Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the largest urban national parks in the world. It was established in 1972 as part of a trend to make national park resources more accessible to urban populations and bring “parks to the people.”Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s 75,398 acres of land and water extend north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Tomales Bay in Marin County and south to San Mateo County, encompassing 59 miles of bay and ocean shoreline. These lands represent one of the nation’s largest coastal preserves and attract 16 million visitors each year, making Golden Gate National Recreation Area one of the National Park Service's most frequently visited units.The park contains numerous historical and cultural resources, including Alcatraz, Marin Headlands, the Nike Missile Site, Fort Mason, as well as Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, and the Presidio of San Francisco. Those points of interest contain a variety of archeological sites, military forts and other historic structures, which present a rich chronicle of two centuries of history.Golden Gate National Recreation Area is also rich in natural resources — it comprises 19 separate ecosystems in seven distinct watersheds and is home to 1,273 plant and animal species. With 80 sensitive, rare, threatened, or endangered species — including the northern spotted owl, California red-legged frog, and coho salmon — the park has the fourth largest number (33) of federally protected or endangered species of all units in the National Park System.Labeled a "national recreation area," the lands of the park offer scenic vistas, nationally significant cultural resources, and belts of vegetation scattered across the urban landscape. Balancing the competing needs of these lands and their many constituencies is the dominant feature of park management.Few urban shorelines contain the kind of diversity of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The park wraps around San Francisco's northern and western edge, offering a series of scenic, historic, urban, and natural features.The entrance to the city's harbor at the Golden Gate is one of the world's most famous views. Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s city shoreline provides a historic as well as scenic perspective of San Francisco: Ships that fostered early immigration and trade, and fortifications built to defend residents, are all within the park.


The land Crissy Field resides on is an ancient 130 acres (53 ha) salt marsh and estuary. Prior to European settlement, the Ohlone people used the area for harvesting shellfish and fish. They also lived in seasonal camps in the area, leaving behind shell middens in the archaeological record. The Spanish arrived in 1776 and called the area El Presidio. They began to use the area for livestock grazing and agriculture. The 127 acres (51 ha) marsh site was filled in during the 1870s. [4] This alteration was finished in time for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. [5] The U.S. Army took control of the Presidio in 1846, using the tidal wetland as a wasteland for dumping and draining. After filling in the marshlands, the Army covered over it and created an aerodrome. [1]

Air Service and Air Corps facility Edit

During World War I the Army constructed numerous temporary buildings on the site of the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition at the Presidio of San Francisco and linked it to Fort Mason with a rail spur. In July 1918 Congress passed Public Law 189 to establish eight "air coast defense stations" and appropriated $1.5 million for the construction of one of them at the Presidio, to protect San Francisco Bay. In June 1919 the Army assigned Colonel Henry H. Arnold of the Air Service as Air Officer, Western Department, and directed him to convene a board of four officers to select the site. The board chose the former exposition site as much for its sheltered beach to protect seaplane operations as the fact that the infield of its racetrack was already in use as an aviation field. Although the wartime appropriations were reduced by the end of the war, demolition of buildings posing a landing hazard began in the fall of 1919. [6]

The east-west clay and sand landing field was kidney-shaped with the outline of the racetrack still visible. The western end of the field featured hangars, workshops and a garage for the army. To the immediate east along the southern edge was the guardhouse in Classical/Mediterranean Revival Style architecture, the administrative building in American Craftsman/Mediterranean Revival, and a two-story enlisted barracks in Mission Revival Style. The bluff overlooking the field had the row of officer's quarters. [7] Arnold led the effort to name the facility "Crissy Field" in memory of Major Dana H. Crissy, the base commander of Mather Field, California. Crissy and his observer died on 8 October 1919 in the crash of their de Havilland DH-4B while attempting a landing at Salt Lake City, Utah, during a 61-airplane "transcontinental reliability and endurance test" conducted by the Air Service from the Presidio's field and Roosevelt Field, New York. [8] Construction proceeded throughout 1920, including a seaplane ramp adjacent to the Coast Guard Station on the grounds, and the Army accepted the facility on June 24, 1921, as a sub-post of the Presidio. [9] The first unit assigned to the field, the 91st Observation Squadron, arrived from Mather in August, and the first commanding officer, Major George H. Brett, in October. [10]

In the early years, Crissy Field involved mainly the viewing of artillery fire, aerial photography, liaison flights for headquarter personnel, special civilian missions such as publicity flights and search and rescues, and a support field for U.S. Air Mail. The first Western aerial forest fire patrols took place from Crissy Field. [7]

The first successful dawn-to-dusk transcontinental flight across the United States ended at Crissy Field in June 1924. That same year, the army's first aerial circumnavigation of the world stopped at Crissy Field, and Lowell H. Smith, who was stationed at the field, led the flyers upon their return. In 1925, two Navy flying boats led by Commander John Rodgers took off from Crissy Field, marking the first attempt to fly from the continental United States to Hawaii. The flight was expected to take 26-hours, but it took twelve days when the PN-9 ran out of fuel short of land, and crew and aircraft had to be rescued at sea. Two years later Air Corps Lieutenants Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger flew non-stop to Hawaii in the Bird of Paradise, a specially modified transport plane, after staging at Crissy Field. [7]

Originally, Crissy Field was considered ideal for air operations. However, wind and fog often made for poor flying conditions, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge threatened to make local flights more difficult, and the 3,000-foot (910 m) runway was too short for more heavily loaded aircraft. The Army also considered Crissy Field vulnerable to possible enemy ship attacks due to its location on the water's edge of the San Francisco Bay. In 1936, Hamilton Field opened in Marin County, and while Crissy Field ceased to be a first-line air base, air operations continued until the 1970s. [7]

After the air corps and closure Edit

When the air corps left, the administration building served as the headquarters for the 30th Infantry Regiment, and the landing field was used as an assembly area for troop mobilization. During World War II, temporary wooden barracks and classrooms were built on site for the army's Military Intelligence Service Language School. Nisei soldiers were also trained as battlefield interpreters, as well. [7]

After World War II a paved runway replaced the grass landing field and the Sixth Army Flight Detachment used Crissy Field for light utility and passenger planes, and helicopter operations. During the Vietnam war the Army used Crissy Field for liaison flights and MedEvac flights to transport wounded Vietnam soldiers 40 miles (64 km) from Travis Air Force Base to the Presidio's Letterman Army Hospital, a trip by ambulance on surface roads would take too long and possibly be delayed by traffic into San Francisco. At the end of the Vietnam war in 1974 the Army closed Crissy Field to airplanes, though helicopter operations continued for several years. [7]

As part of a national reduction in the number of functioning military bases, the Army decommissioned the Presidio in 1994, leaving Crissy Field “a jumble of asphalt and forsaken buildings” in the hands of the National Park Service." [11]

In 1994 the National Park Service (NPS) took over the Presidio, and Crissy Field was declared a "derelict concrete wasteland" by NPS. Due to environmental concerns about the former airfield, NPS and the Environmental Protection Agency used funds to monitor the area's chemical, biological and physical variables. NPS eventually worked with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to revitalize the area and the Crissy Field Center was opened to the public in 2001. [1] [3]

San Francisco landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates was in charge of restoration of Crissy Field. The principal landscape architects were George Hargreaves and Mary Margaret Jones. Hargreaves and Jones advocated an "ecological approach to planning, the preservation and restoration of natural systems, and the notion of sustainable landscape." [12] During the planning stages of the project, Hargreaves and Associates participated in public meetings and feedback session to interface with the local community. [13]

The largest contribution for the restoration of Crissy Field came from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. and Harold and Mimi Haas Foundations, totaling $18 million ($13.5 million from the Haas Jr. Fund and $4.5 million from Colleen and Robert Haas), [14] eclipsing the NPS’s $16 million. [15] Pledged in 1997 this grant was the largest cash gift in National Park Service history at that time. [14] The rest of the money came from members of the public. Some 2,400 people made donations towards the $34.4 million raised for Crissy Field, of which 2,200 were $100 or less. Since it reopened in 2001, the Haas Fund granted an additional $1.5 million in 2007 and $2.5 million in 2015. [14]

Experts handled specialized work such as the design and construction process, removal of hazardous materials, and testing and monitoring of the estuary and marsh, but those parts of the project that could be shared were delegated to the wider community of stakeholders. Approximately 3,000 volunteers, ranging from neighbors to elementary students, spent 2,400 hours planting 100,000 plants representing 73 native species. [16]

Crissy Field presented the challenge of the “restoration of a culturally significant grass military airfield” overlapping much of the same landscape as the tidal marsh, effecting “the ability to restore the marsh to the pre-military configuration, to an idealized ‘natural’ condition." [17] In order to create the new site, 87,000 tons of hazardous materials were removed from the site itself and the tidal wetlands were redesigned to simulate the wetlands that existed before the military appropriated the site and used the area as a dump and landfill location. The site provides great views of the San Francisco bay area, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. [18]

The completed Crissy Field reopened in 2001. New and rebuilt sidewalks, boardwalks, and trails connect the field north to Fort Point, the Warming Hut (a cafe), and south to the Crissy Field Center, an environmental education center, and the Marina District. Since that time many buildings were restored and leased out as housing, office space, retail, and recreational facilities. The old temporary wood barracks were demolished and the grass airfield restored. Letterman Army Hospital, a large concrete structure, literally was ground to dust and the concrete recycled. In its place George Lucas relocated Industrial Light & Magic.

Crissy Field is now part of an urban national park, which, due to its location and scenic views, is popular with both locals and tourists.

