Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Infobox park
park=Golden Gate Park

image size=400px
caption=An aerial view (facing south) of Golden Gate Park from The Panhandle (at far left edge of picture) to the Pacific Ocean
type=Municipal (San Francisco)
location=San Francisco
size=1017 acres (4.1 km²) (1.6 mi²)
annual visitors=13 million
status=Open all year

Golden Gate Park, located in San Francisco, California, is a large urban park consisting of 1017 acres (4.1 km², 1.6 mi²) of public grounds. Configured as a rectangle, it is similar in shape but 174 acres (0.7 km², 0.27 mi²) larger than Central Park in New York, to which it is often compared. With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the third most visited city park in The United States (after Central Park and Lincoln Park in Chicago).


In the 1860s, San Franciscans began to feel the need for a spacious public park similar to Central Park that was taking shape in New York. 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 then-San Francisco's borders. Although the park was conceived under the guise of recreation, the underlying justification was to attract housing development and provide for 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 commissioner in 1871. He was later named California's first State Engineer and developed an integrated flood control system for the Sacramento Valley when he was not working on Golden Gate Park.

The actual plan and planting were developed by Hall and his assistant, John McLaren, who had apprenticed in Scotland, the homeland of many of the nineteenth century's best professional gardeners. 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 exchanged for a racetrack favored by "the Big Four" millionaires, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, and Charles Crocker. Hall resigned and the remaining park commissioners followed him. 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 (the city's population at the time was about 250,000). Hall selected McLaren as his successor in 1887.

The first stage stabilized the ocean dunes that covered three-quarters of the park area with tree plantings. By 1875, about 60,000 trees, mostly Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Monterey pine and Monterey cypress, were planted. By 1879, that figure more than doubled to 155,000 trees over 1,000 acres (4 km²). Later McLaren scoured the world through his correspondents for trees. When McLaren refused to retire at age 60, as was customary, the San Francisco city government was bombarded with letters: when he reached 70, a charter amendment was passed to exempt him from forced retirement. He lived in McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park until he died at age 90, in 1943.

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 has been restored to its original appearance and is adjacent to a flower garden, a gift of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. These are planted with tulip bulbs for winter display and other flowers in appropriate seasons. Murphy's Windmill in the south of the park is currently being restored.

Most of the water used for landscape watering and for various water features is now provided by the use of highly processed and recycled effluent from the city's sewage treatment plant, located at the beach some miles away to the south near the San Francisco Zoo. 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.

Golden Gate Park is adjacent to Haight Ashbury, and it was the site of the Human Be-In of 1967, preceding the Summer of Love. The tradition of large, free public gatherings in the park continues to the present, especially at Speedway Meadow. One of the largest events held annually at the park starting in 2001 has been the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (formerly the "Strictly Bluegrass Festival"), a free festival held in October. Speedway Meadow also plays host to number of large scale events such as the 911 Power to the Peaceful Festival held by Musician and Filmmaker Michael Franti with Guerrilla Management .

Major features

Japanese Tea Garden

The five acre (20,000 m²) Japanese tea garden at Golden Gate Park is an immensely popular feature.

The Music Concourse Area

The Music Concourse is an open area with three water fountains surrounded with trees positioned uniformly. There is also a stage on the east side. The buildings near the concourse area include The California Academy of Sciences and De Young Museum.

Since 2003, the Music Concourse has been undergoing a series improvements to include an underground 800-car parking garage, narrowing of the roadways, the addition of bike lanes, and the elimination of existing surface parking.

De Young Museum

Named for M. H. de Young, the San Francisco newspaper magnate, the De Young Museum was opened January 1921. Its original building had been part of The California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, of which Mr. de Young was the director. The de Young was completely rebuilt and the new building opened in 2005.

Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, and also houses the Steinhart Aquarium and the Morrison Planetarium. The Academy of Sciences carries exhibits of reptiles and amphibians, astronomy, prehistoric life, various gems and minerals, earthquakes, and aquatic life. A completely new building for the Museum opened in September 2008.

an Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum

The San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum was laid out in the 1890s, but funding was insufficient until Helene Strybing willed funds in 1926. Planting was begun in 1937 with WPA funds supplemented by local donations. This 55 acre (222,500 m²) arboretum contains more than 7,500 plant species. The arboretum also houses the Helen Crocker Russell Library; northern California's largest horticultural library.

