Posted by Jason Kaplan on

In just a few days, we’re taking American Field where it’s never gone before—the west coast! But before we arrive in San Francisco, we’d like to shed some light on a historic building that we’re honored to call our pacific-cast home.

Ghirardelli Square has a history that spans over 100 years and three continents. This repurposed retail and dining complex—home to shops, restaurants and event space— was originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico Ghirardelli.

Born in 1817 in Italy, Ghirardelli studied as a Genoa confectioner’s apprentice, developing a strong interest (and a stronger sweet tooth). He left for Uruguay when he was 20 years old, then sailed to Peru where he became a coffee and chocolate merchant.

One by one, his friends left Peru for San Francisco. Lured by tales of gold riches, Ghirardelli joined them in 1849 and opened a general store supplying mustard, coffee, spices and—of course—his chocolate.

Business boomed and in 1893, Ghirardelli purchased an entire city block with hopes of turning it into the headquarters for the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

Fast-forward nearly 70 years. The chocolate manufacturing operation was sold and transferred to San Leandro, leaving the square abandoned.

A group of San Franciscans feared the grounds would be demolished, so they purchased the property. Their plan was to invite retailers and restaurants to set up shop within the old factory, creating the square, as we know it today. The doors officially opened on November 29, 1964.

In 2016, Ghirardelli Square continues to delight visitors with its lively retail mix, while maintaining Ghirardelli’s tradition as a trendsetter for the rest of the world. In 1982 the owners applied for and were granted National Historic Register status, a move that ensured the preservation of Ghirardelli Square for future generations.

We are humbled and excited to bring our journey to a space that’s filled with so much history. A special thank you to Ghirardelli Square for providing us with information for this article.


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