Features Edit

  1. West Bluff — the westernmost part of Crissy Field, which includes a picnic area, the Warming Hut cafe, and connector paths and trails to the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point.
  2. Beach and dunes — the shoreline along Crissy Field has been restored, including the creation of sand dunes which provide habitat for several native species.
  3. Promenade and trails — The Golden Gate Promenade runs from the Crissy Field Center adjacent to the beach to the Warming Hut. This is also a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail, which runs along the coast of the San Francisco Bay.
  4. Newly restored tidal wetlands — The restored tidal marsh now hosts 17 fish species and 135 species of birds have been seen there. Around the tidal marsh, native vegetation has been planted and a boardwalk across the marsh has been constructed, providing views of the wildlife. [19]
  5. Crissy Field Center — An environmental education center for youth that provides school-year and summer programs. [19]
  6. Cross Country Course — Home to the USF Men's and Women's cross country teams. [20]
  7. Warming Hut Park Store — Shop with books, souvenirs, drinks and snacks for sale. Purchases support the Parks Conservancy and Crissy Field Center. [21]

Mark di Suvero Sculptures Edit

In May 2013, SFMOMA, in partnership with the National Park Service and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, have displayed eight of Mark di Suvero's sculptures on Crissy Field in San Francisco.


During the last Ice Age, when sea level was several hundred feet lower, the waters of the glacier-fed Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River scoured a deep channel through the bedrock on their way to the ocean. (A similar process created the undersea Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York and New Jersey.) The strait is well known today for its depth and powerful tidal currents from the Pacific Ocean. Many small whirlpools and eddies can form in its waters. With its strong currents, rocky reefs and fog, the Golden Gate is the site of over 100 shipwrecks. [ citation needed ]

The Golden Gate is often shrouded in fog, especially during the summer. Heat generated in the California Central Valley causes air there to rise, creating a low pressure area that pulls in cool, moist air from over the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Gate forms the largest break in the hills of the California Coast Range, allowing a persistent, dense stream of fog to enter the bay there. [4] Although there is no weather station on Golden Gate proper, the area has a mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb) with very narrow temperature fluctuations, cool summers and mild winters. For the nearest weather station see the weatherbox of San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge being nearer the ocean and at elevation indicate it being cooler during summer days. Nearer the San Francisco urban core, the temperatures resemble the official NOAA weather station instead.

Before the Europeans arrived in the 18th century, the area around the strait and the bay was inhabited by the Ohlone to the south and Coast Miwok people to the north. Descendants of both tribes remain in the area. [ citation needed ]

The strait was surprisingly elusive for early European explorers, presumably due to persistent summer fog. The strait is not recorded in the voyages of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo nor Francis Drake, both of whom may have explored the nearby coast in the 16th century in search of the fabled Northwest Passage. [ citation needed ] The strait is also unrecorded in observations by Spanish galleons returning from the Philippines that laid up in nearby Drakes Bay to the north. These galleons rarely passed east of the Farallon Islands (27 miles (43 km) west of the Golden Gate), for fear of the possibility of rocks between the islands and the mainland. [ citation needed ]

The first recorded observation of the strait occurred nearly two hundred years later than the earliest European explorations of the coast. In 1769, Sgt José Francisco Ortega, the leader of a scouting party sent north along the San Francisco Peninsula by Don Gaspar de Portolá from their expedition encampment in San Pedro Valley to locate the Point Reyes headlands, reported back to Portolá that he could not reach the location because of his encounter with the strait. [5] On August 5, 1775 Juan de Ayala and the crew of his ship San Carlos became the first Europeans known to have passed through the strait, anchoring in a cove behind Angel Island, the cove now named in Ayala's honor. Until the 1840s, the strait was called the "Boca del Puerto de San Francisco" ("Mouth of the Port of San Francisco"). On July 1, 1846, before the discovery of gold in California, the entrance acquired a new name. In his memoirs, John C. Frémont wrote, "To this Gate I gave the name of 'Chrysopylae', or 'Golden Gate' for the same reasons that the harbor of Byzantium was called Chrysoceras, or Golden Horn." [6] He went on to comment that the strait was “a golden gate to trade with the Orient.” [7]

The Golden Gate as seen from off "Land's End" in Lincoln Park on the Northwest tip of the San Francisco Peninsula c. 1895.


Development Edit

In the 1860s, San Franciscans began to feel the need for a spacious public park similar to Central Park, which was then taking shape in New York City. Golden Gate Park was carved out of unpromising sand and shore dunes that were known as the Outside Lands, in an unincorporated area west of San Francisco's then-current borders. In 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted proposed a plan for a park using native species suited for San Francisco's dry climate however, the proposal was rejected in favor of a Central Park-style park needing extensive irrigation. [5] Conceived ostensibly for recreation, the underlying purpose of the park was housing development and the westward expansion of the city. The tireless field engineer William Hammond Hall prepared a survey and topographic map of the park site in 1870 and became its commissioner in 1871. He was later named California's first state engineer and developed an integrated flood control system for the Sacramento Valley. The park drew its name from nearby Golden Gate Strait.

The plan and planting were developed by Hall and his assistant, John McLaren, who had apprenticed in Scotland, home of many of the 19th-century's best professional gardeners. John McLaren, when asked by the Park Commission if he could make Golden Gate Park "one of the beauty spots of the world," replied saying, "With your aid gentleman, and God be willing, that I shall do." He also promised that he'd "go out into the country and walk along a stream until he found a farm, and that he'd come back to the garden and recreate what nature had done." [6] The initial plan called for grade separations of transverse roadways through the park, as Frederick Law Olmsted had provided for Central Park, but budget constraints and the positioning of the Arboretum and the Concourse ended the plan. In 1876, the plan was almost replaced by one for a racetrack, favored by "the Big Four" millionaires: Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, and Charles Crocker. Stanford, who was president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, was also one of the owners of the Ocean Railroad Company, which ran from Haight Street across the park to its south border, then out to the beach and north to a point near Cliff House. It was Gus Mooney who claimed land adjacent to the park on Ocean Beach. Many of Mooney's friends also staked claims and built shanties on the beach to sell refreshments to the patrons of the park. Hall resigned, and the remaining park commissioners followed. In 1882 Governor George C. Perkins appointed Frank M. Pixley, founder and editor of The Argonaut, to the board of commissioners of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Pixley was adamant that the Mooney's shanties be eliminated, and he found support with the San Francisco Police for park security. Pixley favored Stanford's company by granting a fifty-year lease on the route that closed the park on three sides to competition. [7] The original plan, however, was back on track by 1886, when streetcars delivered over 47,000 people to Golden Gate Park on one weekend afternoon (out of a population of 250,000 in the city).

The first stage of the park's development centered on planting trees in order to stabilize the dunes that covered three-quarters of the park's area. In order to transform the sand dunes into Greenland, John McLaren grew bent grass seeds obtained from France for two years. Once the seeds were grown, he planted them over the sand to hold the ground together. After this success, McLaren was able introduce new species of plants to the land, and is credited to have added over 700 new types of trees to California within the span of one year. [8] By 1875, about 60,000 trees, mostly Eucalyptus globulus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress, had been planted. By 1879, that figure more than doubled to 155,000 trees over 1,000 acres (400 ha). Within his lifetime, McLaren is credited to have planted over two million trees within northern California as a whole. Another accomplishment of John McLaren is his creation of an open walking space along the Pacific shoreline on the western boundary of the park. Despite obstacles such as heavy tides and winds that carried sand inland towards the park, McLaren was able to build an esplanade by stacking thousands of tree boughs over the course of 20 years. [8]

When he refused to retire at the customary age of 60 the San Francisco city government was bombarded with letters: when he reached 70, a charter amendment was passed to exempt him from forced retirement. On his 92nd birthday, two thousand San Franciscans attended a testimonial dinner that honored him as San Francisco's number one citizen. He lived in McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park until he died in 1943, aged 96. McLaren Avenue, in Sea Cliff, near Lincoln Park is named after him. [8]

In 1903, a pair of Dutch-style windmills were built at the extreme western end of the park. These pumped water throughout the park. The north windmill was restored to its original appearance in 1981 and is adjacent to Queen Wilhelmina tulip garden, a gift of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. [9] These are planted with tulip bulbs for winter display and other flowers in appropriate seasons. The Murphy Windmill in the southwest corner of the park was restored in September 2011.

1906 earthquake relief Edit

After the earthquake shook San Francisco in 1906, Golden Gate Park became a site of refuge for many who found themselves without shelter. The undeveloped Outside Lands became a prime location to house these masses of people, and "earthquake shacks" popped up all throughout the area. Of the 26 official homeless encampments in the Golden Gate Park region, 21 were under the control of the United States Army. [10]

The United States Army was able to house 20,000 people in military style encampments, and 16,000 of the 20,000 refugees were living at the Presidio. [10] Within the Presidio were four major encampments including a camp exclusively for Chinese immigrants. [10] Despite being simple lodgings the army organized 3,000 tents into a geometric grid complete with streets and addresses. [10] "The Army constructed a virtual town with large residential barracks [with temporary] tented housing, latrines and bathhouses, laundries, and other services."

