Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Palace of Fine Arts

We recently enjoyed a weekend of Giants baseball in San Francisco. Since Saturday's game didn't start until six p.m. I convinced my husband to visit The Palace of Fine Arts.

This was one of ten palaces in the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal, the vitality of world commerce, and San Francisco's recovery from the 1906 earthquake. The fair covered a square mile and ran from February through December. Because it was planned as a temporary exhibit, the statues were mostly paper mache while the buildings were wood plastered with gypsum and hemp. A few, including the elephants and fountain in Sausalito, still survive. Like the current Palace, they have been rebuilt in concrete from molds of the originals.

The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Bernard Maybeck designed this palace as a fictional ruin with Roman and Greek inspirations. Maidens sculpted by Ulric Ellerhusen top the colonnade, weeping at the thought of a world without art. Their tears were supposed to water trees in those boxes but the structures wouldn't hold so much weight.

Weeping Maidens top each set of pillars
on the colonnade at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Alexander Bell and Thomas Watson opened the Exposition with the first transcontinental phone call from San Francisco to New York City. Visitors rode in wicker carts through a miniature Panama Canal. At night, lights shining through Austrian cut glass gems lit up the sky bestowing the name, The Jewel City.

A day ticket cost 50 cents; an annual pass cost $10. I learned that Ansel Adams was given an annual pass by his father with instructions to attend daily and learn about the different countries, technologies and scientific wonders. (He still studied composition, grammar, and music at home in the evenings.)

We ran into this lovely group of friends celebrating the Exposition in authentic regalia complete with pennants.

Historically dressed for the 1915 Exposition.

Immediately after they drove off in their flivver a cadre of bicyclists rode through celebrating World Naked Bike Ride day. No photos but it was a unique juxtaposition.

Enjoy the day, Ann


Angie in SoCal said...

We're going there in June so this was a timely report for us. Thank you!

Lara B. said...

Ha! That would be an interesting juxtaposition, LOL. Ann those photos are fascinating. An my imagination immediately filled in what it would have looked like if the colonnades could have held trees. It would have been even more awe inspiring and brings to mind the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Love the people who threw themselves into the spirit by dressing for the times. They know how to have fun!
Buffalo, NY too had a Pan-Am World's Fair Exposition in 1901. If you look at photos you can see that it was astonishing. It has always made me sad that so much of these types of expos were only built to last a brief time.

Ann said...

I'm sure you'll enjoy SF; there's always something to do. Since this is the 100th anniversary of the Fair, there are several exhibits around town. One is at the Palace. Not sure where the others are. If you want to visit Alcatraz, be sure to purchase tickets early.

Ann said...

I find these old Expositions very interesting. The drawings of this Fair are so colorful. And the photos show it was very extensive and close-packed. (Even better than Judy Garland's 'Meet Me in St. Louis.' ) But I know they were in Chicago, too. And now Buffalo. Lots to research and, hopefully, visit.
If we'd gotten to the Palace earlier we might have seen them perform (or whatever they were doing.) Watching them drive away in a flivver was so delightful!

Monica said...

I have a funny memory of the Palace of Fine Arts. When I first moved to the Bay Area I was taken there by a guy who thought it would be romantic, but unfortunately I was not that into him! It is a pretty location, though. Chuckle.

Ann said...

It certainly is lovely even if it is a bit over the top. There were couples around every corner being photographed for proms and weddings. Add to that the tourists and it was quite a crowd. Great scene, no privacy.

Kaja said...

That's weird, I left a comment a couple of days ago but it's disappeared. I seem to have communication issues at the moment. I love this little peek at a slice of history, and how perfect to find your group in costume.

Janie said...

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. SF is like that, always a thrill one way or another.

Ann said...

They were so delightful with perfectd costumes. And seeing them all piled into the flivver was priceless.

Ann said...

There were so many photos of the Palace but I hadn't been until now. It's simply lovely. SF does have the most amazing mix of people. Definitely a joyful town.