AIDS Memorial Grove

The AIDS Memorial Grove has been in progress since 1988 and is still the only national AIDS memorial in the U.S.. The Grove's executive director, Thom Weyand, has said that "part of the beauty of the grove is that as a memorial which receives no federal money, it is blessedly removed from the fight over the controversy of AIDS."

tow Lake

Stow Lake surrounds the prominent Strawberry Hill, now an island with an electrically pumped waterfall. Rowboats, pedalboats, and electrically powered boats can be rented at the boathouse. Much of the western portion of San Francisco can be seen from the top of this hill, which at its top contains one of the reservoirs that supply a network of high-pressure water mains that exclusively supply specialized fire hydrants throughout the city.

preckels Lake

Spreckels Lake is located on the northern side of the park near 36th Avenue. As the home waters of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club, one can usually find model yachts sailing on Spreckels Lake. Many of these are of the 'free-sail' type used before the advent of the modern radio controlled model. The yachts are set up by their owners, and most include either an auxiliary wind vane or main sheet linkage to control the rudder in response to varying wind conditions. The yachts are then released, and pole handlers will walk down each side of the lake with a padded pole to prevent the yachts from colliding with the lake edge. The lake has been specifically designed for this type of operation, as it has a vertical edging (allowing the yachts to closely approach the shore) and a paved walkway around the entire edge. At one location near a grassy area, "duckling ramps" allow young wildlife to leave the pond safely.

Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers is one of the world's largest conservatories built of traditional wood and glass panes. It was prefabricated for local entrepreneur James Lick for his Santa Clara, California, estate but was still in its crates when he died in 1876. A group of San Franciscans bought it and offered it to the city, and it was erected in Golden Gate Park and opened to the public in 1879. 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 (160 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.

Kezar Stadium

Kezar Stadium, the one-time home San Francisco 49ers of the AAFC and NFL and the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League prior to each team moving to its current home venue, was built between 1922 and 1925 in the southeast corner of the park. The old 59,000-seat stadium was demolished in 1989 and replaced with a modern 9,044-seat stadium. The Stadium was recently home to the Major League Lacrosse's San Francisco Dragons and the United Soccer League's California Victory. The original stadium was featured in the film "Dirty Harry", starring Clint Eastwood.

John F. Kennedy Drive

John F. Kennedy Memorial Drive was the new name for North Drive, winding from the East end of the park to the Great Highway, renamed after the Kennedy Assassination. The portion east of the 19th Avenue park crossing is closed to motor traffic on Sundays and holidays, providing a popular oasis for pedestrians, bicyclists, and skaters. In 1983 the other major transverse road, South Drive, was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Minor features

There are also a number of more naturalistically landscaped lakes throughout the park, several linked together into chains, with pumped water creating flowing creeks. There is a short trail lined with large tree ferns.

A notable bronze statue of Don Quixote and his companion, Sancho Panza, both kneeling in honor of their creator Cervantes, may be found in one of the many walks in the park.

A paddock corrals a small herd of bison, captive in the Park since 1892. []

Many statues of famous people are located throughout the park, including Francis Scott Key, Robert Emmet, Robert Burns, Goethe and Schiller (sharing a single pedestal), General Pershing, Beethoven, Giuseppe Verdi, President Garfield, and Thomas Starr King. At the Horseshoe Pits there is a concrete bas-relief of "The Horseshoe Pitcher" by "Vet" Anderson, a member of the Horseshoe Club.

Also, the "Janis Joplin Tree" is a favorite site for many tourists and locals. Located on the edge of Hippie Hill, is it said to have just enough room in its branches for a girl and her guitar.

Chronic homeless controversy

The chronic homeless population living in Golden Gate Park has often resulted in police "sweeps" aimed at clearing homeless encampments from the park. Some visitors and nearby residents argue that such encampments bring unsafe and unsanitary conditions, e.g. areas strewn with used needles and syringes, garbage, and human excrement. [ [ Not a place to call home anymore / Major push in place to clean 'crown jewel' ] ] Critics of the crackdown on homeless encampments in the park argue that the situation has not worsened in recent years, and that campaigns against homeless people have often been undertaken by mayors of the city for symbolic, political reasons. [ [ San Francisco Bay Guardian ] ] In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit against the city government on behalf of ten homeless people alleging property violations by the City during sweeps in Golden Gate Park the year before. [ [ ] .]

Golden Gate Park in film

San Francisco has a long, storied history of being featured in film, but possibly because of its relative seclusion from downtown areas and limited vistas of major landmarks, Golden Gate Park has rarely enjoyed the cinematic spotlight, though Charlie Chaplin filmed scenes for at least two movies there ("A Jitney Elopement" and "In the Park", both from 1915). [] The cloaked Klingon ship in "" lands in the park, but the filming was done elsewhere.

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel shot an interpretive campaign advertisement at Spreckels Lake [] .

ee also

*Panhandle (San Francisco)
*Conservatory of Flowers


External links

* [ Golden Gate Park unofficial site]
* [ America's Most Visited Parks]
* [ Park History with maps from San Francisco Recreation and Park Department]
* [ Map]
* [,-122.481079&spn=0.054850,0.074527&t=h&hl=en Google map including satellite image ca. early 2004]
* [ Friends of the Music Concourse - local preservation and advocacy group]
* [ Another capsule biography of Hall]
* [ Park history from San Francisco Historical Society]
* [ Article regarding Golden Gate Park Playground]
* [ Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority] redevelopment program
* [ Brief "vita" of John McLaren, the park superintendent]

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