Not only was the standard of military organization high, but the social organization was also up to an acceptable standard despite the aftermath of the earthquake and fires. Reports indicate that small communities formed within the tent neighborhoods. The children of the refugees established play areas, and the adults congregated in the mess halls to socialize. [10]

Finally, in June 1906, the Presidio tent camps were shut down. To replace these tents the city of San Francisco built more permanent living quarters. As mentioned earlier these earthquake shacks were built to house those still homeless after the earthquake and subsequent fires. Army Union carpenters built these shacks, and residents paid off the cost of construction at a rate of two dollars a month for twenty-five months. [10]

Later years Edit

During the Great Depression, the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department ran out of public funds. Thus, the duties of the department were transferred to the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a government program designed to provide employment and community improvements during the economic woes of the 1930s. Within the park, the WPA is responsible for the creation of several features such as the Arboretum, the archery field, and the model yacht club. In addition, the WPA reconstructed 13 miles of roads throughout the park and the built the San Francisco Police Department's horse stables. Another WPA contribution, Anglers Lodge and the adjoining fly casting pools, is still in use today. It is home to the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club (formerly known as the San Francisco Fly Casting Club). The horseshoe pits were also entirely created by WPA employees. [11] The pits also came with two sculptures, one of a gentleman tossing a horse shoe and one of a white horse (which has since crumbled), both created by artist Jesse S. "Vet" Anderson. [12]

Most of the water used for landscape watering and for various water features is now [ when? ] provided by groundwater from the city's Westside Basin Aquifer. [13] In the 1950s, the use of this effluent during cold weather caused some consternation, with the introduction of artificial detergents but before the advent of modern biodegradable products. These "hard" detergents would cause long-lasting billowing piles of foam to form on the creeks connecting the artificial lakes and could even be blown onto the roads, forming a traffic hazard. [ citation needed ]

A sliver of park at the far east end of Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle, lies north of Haight-Ashbury, and it was the site of the Human Be-In of 1967, preceding the Summer of Love.

The Music Concourse is a sunken, oval-shaped open-air plaza originally excavated for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. Its focal point is the Spreckels Temple of Music, also called the "Bandshell," where numerous music performances have been staged. During the fall, spring, and summer seasons, various food trucks are often parked behind the Bandshell, providing local food options to visitors of the Music Concourse. Parkwide bicycle and surrey rentals are also available behind the bandshell and at Haight and Stanyan on the east edge of Golden Gate Park. The area also includes a number of statues of various historic figures, four fountains, and a regular grid array of heavily pollarded trees. Since 2003, the Music Concourse has undergone a series of improvements to include an underground 800-car parking garage and pedestrianization of the plaza itself. It is surrounded by various cultural attractions, including:

De Young Museum Edit

Named after M. H. de Young, the San Francisco newspaper magnate, the De Young Museum is a fine arts museum that was opened in January 1921. Its original building, the Fine Arts Building, was part of the 1894 Midwinter Exposition, of which Mr. de Young was the director. The Fine Arts Building featured several artists, twenty-eight of whom were female. One of these revolutionaries was Helen Hyde, who is featured in the De Young Museum today. Once the fair ended, the Egyptian-styled building remained open "brimful and running over with art." Most of these pieces were paintings and sculptures purchased by De Young himself, and others were donations of household antiques from the older community, which were "more sentimental than artistic." By 1916, the Fine Arts Building's collection had grown to 1,000,000 items, and a more suitable museum was necessary. [6]

Construction to build a new museum began in 1917. With funds donated by De Young, and Louis Mullgardt as head architect, the De Young Museum was completed in 1921 in a "sixteenth century Spanish Renaissance design, with pale salmon colored façades that were burdened with rococo ornamentation." At its center was a 134-foot tower from which its wings extended. At the entrance was the Pool of Enchantment, which consisted of the sculptured Indian boys created by M. Earl Cummings. The museum contained four wings: the East Wing (featuring ever-changing paintings, sculptures and photography by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh) the Central Wing (famous American and European work) the Northeast wing (Asian collections) and the West Wing (artistic history of San Francisco). [14]

The original De Young Memorial Museum stood for most of the twentieth century, until 2001 when it was completely rebuilt, reopening in 2005. The head-architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, when asked about their design, said they wanted to create a place "where the art would be less hierarchically presented – more like contemporary art than like bijoux." [15] The building is mostly constructed of copper, and its unique design was created with the idea that the "building would be enhanced not only by sunlight but also by San Francisco's constant fog." [15] Since the opening of the De Young in 1921, its galleries have mostly changed, but some of the art originally featured during the fair and in the early twentieth century still exists in the museum today. The galleries of Asian art have since been relocated, but the De Young still features American art, Modern art, African art, textiles and sculptures, and special alternating exhibitions.

Academy of Sciences Edit

The California Academy of Sciences was founded in 1853, just three years after California was made a state, making it the oldest scientific institution in the western United States. Evolutionist Charles Darwin corresponded on the initial organization of the early institution. [16] The original museum consisted of eleven buildings built between 1916 and 1976 located on the former site of the 1894 Midwinter Fair's Mechanical Arts Building in Golden Gate Park. [17] The structure was largely destroyed in the 1989 earthquake and just three of the original buildings were conserved for the new construction: the African Hall, the North American Hall, and the Steinhart Aquarium. [17] The new building opened in 2008 at the same location in the park. The present building encompasses 37,000 square meters [17] and includes exhibits of natural history, aquatic life, astronomy, gems and minerals, and earthquakes. [18]

The academy also contains a 2.5-acre living roof with almost 1.7 million native California plants [19] and domes that cover the planetarium and rainforest exhibitions. The soil of the roof is six inches deep, which reduces storm water runoff by more than 90% [19] and naturally cools the interior of the museum, thereby reducing the need for air-conditioning. The glass panels of the living roof also contain cells that collect more than 5% of the electricity needed to power the museum. [17] Due to its eco-friendly materials and natural sources of energy, the California Academy of Sciences has been named the country's only LEED-platinum certified museum, granted by the U.S. Green Building Council. [19]

Japanese Tea Garden Edit

The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States and occupies five of the 1,017 acres (412 ha) of the Golden Gate Park. [15] It currently stands adjacent to the de Young Museum and is rumored to be the introduction site of the fortune cookie to America. [17]

George Turner Marsh, an Australian immigrant, originally created the garden as a "Japanese Village" exhibit for the 1894 Midwinter Exposition. [20] Following the fair, a handshake agreement with John McLaren would allow Japanese horticulturalist Makoto Hagiwara to take over the garden. Hagiwara would oversee modifications in the Garden's transition from a temporary exhibit to a permanent installment within the park. Hagiwara and his family would continue to occupy the garden, maintaining the landscape and design of the garden until 1942. [21]

Hagiwara himself died in 1925, leaving the garden in the hands of his daughter, Takano Hagiwara, and her children. They lived there until 1942, when they were evicted from the gardens and forced into internment camps by way of Executive Order 9066. During World War II, anti-Japanese sentiment led to the renaming of the garden as the "Oriental Tea Garden." After the war, a letter-writing campaign enabled the garden to be formally reinstated as the Japanese Tea Garden in 1952. [21] In January 1953, "a classical Zen garden was added to the Tea Garden" as well as the Lantern of Peace. The Lantern of Peace, weighing 9,000 pounds, was a gift from the Japanese Government as a way to mend the relationship between the U.S and Japan that was damaged from World War II. [21] In addition, a plaque, designed by Ruth Asawa, now stands at the entrance of the gardens as a tribute meant to honor Hagiwara and his family for their care-taking of the gardens. [20] The garden also still has features such as the Drum Bridge and the Tea House from the Midwinter Exposition. [16]

As is typical among Japanese style tea gardens, the Golden Gate Park's tea garden has it own stepping stone pathways, stone lanterns, and variety of plants. [22] In the mix there are dwarf trees, bamboo, and azaleas adorning the gardens.

The Japanese Tea Garden serves as a spot of tranquility in the middle of the various activities that take place at the Golden Gate Park [18] and provides visitors "a place in which it is possible to be at one with nature, its rhythms, and changing beauties." [19] The Japanese Tea Garden brings in more than $1 million to the Golden Gate Park and the city annually. There is a constant debate whether or not changes should be made to the garden. Adding souvenir shops and a diversity of food options at the garden historically brings in more money to the organization monitoring the Golden Gate Park, the Recreation and Park Commission. Selling products that share knowledge about Japanese gardens and culture also helps maintain the Japanese Tea Garden's authenticity. [20]

Conservatory of Flowers Edit

History Edit

The Conservatory of Flowers opened in 1879 and stands today as the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. [23] The Conservatory of Flowers is one of the largest conservatories in the US, as well as one of few large Victorian greenhouses in the United States. [24] Built of traditional wood and glass panes, the Conservatory stands at 12,000 square feet [25] and houses 1,700 species of tropical, rare and aquatic plants. [23] Though it wasn't originally constructed, William Hammond Hall included the idea of a conservatory in his original concept for the design of the park. [24] The idea was later realized with the help of twenty-seven of the wealthiest business owners in San Francisco. [25]

In 1883, a boiler exploded and the main dome caught fire. A restoration was undertaken by Southern Pacific magnate Charles Crocker. It survived the earthquake of 1906, only to suffer another fire in 1918. In 1933 it was declared unsound and closed to the public, only to be reopened in 1946. In 1995, after a severe storm with 100 mph (161 km/h) winds damaged the structure, shattering 40% of the glass, the conservatory had to be closed again. It was cautiously dissected for repairs and finally reopened in September 2003. [ citation needed ]

Rooms within the Conservatory Edit

  • The Potted Plants Gallery follows Victorian architecture and the 19th century idea of displaying tropical plants in non-tropical parts of the world. [26]
  • The Lowlands Gallery contains plants from the tropics of South America (near the equator). [27]
  • The Highlands Gallery contains native plants from South to Central America. [28]
  • The Aquatic Plants room is similar in conditions as those near the Amazon River. [29]

Beach Chalet Edit

The two-story Beach Chalet [30] faces the Great Highway and Ocean Beach at the far western end of the park. It contains several restaurants and murals from the 1930s.

Windmills Edit

Before the construction of its windmills, Golden Gate Park paid the Spring Valley Water Works up to 40 cents per 1000 gallons of water. [31] To avoid this expense the North (Dutch) Windmill was commissioned in 1902 when Superintendent John McLaren deemed the Park's pumping plant insufficient to supply the additional water essential to the life of the Park. A survey and inspection of the vast area west of Strawberry Hill revealed a large flow of water toward the ocean. The North windmill was constructed to reclaim the drainage towards the Pacific Ocean and direct fresh well water back into the park. [31] Alpheus Bull Jr., a prominent San Franciscan, designed the North Windmill. The Fulton Engineering Company received the bid for the ironwork, and Pope and Talbot Lumber Company donated sails ("spars") of Oregon pine. The North Windmill was installed, standing 75 feet tall with 102-footlong sails. The windmill pumps water an elevation of 200 feet with a capacity of 30,000 gallons of water per pump per hour, supplying and replenishing Lloyd Lake, Metson Lake, Spreckels Lake, and Lincoln Park. [32] The water is pumped from the valley into a reservoir on Strawberry Hill. From there the water runs downhill into Falls and Stow Lake. [32] The North Windmill was successful, causing another system of wells and a second windmill at the southwestern corner of the Park to be recommended. Samuel G Murphy provided $20,000 from his own means to erect the windmill. The South Windmill (Murphy Windmill) stands as the largest in the world, having the longest sails in the world since its construction, with the ability to lift 40,000 gallons of water per hour. [ citation needed ]

Statues Edit

A statue of longtime park superintendent John McLaren stands in the Rhododendron Dell. McLaren had this statue hidden and it was only placed in the dell after his death. [33] Other statues of historical figures are also located throughout the park, including Francis Scott Key, Robert Emmet, Robert Burns, the double monument to Johann Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, General Pershing, Beethoven, Giuseppe Verdi, President Garfield, and Thomas Starr King. A bronze statue of Don Quixote and his companion, Sancho Panza kneeling to honor their creator, Cervantes, combines historical and fictitious characters. At the Horseshoe Court in the northeast corner of the park near Fulton and Stanyan, there is a concrete bas-relief of The Horseshoe Pitcher by Jesse "Vet" Anderson, a member of the Horseshoe Club. Across from the Conservatory of Flowers is Douglas Tilden's The Baseball Player. [11]

During the George Floyd protests, on June 19, 2020, demonstrators toppled or otherwise vandalized the statues of Catholic missionary Junípero Serra, Francis Scott Key (author of the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner), Ulysses S. Grant, Cervantes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. [34] The archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, described the toppling of the saint's statue as "an act of sacrilege [and] an act of the evil one", and on June 27 performed an exorcism at the site using the Prayer to Saint Michael. [35] [36]

In the northwest corner of the park, near the Beach Chalet, is a monument to explorer Roald Amundsen and the Gjøa, the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. [37] Following the expedition, Gjøa was donated to the city in 1906 and put on display for decades near Ocean Beach. After falling into disrepair, Gjøa was returned to Norway in 1972. [38]

Prayer Book Cross Edit

The Prayer Book Cross, also known as Drake's Cross, is a sandstone Celtic-style cross measuring 60 feet tall. Erected by Episcopalians in 1894, it commemorates Sir Francis Drake's first landing on the West Coast in 1579, [39] the first use of the Book of Common Prayer in California and (from the inscription) the "First Christian service in the English tongue on our coast." It is located near Rainbow Falls on Cross Over Drive between John F. Kennedy Drive and Park Presidio Drive. [40] The cross was meant to be visible to ships at sea but has since been overgrown by trees. [39] A gift of George W. Childs, it was designed by the architectural firm Coxhead & Coxhead of San Francisco. [41] Historian Richard White described the Prayerbook cross as a "monument to white supremacy" erected in "an attempt to enshrine Anglo-Saxonism" during a time "when, with deep worries about the racial identity of a heavily immigrant city, many Californians became crazed over the long-dead Drake". [39]

Carousel Edit

An ornate carousel displaying a bestiary is housed in a circular building near the children's playground. The carousel was built in 1914 by the Herschell-Spillman Company. [42] The building was occupied by three previous carousels before the current attraction was purchased by Herbert Fleishhacker from the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1941. The 1914 carousel has undergone several major renovations, the first, a transition from steam to electric power with the assistance of the PG&E Company. [43] In 1977 the carousel closed for safety concerns and The San Francisco Arts Commission hired local artist Ruby Newman to oversee the artistic restoration. Her crew of craftspeople restored the badly deteriorated carousel and she hand painted all animals, chariots, and decorative housing (she holds the copyright). The carousel was re-opened in 1984. [44] Presently, the carousel includes sixty two animals, a German Band Organ, and painted landscapes of the bay area by Ruby Newman. Two of the animals, a goat and an outside stander horse, are by the Dentzel Wooden Carousel Company. [45]

Encompassing the carousel is the Koret Playground, originally the Children's Quarters, which was envisioned to be a primary feature in the Golden Gate Park's beginnings. Funded by Senator William Sharon, the facility was finished in 1888, and designated a recreational space for children and their mothers. [46] At the time, it was the first public children's playground in the United States offering swings, indoor enclosures, open sitting areas and the original carousel to community youth. [47] In 2007, the Koret Foundation funded renovations. [ citation needed ]

San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum Edit

The San Francisco Botanical Garden was laid out in the 1890s, but funding was insufficient until Helene Strybing willed funds in 1926. Planting began in 1937 with WPA funds supplemented by local donations. This 55 acres (22 ha) arboretum contains more than 7,500 plant species. [48] The arboretum also houses the Helen Crocker Russell Library, northern California's largest horticultural library. [49]

Due to the unique climate of San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, [50] the plants in the San Francisco Botanical Garden range from a variety of different national origins, some of them no longer existing in their natural habitats. Areas of origin include but are not limited to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Central and South America. [51] These regions of origin go from desert to tropical. In addition, some native California species are housed in the garden as well, such as Redwood trees. [52] Overall, the tradition of these diverse gardens that eventually served to inspire the San Francisco Botanical Garden comes originally from China, Europe, and Mexico. [53]

Lakes Edit

Stow Lake surrounds the prominent Strawberry Hill, now an island with an electrically pumped waterfall. The lake was named for W.W. Stow who gave $60,000 for its construction. Strawberry Hills' waterfall was named Huntington Falls after its benefactor Collis P. Huntington. Stow was the first artificial lake constructed in the park and Huntington was the park's first artificial waterfall. [54] The falls are fed by a reservoir located atop Strawberry Hill. Water is pumped into the reservoir from Elk Glen Lake, the South Windmill, wells, and the city's water supply to keep the system of lakes flowing eastward from Stow. [55]

Rowboats and pedalboats can be rented at the boathouse. Much of the western portion of San Francisco can be seen from the top of this hill. The reservoir at its top also supplies a network of high-pressure water mains that exclusively supply specialized fire hydrants throughout the city. The lake itself also serves as a reservoir from which water is pumped to irrigate the rest of the park should other pumps stop operating. [55] In the past the Hill was also topped by Sweeny Observatory, but the building was ruined by the 1906 earthquake and plans to replace it were not approved by park commissioners. [56]

Two bridges connect the inner island to the surrounding mainland: the Roman Bridge and the Stone (or Rustic) Bridge. The Stone Bridge is a prominent background feature in the 1915 American silent comedy short Wished on Mabel, starring Mabel Normand and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. [57]

Spreckels Lake / model boat facility

Spreckels Lake is an artificial reservoir behind a small earthen dam that lies on the north side of the Golden Gate Park between Spreckels Lake Drive and Fulton Street to the north, and John F. Kennedy Drive to the south and named after sugar-fortune heir and then San Francisco Parks Commissioner Adolph B. Spreckels. [58] Built between 1902 and 1904 at the request of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club specifically as a model boating facility, the lake was first filled in February 1904 and opened March 20, 1904. One can usually find both 'sail driven,' self-guided Yachts and electric or gas/nitro powered radio-controlled model boats of many types and designs plying the lake's waters most times of year.

Elk Glen Lake is the park's deepest ornamental lake, measuring over 6 ft. deep on average. The lake acts as a reservoir for water from the Reclamation Plant before it is pumped to either Stow Lake or the reservoir atop Strawberry Hill. [59]

Mallard Lake is landlocked and not a part of the park's irrigation system. [59]

Metson Lake lies west of Mallard Lake and east of the Chain of Lakes. This body of water has a capacity of over 1.1 million gallons that overflow into South Lake or can be redirected elsewhere for irrigation purposes. [59]

Chain of Lakes Many naturalistically landscaped lakes are placed throughout the park: several are linked together into chains, with pumped water creating flowing creeks. Out of the original 14 natural marshy lakes within the sand dunes Golden Gate Park was built in, only 5 remain, three of which are the Chain of Lakes. The three lakes, North, Middle, and South Lake, are located along the Chain of Lakes Drive.

North Lake is the largest of the three, and is known for its water birds that often live on the small islands within the lake. [60] Some of the birds spotted are egrets, belted kingfishers, ducks, and great blue herons. It is surrounded by a paved walkway that is often used by families, joggers, and dog walkers. [61]

In 1898, McLaren started a landscaping project, inspired by Andrew Jackson Downing's teachings on building with nature. Seven islands were planted within the North Lake in 1899, using different species of shrubs and trees. A gazebo was built, and wooden footbridges were used to connect the different islands within the lake. Both the gazebo and the bridges were removed in order to conserve nesting birds on the islands. [62] North Lake is the final of the Chain of Lakes that flow into each other south to north, making it the final destination of the lakes' water pumped in from the Water Reclamation Plant. Should the plant's water not meet the lake's needs the water level is maintained by well water pumped from the North Windmill. [63]

Middle Lake is particularly known for bird-watching due to the visits of migrant species of birds like tanagers, warblers and vireos. It is surrounded by a dirt trail and vegetation. [61] The lake resembles the marshes that existed before Golden Gate Park, and is known for being a more remote and romantic setting. [60]

South Lake is the smallest of the three lakes, and borders Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. [60] This lake is the smallest in the Chain of Lakes. Its water is sourced from either a direct flow from Metson Lake, or by Stow Lake water released by a valve. It does not contribute to irrigation in the park but it does feed into Middle Lake. Its only noteworthy bird population is its ducks. [59]

Bison Paddock Edit

Bison (Bison bison) have been kept in Golden Gate Park since 1891, when a small herd was purchased by the park commission. [64] At the time, the animal's population in North America had dwindled to an all-time low, and San Francisco made a successful effort to breed them in captivity. In 1899, the paddock in the western section of the park was created. At its peak and through a successful captive breeding program, more than 100 calves were produced at Golden Gate Park, helping preserve the iconic bison population numbers in North America, which has been critical to the culture and livelihood of Native Americans.

