Voting Home / The Old Ship Saloon
Nominated for: BEST Neighborhood Bar
The Old Ship Saloon saga began in December of 1849 when a three-masted boat called the Arkansas sailed into San Francisco Bay. A storm blew the Arkansas aground on Alcatraz Island, and the ship was towed into Yerba Buena Cove and set on the beach at what is now the corner of Pacific and Battery. At the time, the area was widely known as the Barbary Coast, a maritime district by day and by night, one of the raciest neighborhoods in the west. In 1851, enterprising Englishman Joe Anthony cut a door into the side of the Arkansas' hull and converted it into the Old Ship Ale House. He installed a gangplank to the Pacific Street pier and posted a sign next to the entrance that read, "Gud, Bad, and Indifferent Spirits Sold Here! At 25 cents each." By 1855 landfill had locked the ship in place and a sailors' rooming house had been constructed on its deck. In 1859 builders dismantled the above-ground portion of the ship and constructed a brick hotel on the site. A barroom on the ground floor of the hotel continued the name of The Old Ship Saloon. Until the turn of the century, The Old Ship Saloon operated as a sailors' tavern and shanghaiing den. Many a sailor drank drug-laced liquor here and found himself on an unintended voyage. In 1897, Henry Klee purchased the business, then rebuilt the building following the 1906 earthquake and fire. In the 1940's a brothel upstairs entertained a steady stream of GI's before they left for the Pacific during World War II. Since 1992, the bar has been in the hands of Bill Duffy and has become a neighborhood fixture. In 1999, The Old Ship experienced a complete remodel and earthquake retrofit, re-opening with a fresh face, new menu, and nice, clean bathrooms. Today, looking at the top of the building's east side you can still see a sign that reads, "Old Ship Saloon, Henry Klee Prop." Inside you'll find friendly service, free-flowing drinks and delicious lunch fare and bar snacks.
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