A Walk in the Park with Don – 8 April 2013

64.2 F, Clear with winds 8.0 from the North

Golden Gate Park never looked fresher Monday morning as we gathered at the base of the stairway leading up to the Conservatory of Flowers. Don is a volunteer with San Francisco City Guides and our hikes with him have always been memorable – filled with a wealth of fascinating detail. This one was definitely of a piece. A walk with Don McLaurin is social history at its best. You might say that we’ve been forming a “happy habit” on our previous hikes with him along Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and Coit Tower & the earlier one walking the Panhandle and the Haight Ashbury district. Makes sense that we did the Panhandle first since that is the earliest part of Golden Gate Park. Monday we were ready for our next installment of, hopefully, a series that will continue all the way to Ocean Beach! So many pools to jump into. We’ve got a cornucopia to feast on. Additions, corrections por favor>


The Conservatory of Flowers is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. It was originally intended for the palatial estate of James Lick on the Peninsula but when he died in 1876, it was bequeathed to The Society of California Pioneers. They sold it to a group of San Francisco business men who gave it to the City of San Francisco. The state legislature allocated construction funds of $40,000 and joint public & private financing continue today.



Scott shared that the proposed Beach Chalet Athletic Fields Project is a major threat to the Park’s natural environment: destroying trees, putting in acres of plastic grass and tire waste, and destroying the night with 150,000 watts on 60 foot-tall stadium lights. He gave us an opportunity to fill out cards protesting these destructive ideas.



Don took us around the compass as we stood before the Conservatory. To the northwest was the Casino notable for gambling and other more comforting endeavors. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf9z09p52m/ Beyond the park was a horse racing track, to the west he pointed out a Sierra Redwood (Sequoia gigantea) called The Liberty Tree planted by the Sequoia Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on April 19, 1894. In this general vicinity was the first of three music bandstands in the park: http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf2b69p0wh/ Continuing around was a tunnel under the road championed by the Park’s remarkable designer, William Hammond Hall, to facilitate foot traffic and to separate carriage / car traffic from the pedestrians. Further around the circle was the statue of the assassinated President James A. Garfield in 1881 – close to the time of the Conservatory’s construction in 1876 and finally almost full circle to the substantial Dahlia garden cared for by just a half dozen volunteers.

http://horthistoria.com/?p=124 – Fascinating article on William Hammond Hall

Of course, another hero of Golden Gate Park is more well known, the remarkable John McLaren who was superintendent of the park for 53 years. In the frescoes at the Beach Chalet there is a rendering of McLaren receiving the gift of a root-balled Redwood tree on his 90th birthday. The frescoes are highly recommended. Don pointed out that McLaren hated the statues that were appearing in the park and did his best to put plantings all around them.

http://www.aapra.org/Pugsley/McLarenJohn.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McLaren_(horticulturist)

A third hero or heroine of Golden Gate Park that Don talked about is Alice Eastwood. She as a leader in the field of Western US Botany was an astounding collector of botanical specimens, over 340,000 for the Academy of Sciences in her lifetime. Becoming a curator of botany at the Academy when it was even more of a male world was a remarkable accomplishment. She saved 1497 irreplaceable “type” specimens from the then downtown Academy just before fire consumed the building going up to the 6th floor after severe earthquake damage. The famous picture of her in full Victorian regalia looking the damage at Olema was taken by G.K. Gilbert who was a star at the US Geological Service. They knew each other from Sierra Club outings and Gilbert said, “Alice and I have been lovers for years.” They had planned to marry but he died of a heart ailment on May 1, 1918. She continued her love of botany until her death in 1953 at the age of 94.

http://horthistoria.com/?p=100 http://cluttermuseum.blogspot.com/2007/08/unleashing-alice-eastwood-style.html


One of the many statues in Golden Gate Park, Don asked us who it was for and finally with no takers told us that it was Jim Fogarty, a professional baseball player born in San Francisco in 1864 who played as an outfielder in the Major Leagues from 1884 – 1890, Philadelphia Quakers and Philadelphia Athletics. Sadly, he died in Philadelphia of tuberculosis at the age of 27. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Fogarty The sculptor was the famous Douglas Tilden who became deaf at the age of four after a severe bout with scarlet fever. http://ifmyhandscouldspeak.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/douglas-tilden-sculptor/

Don shows us some historical photos of Sharon Meadow where Funston’s troop bivouacked after the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco. To the left is another historical monument, Hippie Hill. http://lenzbreakr.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/sf-oddities-hippy-hill/

Sharon Art Studio stained glass: http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/sharon-arts-studio/
http://nationalcarousel.org/psp/GoldenGate/ Lovely display of the creatures of fancy on the Herschell-Spillman Carousel behind the Sharon Art Studio. If you go to Archives/Music on this site, you can find carousel music to play as you look at them.

Spotting the manager of the SF Lawn Bowling Club, Don got us an invitation to come inside. Don said that he tries to ask knowledgeable people along the way to supplement his walks whenever he can. We got a chance to handle the biased balls and they are heavy and challenging to keep in balance. It is played on a pitch which may be flat or convex or uneven. It was the favorite sport of John McClaren (and perhaps Jane McClaren?) Lawn bowling is related to bocce and petanque. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowls No cell phones and no smoking on the green!

One head gardener is in charge of the Aids Memorial Grove. Roy told us about the extensive volunteer support program for the garden, multi-age and coming sometimes from a distance. He relayed how he was able to bring water flow back to the garden by exploring with a hose, the sound of water, the sound of life.


Circle of Friends

After lunch at the Music Concourse, Don took us on a tour of the Japanese Tea Garden (Thank you Michael for the admission!) and continued to add to the remarkable day but . . . I ran out of battery and whipping out my spare found that it hadn’t been charged! So, much imagination is welcomed for the walk about the Tea Garden. The Tea Garden grew out of the Japanese Village in the 1894 California Midwinter Exposition in Golden Gate Park. George Turner Marsh designed and administered the Japanese Village in the exhibition and landscape gardener Makato Hagiwara “lovingly transformed it into today’s Japanese Tea Garden.”


http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/japanese-tea-garden/ http://www.hanascape.com/aboutus/teagarden/


Thanks again Don for a super hike! Lew et al.

Extra Credit:

What’s a statue for Henry W. Halleck, “Old Brains”, Lincoln’s General-In-Chief doing in Golden Gate Park?


Halleck “built the Montgomery Block, San Francisco’s first fireproof building, home to lawyers,businessmen, and later, the City’s Bohemian writers and newspapers.” Among other things, he owned the 30,000 acre Rancho Nicasio in Marin County.

Here is a choice Sunset article from the post earthquake period that describes the “Bohemians” partying in the “Monkey Block” after the quake.

http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb9w1009z0;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=div00003&toc.depth=1&toc.id=&brand=calisphere&query=Race Track near

Golden Gate Park

LAST but not least an opportunity to drive around San Francisco (including Golden Gate Park) in vintage 50’s cars, after all it’s 1955. Nicely done travel film that claims to be in Cinemascope and is done by a guy named Tullio Pellagrini. Think of it as a trip to Cuba. http://archive.org/details/SanFrancisco1955CinemascopeFilm Lew

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