In 1984, Mayor Dianne Feinstein's husband, Richard C. Blum, purchased a new herd as a birthday present for his wife. [65] The older bison in the paddock today are descendants of this herd.

In December 2011, after the number of bison in the paddock had dwindled to three, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma's office led another preservation effort. With donations from the Theodore Rosen Charitable Foundation, Richard C. Blum, and the Garen Wimer Ranch, Assemblywoman Ma's office worked with the San Francisco Zoo and SF Recreation and Parks to add seven new bison to the existing herd. The paddock is currently [ when? ] open to the public for viewing. [ citation needed ]

Hippie Hill Edit

Nestled in the trees between the Conservatory of Flowers and Haight Street, Hippie Hill displays a lifestyle unique to San Francisco. East of the Golden Gate Park tennis courts, the green space known as Hippie Hill is a gentle sloping lawn just off of Kezar Drive and overlooking Robin Williams Meadow, [66] with Eucalyptus and Oak on either side. [67] Additionally, the hill contains several uncommon trees: coast banksia, titoki, turpentine, and cow-itch. [68]

Hippie Hill has been a part of San Francisco's history, namely the Summer of Love, in 1967, a large counterculture movement that partially took place on the hill. With its close proximity to Haight Street, the main site of the Summer of Love, the movement often overflowed onto the hill. During this era, people gathered in the area to connect with one another through many activities, including the playing of music, consumption of LSD and marijuana, and expression of hippie ideals. With time, area residents began to complain of the flower children's open sexuality, nude dancing, panhandling, and excess litter. [69]

Through this movement, music became to have its own history on the hill as well. Musicians and bands such as Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and George Harrison all played free shows for the public near by. [70] Today, improvised drum circles form on the weekends where people come together and fill the hill with a constant beat for hours on end. [69] A space filled with their culture, the hill played a major part in the hippies' ability to openly use drugs and express themselves as the police adopted a policy of looking the other way. [71]

Though the police have been known to crack down on certain occurrences in the park, the SFPD are lenient with activity on the hill. [69] Starting from the Summer of Love when the police were unable to address the enormity of the situation, some activity is overlooked. [69] As supervisor London Breed stated, "smoking anything in any city park is illegal, but San Francisco has a tradition of turning a blind eye to infractions for official or unofficial events." [71] The police department has stated that they are not naïve enough to attempt to catch all the people smoking marijuana on the hill, but as Police Chief Greg Suhr said, "There are plenty of other things that come with it that we will not have." [72]

Plants Edit

A diverse collection of plants, from all over the world, can be found in Golden Gate Park. Acacias, like the Sydney golden wattle from Australia, were some of the first planted in the park by William Hammond Hall to stabilize the sand dunes. They still play that role in the western portion of the park and are common all around the park. [73]

While ninety-six percent of the park is considered not a natural area, four out of the thirty-two San Francisco locations designated as natural areas by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department's Natural Areas Program are found in Golden Gate Park. These are the Oak Woodlands, the Lily Pond, Strawberry Hill, and Whiskey Hill. [74] [75]

The California live oak is the only tree native to the park. [76] Some of the oldest plants in the park are the coast live oaks in the Oak Woodlands in the northeastern portion of the park which are hundreds of years old. [77] [78] Oaks also grow on Strawberry Hill and in the AIDS Memorial Grove. Acorns from the oak trees were an important food source to Native American groups in San Francisco. [79] [80]

Other than the oak trees, the plants that are currently in the park are non-native, some of which are considered invasive species. Many have disrupted the ecosystem and harm birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects in the park. Volunteers with the Strawberry Hill Butterfly Habitat Restoration Project are removing and replacing invasive plant species to help restore the butterfly population on Strawberry Hill. Under the Significant Natural Resource Areas Management Plan, the city will remove many invasive species and replace them with native plants. [81] [82] [83]

Blue gum eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress were the most commonly planted trees in the park during the late 1800s. Blue gum continued to grow and spread and is now one of the most important trees found in the park. They can be found near McClaren Lodge, on Hippie Hill, and in a eucalyptus forest near Middle Lake. Monterey pines are also prevalent today and can found in the Strybing Arboretum, the Japanese Tea Garden, and in the western portions of the park around the Buffalo Paddock. [84] [85]

Redwoods were planted in the park during the 1880s and can be found all around the park, most notably in Heroes Grove, Redwood Memorial Grove, AIDS Memorial Grove, Stanyan Meadows, on top of Hippie Hill, and in the Panhandle. [84] [86]

Tree ferns were planted early on by McClaren and continue to thrive in the park. Many can be found in the Tree Fern Dell, near the Conservatory of Flowers, which is made up of mostly Tasmanian tree fern. [87]

Wild animals Edit

In 2013, San Francisco photographer David Cruz shot pictures of coyote pups in Golden Gate Park. [88] It is estimated that over 100 coyotes live in San Francisco, and there have been more sightings in Golden Gate Park than any other spot in the city. [89] Coyotes have proven adaptive in the city, as they live primarily in open prairies and deserts. [90] Mountain lions occasionally roam the park. [91] The first colony of great blue herons to nest in San Francisco was discovered at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park in 1993 by Nancy DeStefani and has been continuously returning to the park during the breeding season since then. [92] The heronry features in Heron Island (1998), a short documentary directed by filmmaker Judy Irving. [93]

National AIDS Memorial Grove Edit

In the decades following the first reports of AIDS in the United States in 1981, Americans were overwhelmed with the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. [94] In 1988 a few San Francisco residents belonging to communities hit hard by the AIDS epidemic envisioned a place of remembrance for those who had lost their lives to AIDS. They imagined a serene AIDS memorial where people could go to heal. [95] Renovation for the National Aids Memorial Grove began in September 1991 and continues today as communities are constantly working to improve it. [96] Located at 856 Stanyan Street, in the eastern portion of Golden Gate Park, the Grove stretches across seven acres of land. In 1996, due to Nancy Pelosi's efforts, the "National AIDS Memorial Grove Act" was passed by Congress and the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, which officially made those seven acres of Golden Gate Park the first AIDS memorial in the United States. Then in 1999, it earned the Rudy Bruner Silver Medal Award for excellence in the urban environment. [96]

Due to its serene environment of redwoods, maples, ferns, benches, logs, and boulders, this memorial remains a place where people go to grieve, hope, heal, and remember. [97] [ page needed ] Located at the Dogwood Crescent the Circle of Friends is the heart of the grove. [98] The Circle of Friends has over 1,500 names inscribed on its flagstone ground which represent lives lost to AIDS. [99] If one wishes to inscribe a name into the Circle of Friends they must donate $1,000 to the memorial and the name will be inscribed before the Worlds AIDS day commemoration on December 1. [100] Funded privately and tended by over 500 of volunteers, The National AIDS Memorial Grove remains an important sanctuary for remembrance. [101]

On November 30 an annual Light in the Grove fundraising gala is held in the Grove. This event, held on the eve of Worlds Aids Day, sells out each year and was voted "Best Bay Area LGBT Fundraiser" by Bay Area Reporter readers in 2015. [102]

Shakespeare Garden Edit

The Shakespeare Garden is a relatively small [ clarification needed ] "17th century classical garden" [103] located directly southwest of the California Academy of Sciences. It is a tribute to William Shakespeare and his works, decorated with flowers and plants that are mentioned in his plays. The entrance is an ornate metal gate that says "Shakespeare Garden" intertwined with vines. Directly past the entrance is a walkway overarched with trees and lined with small flowers and a sundial in the center. The main area has a large moss tree and benches. At the end of the garden there is a wooden padlocked shelf containing a bust of William Shakespeare himself. The cast was made and given to the garden by George Bullock in 1918 and has remained behind locked doors since around 1950 to prevent people from cutting off pieces of the statue to melt down. [104] Around the bust, there are four plaques, originally six, with quotes from Shakespeare. The missing two were stolen and most likely sold and melted down so the thieves could make a profit from the bronze the plaques were made from. [103]

Alice Eastwood, the director of botany from the California Academy of Sciences at the time, came up with the idea for the garden in 1928, and it was carried out by Katherine Agnes Chandler. It however is not unique, as there are several Shakespeare gardens around the world, including "Cleveland, Manhattan, Vienna, and Johannesburg." [103] The garden is a popular spot for weddings. [105] There are over 200 plants from Shakespeare's works. [104]

Rose Garden Edit

The Rose Garden is found between John F. Kennedy Drive and Park Presidio Boulevard. [106]

Dahlia Garden Edit

The Dahlia Garden is found just to the East of the Conservatory of Flowers, and is maintained by volunteers from the Dahlia Society of California, founded in 1917. [107]

Golden Gate park contains many areas for sports and recreation including tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, lawn bowling fields, an angling and casting club, a disc golf course, horseshoe pits, an archery range, the polo field, and Kezar Stadium. Golden Gate park formed the first Lawn Bowling Club in the United States in 1901, with an Edwardian style clubhouse constructed in 1915. [108]

Kezar Stadium Edit

Kezar Stadium was built between 1922 and 1925 in the southeast corner of the park. It hosted various athletic competitions throughout its existence. It served as the home stadium of the San Francisco 49ers of the AAFC and NFL from 1946 to 1970, and for one season in 1960, it hosted the Oakland Raiders of the AFL

The 59,000-seat stadium was demolished in 1989 and replaced with a modern 9,044-seat stadium, which includes a replica of the original concrete arch at the entryway.

