"It is symbolic," he said. "It is something that proliferates all over the world."

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