Frequently Asked Questions
The Chief's custom converted 1940 1 1/2 ton Ford police paddy wagon van was destroyed by his staff member and close friend Sgt. Ed Brown with the aid of a prison escapee as a ruse to avoid the two of them being caught and murdered by a corrupt sheriff and his corrupt henchmen associates in the first episode produced for the series' 1969 Fall season (Poole's Paradise). The unmanned vehicle ended up crashing head first into the bottom a ravine where it exploded into flames. Subsequently, the Chief's immediate superior, and close personal friend, Police Commissioner, Dennis Randall replaced the destroyed supercharged personal transport with a first of its kind brand new, fully customized beige- colored 1969 Ford Econoline 1 ton Window Van which was in constant use throughout the remainder of the series.
There are three Hall of Justice buildings in San Francisco's history. The ornate granite and slate-faced Romanesque structure that appears in every first-run episode of Ironside from September 1967 to late December 1974, was the second Hall of Justice which is often referred to as the "Old" Hall of Justice. Apart from the city's police department headquarters, police and superior courtrooms, and district attorney's offices, above the building's fourth floor Romanesque style arched office and superior courtroom windows it also housed a portion of the city jail comprising suspended steel fifth and sixth floor galleries illuminated soley by large roof skylights. Its address was 750 Kearny Street, which placed it on the east side of Kearny, shoe-horned as it were between Washington and Merchant Streets.
The "Old" Hall's predecessor, the original and first Hall of Justice stood on the same exact piece of real estate. It was damaged in the great San Francisco earthquake on the 18th of April, 1906, which ultimately resulted in its burning to the ground. That building bore a more than passing resemblance in size to its successor, although it also included in its configuration a tall narrow clock tower which overlooked Kearny Street. The replacement, the "Old" Hall, was first occupied in 1912, which by the mid 1950's had outgrown its intended purpose. A third, larger Hall of Justice, the one still presently in use, was built about one and a half miles south on a new site at 850 Bryant Street, between 7th and Harriet streets.
The "Old" Hall of Justice was abandoned in 1961 and was subsequently stripped of many of its luxurious fixtures and fittings, comprising wood and marble paneling, marble floors, ornate brass door knobs cast with the embossed seal of the city of San Francisco and their complimenting hinges, carpets, furniture, and just before its demolition in late 1967, Romanesque windows, cast stone exterior decorative trim and other architectural elements.
Several pieces of daytime stock footage of the building filmed in preparation for production of the Ironside TV series just prior to the "Old" Hall's demolition were used to highlight the location of Chief Ironside's office, which indicated it occupied the northwest corner of the building directly behind the far left most fourth floor Romanesque arched window as viewed from the front of the building's west facing main facade. Like the actual room behind that window (the "Old" Hall's Grand Jury Room) the set at Universal City Studios of the Chief's office, which also doubled as his apartment, had a compliment of two principle facsimiles of the Hall's Romanesque arched windows, while just as the Hall's Grand Jury Room's adjoining Grand Jury Clerk's room was fitted out with a third window of that style there was a third one in the Chief's game room where Mark slept. The other two actual fourth floor Romanesque windows of the actual rooms which as previously stated were of the same style, were at the far right end of the Hall's north facing facade, but unfortunately were never filmed.
Also seen in the same stock footage is the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, which is located a short distance to the north of Portsmouth Square. Portsmouth Square, situated on Kearny between Washington and Clay, was once the center of old San Francisco and is now part of the Chinatown district of the city.
Looking eastward from Portsmouth Square prior to 1967, the frontal view of the Old Hall of Justice would have been instantly familiar to Ironside fans. Unfortunately, the equally attractive upper portion of its matching north-facing side elevation on Washington Street was excluded in the daytime and nighttime stock footage depicting either Mark driving the Paddy Wagon out of the old basement parking garage (originally the police drill hall) entrance, or Ed doing the same with his unmarked black 1967 Ford Galaxy sedan police special. No footage was ever produced and employed in the series depicting the Merchant Street elevation which mirrored the Washington Street facade in every way. Dunbar Alley ran directly behind the "Old" Hall, separating the structure on the ground floor from its sister building, the City And County Jail Building which was the same height as the Hall, but with about a quarter less real estate footprint. The two facilities, which had been constructed at the same time and designed by city architect, Newton J. Tharp and his department were joined to one another both by a windowed concrete and steel floating hallway connecting the second floor of the jail building to the second floor police department/court rooms of the Hall as well as via an underground tunnel from one building's sub-basement to the other's.
Midway along the front of the Hall was a somewhat large and elegant sidewalk level entrance vestibule containing a flight of steps with brass railings leading to the building's main large brass-framed double entrance doors with matching full length side light windows.
Ironside's subsequent transport, a first of its kind, highly customized, brand new beige-colored 1969 Ford 1 ton Econoline Window Van, which was introduced into the series after the police paddy wagon was destroyed in one episode, is never seen near the Old Hall of Justice because at that time the building had been completely demolished and a new structure was in the process of being constructed on the property.
Today, the site of the "Old" Hall Of Justice and its sister building is occupied by the 27-floor, Hilton San Francisco Financial District Hotel and the Chinese Cultural Center. The hotel building was originally constructed as, and for many years thereafter remained, a Holiday Inn Hotel. The cultural center and hotel presently share the same address. Behind the Hilton on Montgomery Street stands the famous Transamerica Pyramid, another of San Francisco's noteworthy landmark buildings.
There are ongoing arguments concerning the wisdom of demolishing a building of such historical and architectural provenance as the Old Hall of Justice and replacing it with a modern, bland skyscraper structure. Many of San Francisco's inhabitants regard the design and appearance of the Old Hall of Justice as having far more character and beauty than the edifices that replaced both it and its sister building (the City And County Jail Building).