Apple returns to its roots at historic San Francisco venue

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Apple will host its fall media reveal at the same place it unveiled the Apple II computer.
Apple will host its fall media reveal at the same place it unveiled the Apple II computer.
Photo: StadiumUSA

When Apple takes the stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco for the fall media reveal, company execs will walk knowing they are in a sacred space.

Sure the building is 100 years old this year and is part of the city’s renaissance following the devastating 1906 earthquake. But the ground at the auditorium really shook in 1977, when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak brought the Apple II computer to the West Coast Computer Faire.

Steve Jobs shows off the Apple II.
Steve Jobs shows off the Apple II.
Photo: Apple

The machine put Apple on the map and brought personal computing to homes and schools. Apple is not likely to create such seismic ripples on Sept. 9 when it will reportedly roll out a next generation iPhone, some new iPads and possibly a new Apple TV. But choosing a building where it once made history can’t hurt.

Should a placard be erected outside the auditorium, Apple can only claim a small share of a rich history that took place at the former San Francisco Civic Auditorium.

  • Built in the Beaux Arts style popular at the time in 1915, the auditorium was part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and is one of only a couple of buildings that remain from that World’s Fair.
  • The auditorium, which seats 7,000, was named after the late, great rock music promoter Bill Graham in 1991.
  • A 40-ton pipe organ from the World’s Fair made its home at the auditorium but was lost to heavy damaged caused by a 1989 earthquake.
  • Democrats held their National Convention in 1920, but failed to make history with their nominee, a forgettable Ohio governor named James M. Cox. But the running mate he selected made an impression and would go on to make history of his own. Franklin Roosevelt would return to the auditorium to give a speech as a presidential candidate, eventually winning the first of four terms.
  • The NBA champions Golden State Warriors called the civic auditorium home for two years from 1964 to 1966. The then-named San Francisco Warriors made it to the NBA finals with Wilt Chamberlain but lost to the Celtics four games to one. In 65, the Warriors drafted Rick Berry, who was Rookie of the Year to start off his Hall of Fame career. His silhouette is part of the official NBA logo today.
  • Historic concerts, many organized by Graham, made San Francisco one of music’s epicenters, especially during the 60s and 70s. From Jerry Garcia to Janis Joplin. Brittney Spears performed for free there in 2011 and Janet Jackson, will follow Apple’s act in October with two sold-out shows.
  • The building has historically been a haven for the city’s homeless. The city uses the auditorium to regularly host health and employment clinics for the homeless, many of whom gather nightly outside of the building to rest or sleep.