When the Clock Tower rose in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood 94 years ago, the slender brick-and-timber structure was a symbol of the city’s economic prowess.

The tower was an addition to the massive factory occupying two full blocks at Second and Bryant streets and housing the Schmidt Lithograph Corp. At the time, Schmidt was the city’s biggest employer and the largest printer on the West Coast, producing labels for fruit companies.

Like so many relics of the city’s past, the property has since been reimagined, and in 1993, the Clock Tower Building at 461 Second Street was turned into 127 modern live-work lofts designed by David Baker.

Now, the penthouse loft, the building’s crown jewel, is on the market for the first time since the original loft owner moved in 23 years ago. This stunning two-bedroom property, priced at $8.5 million with Sotheby’s, includes exclusive access to the three stories rising into the storied Clock Tower, where sunlight enters the four glass faces setting the interior aglow.

The current owners, Tom and Carol Burkhart, used to gaze out at that tower from the loft where they lived across the street. When the Clock Tower penthouse went on the market, they toured it out of curiosity and couldn’t resist making an offer.

“We’d just sit there in our living room, salivating thinking it would be amazing to live in that tower,” Burkhart said. “And then it went on the market and then we went to the open house. There were probably 50 people walking around. The place was so wide open. It was amazing.”

He added: “Our real estate broker happened to be there and said,  ‘Most people couldn’t live in this place, but you two could.’ We’d just spent nine months remodeling across the street, but I couldn’t resist. I made an offer with two contingencies for a significantly lower price.”

At the time, SoMa was practically a ghost town with empty warehouses, few restaurants, not a single grocery store. Burkhart was one of the pioneers in reinvigorating this area, going on to purchase office space in the Clock Tower and relocating his Menlo Park-based investment advisory firm.

“I had a two-minute commute walking down six flights of stairs…three minutes going up,” he said. “I’m going to live to be 105 because I never had the stress of commuting.”

The Clock Tower penthouse spans over 3,000 square feet and includes two bedrooms, two baths, a modern kitchen and a spacious living room with a glass-enclosed fireplace. Exposed brick walls and cathedral ceilings with exposed steel beams are reminders of the building’s industrial past.

From the wrap-around deck outside you can see AT&T Park, the now thriving SoMa, the downtown skyline. But the more arresting view is from inside looking over the highway leading up to the Bay Bridge.

The story goes that during construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in the 1930s, a call was made to the lithograph company’s owner Max Schmidt.

He was told half of his building would be torn down to make way for the road. But when Schmidt said something along the lines of “Do that and I’m moving to the East Bay,” the plans were altered and the road was redesigned to veer west of the tower.

From the penthouse’s floor-to-ceiling windows, that piece of history unfolds right before your eyes.

“It’s a piece of moving art,” Burkhart said. “For 20-plus years, we’ve never gotten tired of watching the cars.

You’re high enough to not have the lights shining into the space. You see the tail lights of the cars slowly moving east returning to Oakland, and the headlights coming into the city.”

“We’ve watched 300,000 people a day commute to and from the East Bay. It’s fun to be a part of this living art.”