Growing up in San Francisco, many of us City kids took our surroundings for granted. The historical significance of places was not important to us at that time. For example, the Palace of Fine Arts complex in the Marina is where my grandfather took me to feed the ducks. Watching the ducks eating the bread I brought to them, I remember thinking the lagoon was nice and the building was just a familiar structure in the background.
Please enjoy this video clip with soothing music. And when you see the people, you can appreciate the enormous scale of this treasure:
Our grand Palace is 98 years old this year. It was originally constructed for the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915 to display works of art. The exposition was a way for San Francisco to show the world we were back in fine form after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The Palace building and columns were designed by architect Bernard Maybeck as an imagined ruin in the classical style of Roman and Greek architecture. The structures were supposed to last from February to December of 1915, for the run of the exposition, so they were built of a wood frames covered in a mixture of plaster and burlap fiber. Our Palace was essentially constructed of a sort-of paper-mache.
By the 1950s, the original building and columns were in ruins. A group of volunteers stepped in with donations and advocacy to rebuild the Palace. Plans were approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by 1962 and the original structures were completely demolished and rebuilt in 1964. This time they used steel beams and poured concrete.
By 2003, a new “Restore the Palace of Fine Arts” campaign was launched to make repairs to the structures, the lagoon and the landscaping. While the work was being done, the Palace was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 5, 2005. The restoration of the whole complex was completed in early 2011 and cost $21 million.
If you want to time-travel back to see Panama Pacific Exposition, here are some fun film clips of our beloved San Francisco from 1915, without any sound: