Golden Gate Park, San Francisco’s wooded sanctuary, has been filled with entertaining oddities since it was created out of sand dunes during the 1870s. Twenty percent larger than New York City’s oft-romanticized Central Park, GGP has world-class museums, bison, a carousel, lakes, and so much more.

Take a tour with us through the late 19th century, and up to the early 1960s for a peek behind the canopy of trees.

Golden Gate Park Conservatory, circa 1879

sf-1-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp26.354.jpg

The Conservatory of Flowers opened the same year this photo was taken. It still stands today, and is the oldest structure in all of Golden Gate Park. It’s also one of the few large Victorian greenhouses in the United States.

Music Concourse, circa 1885

sf-2-compressed (1)

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp26.365.jpg

This open air plaza is surrounded by the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. A cultural hub, you can listen to free concerts here on Sundays during the summer.

Conservatory of Flowers, circa 1890

sf-3 2-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp27.0602.jpg

Here’s an inside and sepia-toned look at the Conservatory of Flowers. Though it’s hard to tell which room this photo was taken in, the Conservatory now holds a Lowlands and Highlands Gallery of potted plants.

Bison in the bison paddock, circa 1895

sf-4-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp24.272a.jpg

Bison have been kept in the park since 1891, when a small herd was bought by the park commission. In 1894, Mayor Richard C. Blum purchased an additional herd for his wife as a gift — the bison left today are their descendents.

Fishing on Stow Lake, circa 1900

sf-5-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp27.0003.jpg

In the middle of Stow Lake is an island named Strawberry Hill with an electrically pumped waterfall. While this young lady seems content fishing, she also had the choice of renting a rowboat or paddleboat.  

The grizzly bear known as Monarch, 1911

sf-6-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp27.1420.jpg

In retrospect, it’s a tragic story for Monarch the grizzly bear, who would later become the official animal of the State of California. William Randolph Hearst commissioned newspaper reporter Allen Kelley to capture the last living wild grizzly bear. Kelley and a large staff discovered Monarch in the Ojai Valley in Southern California, and brought him to San Francisco for 22 years of captivity.

A couple in front of the legendary Gjøa ship, circa 1920

sf-7-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp27.4185.jpg

This ship, which was curiously docked and put on display in Golden Gate Park, was the first to traverse the Northwest Passage. The three year journey began in Scandinavia, the ship then edged its way around the northern tip of North America, and finally travelled south along the western coast until it hit San Francisco. Led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, the explorer agreed to donate the ship to San Francisco at the urging of the Norwegian-American community. It sat in Golden Gate Park on display until it was sent back to Norway in 1972 for restoration.

Group photo of Japanese sailors in the Japanese Tea Garden, circa 1930

sf-8-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp28.1015.jpg

Pictured above is the oldest public Japanese tea garden in the United States. It was conceived of by Makoto Hagiwara, who wanted the temporary exhibit from the 1894 World’s Fair transformed into a permanent park. He was the caretaker for the tea garden up until his death in 1925. He was the one to order the cherry blossom trees, koi fish and other native plants. After his death his daughter Takano Hagiwara became the caretaker of the gardens (she lived on the property with her children), but she and her family were taken to an internment camp during WWII due to anti-Japanese sentiments. They were not allowed back or reimbursed after the war ended. If you take a tour of the gardens, this story is told each and every time.

Boy Scouts inside of Kezar Stadium, 1940s

sf-9-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp28.1450.jpg

The original Kezar Stadium, built in 1925, had a capacity of 59,000. Following the the earthquake of 1989, the stadium demolished and then rebuilt with only 9,044 seats.

Animal Farm at the Children’s Playground, 1948

sf-10

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp14.10081.jpg

Now known as the Koret Playground, this spot was formerly known as the Children’s Playground. It was the first public children’s playground in America, and offered a carousel, swings, indoor enclosures and a petting farm.

49ers vs. Giants in Kezar Stadium, 1956

sf-11-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp14.2385.jpg

The original Kezar Stadium was the home of the San Francisco 49ers from 1946 to 1970, as well as the host for the Oakland Raiders for one season in 1960.

Chihuahua Express making a pit stop, 1960

sf-12-compressed

Photo: OpenSFHistory / wnp25.0185.jpg

This photo is a prime example of why we love San Francisco and all of its quirky inhabitants.

Developments featured in this article

More Like This

Facebook Chatter