The stadium has been used in recent years for soccer, lacrosse, and track and field. The stadium also holds the annual city high school football championship, the Turkey Bowl. The Turkey Bowl dates back to 1924 and is played each Thanksgiving. The game was held at Lowell High School in 2014 because Kezar was closed due to renovation of the running track. Galileo High School has the most overall wins in the game (16) after breaking Lincoln High School's record four-game winning streak in 2009. [109] [110]

The stadium also hosts the football game in the three-part Bruce-Mahoney Trophy competition between Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Saint Ignatius College Preparatory, two Catholic high schools in San Francisco, in addition to serving as the home field for Sacred Heart Cathedral's football program. [ citation needed ]

The Polo Field Edit

The sport of polo came to California in 1876, when the California Polo Club was established with help of Bay Area native, Captain Nell Mowry. [111] By the late 1800s, polo in San Francisco was dominated by the Golden Gate Driving Club and the San Francisco Driving Club. In 1906, the Golden Gate Park Stadium was built by private subscription from the driving clubs [112] which contained both a polo field [113] and a cycling velodrome. [114] Later on, the stadium was renamed simply the Polo Field. In the mid 1930s, the City and County of San Francisco used PWA and WPA funds to renovate the polo field. [111] In 1939, additional WPA funds were used to build polo sheds, replacing already-standing horse stables. [112] Polo continued being played through the 1940s [115] but by the 1950s polo stopped being played on the Polo Field because the sport had largely migrated to other bay area cities where land more suitable for polo was available. [113] In 1985 and 1986, polo was brought back to the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park for the second [116] and third annual San Francisco Grand Prix and Equestrian Festival. [113] Today, polo is not regularly played on the Polo Field, but from 2006 to 2010 Polo in the Park was hosted annually. [117]

The Polo Fields has a history of cycling lasting from 1906 to the 21st century. The Polo Fields were originally created for track cycling in 1906, as track cycling was a popular sport in the early 1900s. [118] Despite a down-surge of popularity in the mid-1900s, track cycling has seen a huge rebirth ever since the introduction of more track cycling programs in the Olympics in 2003. [119] San Francisco has seen a surge in cycling popularity, and groups such as "Friends of the Polo Field Cycling Track" have recently [ when? ] formed. [120]

The field has an extensive history with music and events. Because of the location and size of the Polo Fields, various events are commonly held on the field. Historically, many major music festivals took place in the park, including the Human Be-In, which featured bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. [121] More contemporary music festivals such as the Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass also take place on or nearby the Polo Fields. [122] One of the largest public gatherings in San Francisco took place in the Polo Fields—a public Rosary in 1961 with 550,000 people. [123] Public political events were also held at the field, such as the anti-Vietnam War rally in 1969 and the Tibetan Freedom Concert in 1996. [124]

Now in the 21st century, the Polo Field is split into two divisions: the inner soccer field, and the flat-style cycling velodrome found around the field itself. Today many sports are played in the polo fields, including soccer, cross country running, and various types of cycling. The cycling track is still alive, with a large number of time-trial races held every cycling season. [125] A cyclist in 2013 set a record in the park by riding a total of 188.5 miles on the Polo Field velodrome, circling it 279 times for a total of 10 hours moving. [126]

Archery Range Edit

Archery was first organized in Golden Gate Park in 1881. [97] However, there was not a devoted range specifically for archery until around 1933. In 1936, during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, many parts of Golden Gate Park, including the archery range, were improved as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). [127] With WPA support, the archery range was increased in size and the adjacent hill was carved to serve as a backdrop for stray arrows. Bales of hay are used as targets and are provided by the Golden Gate Joad Archery Club as well as donations from other donors. [128] The Golden Gate Park Archery Range is located right inside the park off of 47th Street and Fulton Street. It is open whenever the park itself is open and is free to use by anyone. There is no staff and equipment is not offered to be rented at the range, however there are archery stores nearby for rentals and there are multiple groups that offer training and lessons.

Established in 1870, the Golden Gate Park Nursery has remained one of the few places in the park restricted to the public. This nursery began with donated plants from around the world and expanded over the years with the care of past Golden Gate Park gardeners. [129] The nursery has moved around the park thrice first to where McLaren Lodge stands today, then to where Kezar Stadium is currently located and finally to its current location of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. [130] This Nursery houses over 800 species of plants, some of which are exclusive to the nursery, and are sold to the public on the third Saturday of the month. [131] Every week over 3,000 plants are dispersed within the city and park. [6]

In 2017, there were approximately 7,500 homeless people living in San Francisco. [132] Around 40 to 200 of these 7,000 people were estimated reside in the park as of 2013. [133] Around half of the homeless population in Golden Gate Park are short-term residents that leave after a certain amount of time, and the other half are more long-term residents. Short-term residents tend to be younger, while permanent residents tend to be older, military veterans. Most of the homeless population is male. It is estimated that around 60% of the population may have a mental disability. However, it is hard to gather data about the population due to a variable population. [133]

The city government of San Francisco has attempted to establish various outreach programs in order to help the homeless population. The city's government stated in 2013 that "current outreach efforts to inform park dwellers about support services are limited, and efforts that do take place are not documented in a way that makes it possible to analyze their efficiency or success". [133]

The City of San Francisco has grappled with what to do about camps of homeless people living in Golden Gate Park, which have been criticized as unsanitary, and "demoralizing" for park users and workers. [134] The camps have been described by journalists as full of garbage, broken glass, hypodermic needles, and human excrement, and the people in them are described as suffering from serious addictions and often behaving aggressively with police and park gardeners. [135] [136] [137] There have been occasional incidents of violence against homeless people in the park, including the 2010 park beating to death of a homeless man and an attack on park visitors by dogs owned by a park resident, also in 2010. [138] In the 1990s, then-Mayor Willie Brown sought unsuccessfully to borrow the Oakland Police Department's helicopters in order to find homeless people's camps. [139]

Starting in 1988 under then-mayor Art Agnos, and continuing under the direction of subsequent mayors including Frank Jordan, Willie Brown, and Gavin Newsom, San Francisco police have conducted intermittent sweeps of the park aimed at eliminating the camps. [140] [141] Tactics have included information campaigns designed to inform homeless residents about city services available to help them waking sleeping homeless people and making them leave the park issuing citations for infractions and misdemeanors such as camping, trespassing, or public intoxication, which carry penalties of $75 to $100 [142] and the seizure and removal from the park of homeless people's possessions. During the night, police urge visitors to Golden Gate Park to be careful around homeless people.

The crackdowns have been criticized by anti-poverty activists and civil liberties groups, who say the measures attack only the symptoms of homelessness, while ignoring its root causes, and criminalize the poor for their poverty while ignoring their property rights and constitutional rights. [143] [144] In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against the city government on behalf of 10 homeless people, alleging property violations by the city during sweeps in Golden Gate Park the year before. [145]

  • A book, titled Five Thousand Concerts in the Park, lists and describes the long history with music of Hellman Hollow, originally called Speedway Meadow and renamed in 2011 in honor of Warren Hellman. [146][147]

The tradition of large, free public gatherings in the park continues to the present, especially at Hellman Hollow. [146] Since the park's conception, over 5,000 concerts have been held in the park.

What is Historic Preservation?

"Historic preservation" is the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the exiting form, integrity and materials of a historic property. For example, a preservation project can be converting a historic army barracks into an office building or re-using a historic airplane hangar as a small aviation museum. All National Park Service preservation projects must comply with national standards and guidelines. The preservation guidelines exist to ensure that careful analysis is conducted before the professionals make any physical changes to historic structures and landscapes. Because of these preservation guidelines, you should be able to walk into that new office building or aviation museum and still feel and understand how that historic building was originally used.

Preservation Considerations, Tools & Resources

National Park Service's American History

To learn more about various Heritage Initiatives, Thematic Frameworks and service-wide historic preservation prjoects, please visit Discover History and Historic Preservation in the National Park Service

Discovering Historic Railroad Tracks

San Francisco Port of Embarkation during the 1930s. The arrow is highlighting Pier Shed 2.

Historical Background

When architects were rehabilitating Pier Shed 2 at Fort Mason Center, they uncovered historic railroad tracks, buried beneath layers of asphalt. In 1913, the army constructed the San Francisco Port of Embarkation shipping depot that organized and shipped provisions to remote military outposts. Pier Shed 2 was constructed as a large storage facility along an extended pier, which allowed supply boats to dock on both sides. Loaded freight cars transporting critical military supplies traveled on railroad tracks throughout the bustling depot. Often, the freight cars ran directly into the warehouses adjacent to the ships to facilitate the transfer of goods.

The Port of Embarkation warehouses were so large that they could accommodate a freight car. The contents of the warehouses were varied and the turnover of items moved very quickly. This warehouse contained stacks of crated coffee on the right and raw building materials on the left. (photo circa 1920s)

Rehabilitation of Pier Shed 2

In 2014, the National Park Service’s rehabilitation plans for Pier Shed 2 included structural upgrades and improvements to reduce the building’s energy consumption. Plans for new radiant head flooring required that contractors removed multiple layers of the building’s interior ground asphalt. Although there was a chance that the army had already removed the historic tracks, the park architects were hoping to find their remnants. Luckily, the architects found the historic tracks in the 2nd, deeper layer of asphalt.

Pier Shed 2 during the building's rehabilitation, showing the now-exposed historic railroad tracks.

Preservation Treatment

Because the Pier Shed 2 contributes to the San Francisco Port of Embarkation National Historic Landmark status, the National Park Service will treat the railroad tracks as a significant historic feature. They will document the tracks by photographing them and identifying their location on an architectural drawing. There is also a proposal to install a plexiglass floor window so that visitors can see the historic railroad tracks in the flooring. In order to protect the historic railroad tracks in the future, the park contractors will cover the tracks with new concrete, identifying the location of the once-again hidden historic tracks by using a slightly different concrete color.

