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San Francisco Workers Dig Up a Relic of the 1939 World's Fair

“It’s amazing what they did in the past.”

Joshua Lee of the San Francisco Public Works department holds a redwood pipe dating from the 1939 World's Fair. (SF Public Works)

It’s fascinating what you can find just by digging holes in the Bay Area—the hulks of buried ships, 240 vertical feet of garbage, and now a painstakingly crafted relic of the 1939 World's Fair.

Workers with the San Francisco Public Works department were inspecting a sinkhole on Treasure Island when they made the discovery. It was a large pipe, at first inspection normal, that turned out to be made from slats of redwood trees. The pipe ran for about 70 feet and, incredibly, the majority of it still worked.

SF Public Works

“It’s amazing what they did in the past,” says a public-works employee in the below video. “It humbles you in a sense that, you know, I couldn’t do that. It’s just a part of your past that’s a part of your trade that you don’t get to see on a regular basis.”

The pipe likely dates from the 1930s when San Francisco built Treasure Island for the World's Fair, also known as the Golden Gate International Exposition. One public-works guy guesses its creator might’ve been inspired by wooden wine barrels, which are rife in the countryside. Department spokeswoman Rachel Gordon says “we may put it on display one day, if and when we have a public space at one of our buildings.” Until then, we must only assume plumbers are using it on special occasions as a massive beer funnel.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.