The Japanese Tea Garden was first created for the 1894 California World's Fair in the area that is now the Music Concourse. John McLaren, who did much of the overall design of Golden Gate Park, was approached by a Japanese landscape designer who wanted to convert the temporary exhibit into a permanent section of the park. They imported many plants, goldfish, birds, statues, Shinto Shrine, wooden Buddha and bronzes, to make the space restful and green. Ironically this garden was intended only for the exposition and was to be intentionally dismantled soon after. Fortunately it also escaped earthquake destruction in 1906.
Sacramento St, San Francisco during the earthquake, 1906
Photo credit: History Today January 2014
In April 1906, an earthquake severely shook the city. A tremour started that lasted a relatively short time, and as there had been minor earthquakes in northern California over the previous decades, no-one seemed too worried. At first! In the 1906 photo, you can see groups of people who have pulled comfortable chairs out onto the street, to watch the events.
It was fire that was so destructive. Within a couple of days of the quake, some fire-fighters used dynamite to demolish buildings and to create fire breaks. Other serious fires were caused by ruptured gas mains and destroyed water mains; the escaped gas caused the explosions and the lack of water meant there was no way to control the fires. Althogether 25,000 buildings disappeared in the explosions and fires which went on for ages. Of the city’s population which had been about 400,000 at the time, some 3,000 died.
The army was the only organisation strong enough to take control of relief efforts in the battered city. Two months later, in the middle of a hot summer, three quarters of the population was still homeless. Refugee tent camps were in open spaces across the city.
It was urgent that the city regrow from the ashes. In hosting the Panama-Pacific World International Exposition in Feb 1915, San Francisco was honouring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal; but the city was clearly celebrating its own resurrection after the shattering 1906 earthquake and fire.
Palace of Fine Arts, opened 1915.
The Palace of Fine Arts was specifically designed for this Panama-Pacific Exposition. Architect Bernard Maybeck created an overgrown Roman ruin, to show "the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes". Although it was meant to delight by its exterior beauty, its purpose was also to offer all visitors an inspiring experience inside. The exhibition hall housed the art works, especially Impressionist works; its colonnade and rotunda were beautifully reflected in the surrounding water. For amazingly detailed photos of the architecture, see the blog Architect Design.
After the terrible earthquakes that greatly damaged the original municipal buildings in Civic Centre, a rebuilt City Hall was completed in 1915. The architect was Arthur Brown, a San Francisco architect known for a number of local land-mark buildings. Brown was the right man for the job. In the City Hall project, the Beaux-Arts focus was on a huge dome.
Apart from City Hall, buildings in Civic Centre eventually included a main library, opera house and Davies Symphony Hall. San Francisco Opera was founded by Gaetano Merola and incorporated in 1923. The Company's first performance took place in Sep 1923, in the City's Civic Auditorium. 9 years later, the Company moved into its new War Memorial Opera House, also built by Arthur Brown.
Brown also designed San Francisco's Veterans Building and Temple Emanuel. But his most famous site was Coit Tower 1932 on top of Telegraph Hill that was dedicated to the San Francisco fire fighters. The art deco unpainted reinforced concrete tower, 64ms high, was dedicated in 1933 and reminds visitors of a fireman’s nozzle. The funds were bequeathed by Mrs Coit, widow of a wealthy financier.
The earthquake did not harm San Francisco’s lovely waterscapes, both natural and man-made. Built originally at the end of a natural peninsula, over the top of hills, the city is still surrounded by the gorgeous waters of the Golden Gate, the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Since my son and his family moved to San Francisco for a few years, our favourite sights have been the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, opened in 1936, and the Golden Gate Bridge, 1937. And since we don’t eat meat, we spend a lot of time watching the fishing fleet keep Fisherman’s Wharf busy with fresh fish and tourists by the thousands.
Golden Gate Bridge, opened 1937.