A close-up detail of a manual switch track brace that is located in the floor of Pier Shed 2.

To learn more about the history of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, please visit the San Francisco Port of Embarkation history page or download the self-guided walking tour Fort Mason Center History Tour: Gateway to the Pacific.

Please visit the Fort Mason Center’s main webpage to learn about the events and activities that they host.

To learn about other railroad systems in the area, please visit the California State Belt Railroad page.

To learn more about other preservation projects in the park, please visit the Golden Gate Preservation page.


Considered a model for urban park management worldwide, the Parks Conservancy's work is made possible through the support of its members and donors, contributions from foundations, [8] businesses, public agencies, and individuals as well as earned income from the operation of park stores, cafes, and tours. Parks Conservancy-funded projects are visible across the parks' 80,000 acres as part of site transformations, trail improvements, habitat restoration, research and conservation, volunteer and youth engagement, and interpretive and educational programs. [9]

The Parks Conservancy works closely with several partners including the National Park Service (NPS) and the Presidio Trust to accomplish its mission to preserve the Golden Gate National Parks, enhance the experience of park visitors, and build a community dedicated to conserving the parks for the future. The Parks Conservancy is the official support organization for the Golden Gate National Recreation area, [10] and is one of more than 70 such nonprofit organizations working with national parks across the U.S.

Recent projects include the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative (TLC), a new public-private partnership that will bring together the resources, skills, and philanthropy of the National Park Service, California State Parks, Marin Municipal Water District, Marin County Parks, and the Parks Conservancy to support conservation, stewardship, and public enjoyment of the Mount Tamalpais region in Marin County, California. The Parks Conservancy is also collaborating with the Presidio Trust and the NPS on the New Presidio Parklands Project, [11] that will create 10 acres of new national parkland in the Presidio of San Francisco, bridging the new Presidio Parkway tunnel that connects the Golden Gate Bridge to the city street grid.

The Parks Conservancy has overseen several notable programs, sites, and campaigns, including Alcatraz, Crissy Field, Muir Woods, and the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary [12]

Alcatraz Edit

Opened to the public in 1973 by the National Park Service, Alcatraz Island is a significant historical site, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern California with some 1.4 annual visitors. [13] In partnership with the National Park Service, the Parks Conservancy has overseen the $3.5 million revitalization of the island, which has included the restoration of its gardens, the enhancement of visitor amenities and experiences, and the addition of a museum store. [14] Formerly home to the maximum-security prison, the island is located in San Francisco Bay visitors take a ferry from Pier 33 in San Francisco to reach it. Once there, the Parks Conservancy now offers popular tours, attractions, and merchandise for visitors. Additionally, in partnership the National Park Service, the Parks Conservancy coordinates volunteer programs to ensure the island's restored gardens and wildlife habitats, home to some 20,000 sea birds, are carefully protected.

Among the most popular attractions for visitors is the "Doing Time" audio tour, offered in eleven languages, which provides first-person accounts and interviews with people who experienced Alcatraz, including former corrections officers and inmates. [15] There are also several walking tours including the Alcatraz Night and Historic Gardens tours the proceeds from these tours are used for restoring and preserving the Golden Gate National Parks and the island itself. [16] The island also has a cellhouse museum store, which showcases genuine items (such as real handcuffs) used in the prison and "Escape from Alcatraz" movie, based on the real 1962 inmate break out. There is a sizable 180-seat theater on Alcatraz that shows a film on the island's complex history. [17] Through the Parks Conservancy's Art in the Parks program, the island hosted "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz," an exhibition from September 2014 to April 2015 showcasing installations by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and political activist. [18]

Art in the Parks Edit

Since 2006, the Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, Presidio Trust, and the Headlands Center for the Arts have brought several art installations to the Golden Gate National Parks. Additional partners have included the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and We Players, among others. [19] The Art in the Parks program includes the 2014-2015 exhibition "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz," and environmental sculptural works by Andy Goldsworthy. [20] Goldsworthy's 2014 piece, "Earth Wall," was built into the historic Officers' Club located in the Presidio the piece was unveiled as a part of the Presidio's 20th anniversary projects. [21]

Ai Weiwei's @Large featured seven installations across Alcatraz, including 176 portraits of various political exiles and prisoners of conscience, individuals including Edward Snowden, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. [22] [23] The portraits were made of 1.2 million pieces of Legos and were on display in areas that were once the dining hall, laundry building, and A Block cells of the Island. [24] The artist organized the show without ever visiting the site since the Chinese government restricts his travel. [25] The installation was a joint commission with the For-Site Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to support "art about place." Past Art in the Parks projects include large-scale sculptures from Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field podcasts and audio tours from Jeannene Przyblyski, and a 172-foot brush sculpture from Dee Hibbert Jones. [26]

Crissy Field Edit

Described as offering "one of the great vistas anywhere," and located along a 1.3-mile marsh area next to the Presidio of San Francisco, Crissy Field has longstanding ties to the U.S. military, and underwent an extensive renovation before reopening in 2001. [27] [28] Due to its large, flat, grassy landscape, the site was turned into an airfield and became the home of significant aviation research and development between World War I and II. The site also housed a top-secret Military Intelligence Service Language School. [27] When the military left after the war, it fell into relative disrepair until the National Park Service and Parks Conservancy oversaw its $34 million restoration, completed in 2001, which included a 28-acre re-creation airfield, as a part of the efforts to reinvigorate the Presidio as a national park. [28] [29]

The restoration was made possible through several significant donations, including one in the amount of $13.5 million from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. [30] Hargreaves Associates oversaw the project, and redesigned the site to complement the strong winds that shape the existing landscape. [31] The Crissy Field Center, a partnership of the Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, and Presidio Trust, focuses on community engagement it has provided programs to more than 800,000 students and adults since opening, including some 25,000 schoolchildren. [32] Many of its programs are designated specifically for low-income youths. [28] The restoration has been praised both for its focus on restoring wildlife habitat, and its positive impact for the surrounding community and visitors, with more than one million visitors annually. [28]

Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Edit

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge that connects San Francisco and Marin County. For the bridge's 75th anniversary in 2012, the Parks Conservancy, in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, oversaw several celebratory projects to commemorate its opening. These organizations partnered with companies such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Twitter, as well as Genentech and Wells Fargo to commemorate the event. Steering committee members included notable Bay Area leaders and residents, while members of the Honorary Committee included Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square, Inc. Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. and Frank Vega, former publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle. [33]

Events for the 75th anniversary included a large fireworks display, an exhibition at Fort Point known as "International Orange," dancing and music, and a fair to explore sustainability. [34] [35] The Festival events took place on May 27, 2012. The ongoing "Band of Bridges" project won Travel + Leisure's Social Media in Travel + Tourism (SMITTY) award. This yearlong campaign connected some 2,122 participants from around the world to the 75th anniversary tribute the "social experiment" created thousands of virtual bridges. [36] [37] [38]

Institute at the Golden Gate Edit

Located in Fort Baker on the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Institute at the Golden Gate is a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in partnership with the NPS. [39] It conducts research and offers lectures and community activities designed to connect residents to environmental issues related to parks including climate change, national food policy, and more. [40] The Institute has partnered with organizations such as the CDC and the National Recreation and Park Association. Many of its events take place at Cavallo Point, the Lodge at the Golden Gate, which has 14,000 square feet of space for meetings and events, and is a LEED certified building. It has won numerous awards for its design. [41] [42]

Past events at the Institute have included their 2011 and 2012 signature Turning the Tide conference, and a 2013 conference, Parks: The New Climate Classroom, which featured filmmakers, academics, and journalists who explored issues of sustainability. [43] [44] In the case of the new food policy program for national parks, the Institute worked with organizations including the Let's Move! initiative to establish better food standards for the 35 million annual meals served at national parks it now is seeking to implement those ideas on an even larger scale. A 2013 collaboration between numerous agencies led to "Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Bay Area," focused on offering low-cost activities for individuals who are at a high risk for various health problems. [44]

Lands End Edit

In 2012, the Parks Conservancy and National Park Service oversaw the opening of a new visitor center at Lands End, the Lands End Lookout. The Lookout sits in the northwestern area of San Francisco near the Sutro Baths it is roughly 4,000 square feet, and was built in conjunction with a series of additional improvements to the area that started in 2011. The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, as well as the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, provided funding for the project. [45]

Lands End is a historic site where the Yelamu tribe of Ohlone Native Americans resided. San Francisco entrepreneur Adolph Sutro supported the area's development in the late 19th century, including a Cliff House Railroad, which attracted visitors. Now, the Lands End Lookout offers visitors insight into the natural, cultural, and historic resources of the area, as well as highlighting the building's sustainable design. The site relies on volunteers to restore and maintain native wildlife habitat and the California Coastal Trail.

Mount Tamalpais Edit

Located in Marin County, Mount Tamalpais (Mt. Tam) encompasses more than 10 square miles of public land and open space, and is the primary source of drinking water for 75% of Marin's population. Established in 2014, the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative (TLC) combines the resources, skills, and expertise of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, National Park Service, Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), California State Parks, and Marin County Parks to preserve these protected public lands. [46] In November 2014, the TLC launched the One Tam Initiative to help raise awareness of the preservation efforts needed to secure Mt. Tam's future. The efforts include work to promote education, and philanthropy, and to increase support from volunteers. [47]

Specifically, efforts to maintain Mt. Tam are designed to combat the effects of climate change, habitat and biodiversity loss, forest pathogens, and inadequate opportunities for stewardship and learning. Additionally, events and trails on the site have been at or over capacity, prompting the expansion of offerings. The Cataract Trail has as many as 400 visitors each hour during wet season, for instance. [48] Preservation and community outreach projects include the Rare Plant Program, Cataract Trail Restoration, and youth programs designed to facilitate long-term commitment to the mountain. [49] [50]

Muir Woods Edit

Located in southwest Marin County, this grove of coast redwoods was declared a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It is named for the famous naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, and was established after the sudden influx of people into the San Francisco region during the California Gold Rush, prompting efforts to preserve the region's natural habitat. [51] Today, the park is the site of major conservation efforts—it is home to coho salmon and steelhead trout, both of which are threatened species, as well as the northern spotted owl. The Parks Conservancy operates a bookstore at Muir Woods, and supports staff who welcome visitors and provide orientation and interpretation of the national monument.

