The Ferry Building was completed in 1898. The exterior facade facing the Embarcadero was clad in Colusa sandstone, which was quarried at the Knowles Quarry near Sites, California. The building’s base, which is constructed of granite, was quarried at the Leahy & Turner Quarry in Victorville, California. The building’s clocktower was also originally wrapped in Colusa sandstone, while the decorative setbacks at the tower’s top were clad in painted sheetmetal. The Colusa sandstone has a greenish-grey color, and is a porous stone.
The Ferry Building was one of the few structures in downtown San Francisco to survive the 1906 earthquake. The clocktower suffered the most extensive damage and was rebuilt with a concrete exterior, and damaged stone was repaired or replaced in the lower part of the building. At that time, the clocktower was painted a lighter color than the Colusa sandstone in the lower part of the building.