How the internet reshaped Market Street’s Art Deco monolith
The Twitter building, once known as the Western Furniture Exchange and Merchandise Mart, got its start as a Depression-era furniture showcase
This is a story about adaptive reuse, unplanned obsolescence, and the way one building can straddle two centuries and come to embody the fickle nature of commerce in a modern American city.
The hulking, Mayan-inspired, Art Deco monolith originally known as the Western Furniture Exchange and Merchandise Mart has stood on its Market Street block between Ninth and Tenth streets for 81 years now.
Completed in the summer of 1937—the same year as the Golden Gate Bridge—at a cost of $3 million and after just one year of construction, the massive showroom complex for wholesalers and manufacturers of home furnishings, carpets, lighting, drapery, appliances, and radios was never intended to be a public space. It was a space where out-of-town furniture retailers and industry tradespeople came together for seasonal trade shows, and where professionals in the world of home decor could comparison-shop the latest styles and technologies, room by room and floor by floor. A full nine floors of showrooms, to be exact, totaling over 600,000 square feet at the outset.