Muir Woods are perhaps best known for their stunning historic redwoods and paths these trees are anywhere from 400 to 800 years old. [52] The park has become increasingly popular over the past several years and visitors are encouraged to take public transportation when visiting since parking is limited. [51] It has also become something of a retreat for residents and visitors, and has been referenced for its historical beauty by writers such as Alan Garner. [53]

Presidio of San Francisco Edit

The Presidio of San Francisco is a 1,491-acre national park at the northern edge of the San Francisco Peninsula. The Army transferred the land to the NPS in 1994, and the Presidio Trust was established to manage the parcel in 1996. [54]

A plan to renovate a 13-acre area that will replace the elevated Doyle Drive highway and connect the Presidio's historic core with the San Francisco Bay waterfront, known as the New Presidio Parklands Project, is also currently underway. [55] The project is a joint operation between the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, and the Parks Conservancy. It calls for 10 acres of landscaping that will run above road tunnels, a plaza for the Presidio Visitor Center, and a "Learning Landscape" that will incorporate the new campus for Crissy Field Center. [56]

In 2014, New York's James Corner Field Operations, which was the project lead for New York's highly successful High Line elevated park, was chosen to oversee the design. The San Francisco-based architecture firm EHDD will also work on the project. [57] There are currently several variations on what form the final project will take, and the firm and partners are seeking community input to choose a direction. [58]

In 2012 the Presidio Trust issued a Request for Concept Proposals for transforming the site of the former Commissary (currently home to the Sports Basement) at mid-Crissy Field into a "cultural institution." The finalists in the RFP process were the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum (proposed by filmmaker George Lucas), The Bridge/Sustainability Institute (Chora Group/WRNS), and the Presidio Exchange (Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy). In February 2014, the Presidio Trust Board of Directors ultimately decided not to pursue any of the three options for the site. [59] [60]

The transformation of the Presidio into a national park has been substantially boosted by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, which made a historic gift of $15 million in 2007 to create a world-class network of trails, bikeways, and overlooks, and dramatically expand and renovate the Rob Hill Campground. [61] Camping at the Presidio programs use the site to introduce underserved youth to nature and the outdoors.

Doing Time as a Federal Prison: 1934-63

In 1933, the Army relinquished Alcatraz to the U.S. Justice Department, which wanted a federal prison that could house a criminal population too difficult or dangerous to be handled by other U.S. penitentiaries. Following construction to make the existing complex at Alcatraz more secure, the maximum-security facility officially opened on July 1, 1934. The first warden, James A. Johnston (1874-1954), hired approximately one guard for every three prisoners. Each prisoner had his own cell.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) viewed Alcatraz as “the prison system’s prison,” a place where the most disruptive inmates could be sent to live under sparse conditions with few privileges in order to learn how to follow rules (at which point, they could be transferred to other federal prisons to complete their sentences). According to the BOP, Alcatraz typically held some 260 to 275 prisoners, which represented less than 1 percent of the entire federal inmate population.

Merrie Way: An Archeology Case Study

In the late 19th century, Adolph Sutro establshed an amusement park called the Sutro Pleasure Grounds, located at Merrie Way at Lands End. Between 2004 and 2011 archaeologists working with the National Park Service surveyed and excavated the Merrie Way. Their aim was to learn more about the history of the site, about the people who visited and worked there, and about the material remains they left behind.

“Archaeology” and “Historical Archaeology”

The discipline of archaeology can be broken down in to different sub-disciplines.

Archaeology is the study of the past as it is revealed in material objects. Archaeologists survey and excavate places where people have lived in order to better understand their history, customs, and culture.

Historical archaeology is the study of sites that were occupied in historic times, that is, since the use of writing. For this reason historical archaeologists are able to rely not only on artifacts in order to interpret the past, but also on written records. They conduct surveys and excavations at sites, but they also read maps, newspaper articles, books, and other documents- anything that will give them information about the people and places they study.

The archaeological work done at Merrie Way was historical archaeology. Archaeologists working with the National Park Service began their study of Sutro’s amusement park by looking at the written record. They analysed historic maps to identify the park’s historic location. They read historic studies and biographies of people associated with the site. They gathered historic photos and even video footage from old films shot in the area. Archaeologists used these and countless other documents to build as complete a picture of Merrie Way as possible, before they even picked up a shovel.

Volunteers working at the Merrie Way archeological dig

Learn From the Merrie Way Work

The National Park Service invites you to follow the trail of archaeologists digging at Merrie Way and to get a firsthand look at the discoveries they made. Visit the following links to learn more about the history of Sutro’s amusement park and discover what pieces of history were unearthed at Merrie Way.

To learn more about the History of Merrie Way, please download and read "The Merrie Way & The Lands End Street Railway Abbreviated Cultural Landscape Report”.

To learn more about the history of Lands End and visitor information for this area, please visit our Plan Your Visit page for Lands End.

To learn more about archaeology within Golden Gate, please visit ourArchaeology at Golden Gate page.

Octagon House at Land's End

by John Martini
September 2009

Nearly engulfed by trees above the Land's End parking lot is an overlooked piece of San Francisco's maritime history, the octagonal-shaped Point Lobos Marine Exchange Lookout Station. Completed in early 1927, it was the last of a series of stations that stretched back to the Gold Rush whose function was to watch for approaching ships and announce their arrival. Once a ship was spotted, the lookout relayed the information (especially the ship's name or company insignia) to the Embarcadero where a small army of stevedores, tugs boats, taxis and drayage companies waited to unload the vessel's cargo and transport her passengers.

The easiest way to alert everyone simultaneously to the pending arrival was to establish to a notification network through which information could be quickly exchanged between interested commercial groups, hence the station's original name of "Merchant's Exchange Lookout."

During the Gold Rush, information about a ship's pending arrival was relayed to downtown by a series of semaphore towers equipped with signal vanes. Upon spotting a ship, the Point Lobos lookout at Land's End would adjust the signal arms atop his station to represent the type of ship approaching the Golden Gate. (For example, arms outstretched at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions meant "sidewheel steamer.") An observer at a similar station atop Robb Hill in the Presidio watched the Land's End station through a telescope, and relayed the signal settings. Overlooking the crowded harbor was the final semaphore station, located atop the hill called Loma Alta and visible to all downtown businesses. Locals quickly nicknamed the prominence Telegraph Hill.

The construction of telegraph lines in 1853 made the semaphore system obsolete, but the need to determine the identity of arriving ships and announce their arrival remained. At one point in the early 1900s there were actually two stations on the hillside above Land's End, one owned by the Merchant's Exchange and the other by William Randolph Hearst, who operated a competing Exchange service to his subscribers.

It should be remembered that all this occurred in the era before radios and ship-to-shore telephones allowed captains to simply call ahead and announce their arrival. And even when wireless transmission began to come into use, they weren't foolproof. (Think of the frequent drop-offs of cellphone service we currently endure.) Hence the need for visual confirmation of a ship's arrival continued for decades. In addition to sending out notifications about arriving ships, the Point Lobos lookout also provided a valuable safety service in the pre-radar era by watching for vessels in distress in the crowded Golden Gate.

The Merchant's Exchange station was relocated three times over the years, and even received a new name in 1911 when it became part of the city's Chamber of Commerce. When the present building was dedicated the Chronicle gave its full title as the "Point Lobos observation station of the marine department of the Chamber of Commerce." (Whew.)

The name Marine Exchange shortly came into use.

The reason for constructing the new lookout station appears to have been civic improvement. A previous Merchants Exchange station had stood since 1889 at the site of the present USS San Francisco Memorial, but the shingled structure was smack-dab in the middle of a planned scenic overlook being developed as part of El Camino Del Mar -- the ill-fated boulevard that once connected Sea Cliff with the Cliff House. The existing lookout station was still serviceable but it was simply in the way. In 1926 the city decided to demolish the old building and construct a new one on the hillside partway between El Camino Del Mar and the Fort Miley military reservation. The present station was dedicated in February 1927.

Originally, the lookout and his family lived in a residence on the first floor of the station while the watch room upstairs contained a huge telescope (reportedly with a 30 mile range) along with telephone and radio equipment. A garage occupied the lowest level. The building's eight-sided design resulted in a rather unique interior floorplan with several pie-slice shaped rooms. In 1940, a WPA-commisioned history of San Francisco described the station's purpose as "to report vessels entering the harbor to their owners, the Immigration Department, the Customhouse, the press, supply houses, taxi companies and hotels. Craft are identified after they pass the light-ship near the Farallones."

A family member who grew up at the station posted this information to the Outside Lands message board: "There were two lookouts assigned to the Point. Julius Larsen with his family lived there first. He had been with the Marine Exchange for some time already and had moved up from the older station . which the new station replaced. He was followed by his night relief lookout, William Sloan Morrissey. William married Mr. Larsen's daughter Anne and together they lived there raising four children until Anne took ill in 2002. William had passed away in 1975 but the family had been allowed to retain the house [by the City] in lieu of a pension. The National Park Service honored that contract until Anne was no longer able to live in the house."

The Marine Lookout Station is now owned by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and plans are being developed for the unique building's preservation and future reuse.

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