San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for San Francisco’s world’s fair, officially called the Panama Pacific International Exposition in honor of the opening of the Panama Canal in August 1914. All of the buildings of the fair were supposed to be torn down right after the fair closed but the Palace was spared and then renovated a few times over the years and is now celebrating its 100th anniversary.


The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.

Some of our Irish cousins — Claire and her husband Peter and their twin daughters Emma and Ciarra — visited our country, state and city recently and we spent two days showing them the sites. On Day One we concentrated on Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and other attractions in the city’s North Beach area. Then we brought them to our home in Castro Valley and dinner at an Italian restaurant (Baci Bistro and Bar) in Pleasanton. On Day Two we drove them to the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito, stopping along the way at the Palace of Fine Arts.


One of several entrances to the urban park.


The colonnade is composed of thirty Corinthian columns.


That’s my cousin Claire and one of her twin daughters in the middle ground.

The Palace was designed by Bernard Maybeck, a popular architect associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th Century. It was built of wood and then covered with a mixture of plaster and burlap- type fiber. In the 1960s it was rebuilt in concrete and steel. Another renovation project began in 2005 and was completed in 2010. It is currently one of the most popular spots in San Francisco, especially for weddings and wedding photography.


In the 1960s steel and concrete columns replaced the original wooden columns.


Sculpture on rotunda base.

The Palace was the home to the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s famed science museum, from 1969 until 2013 when that institution moved to its present location at Pier 15 on The Embarcadero. The City’s Parks and Recreation Department has recently sent out a request for proposals for leasing of the Palace and grounds. There have been more than a half-dozen proposals submitted so far and we should find out soon what the future will  hold for the Palace. Right now the admission is free. I hope it stays that way!


The rotunda is 1100 feet wide and 162 feet high.


View of the Palace lagoon. The whole area was once a swampland and most of the neighboring buildings are also 100 years old.

We then drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and had lunch in Sausalito before returning to see more San Francisco landmarks. Stay tuned for more pictures from this trip.


About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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5 Responses to San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts

  1. StillWalks says:

    That looks like an amazing place. I’d love to visit some day.

  2. disperser says:

    I’d never heard of this (but then I did not set out to find out what’s over there) but it looks impressive. Thanks.

  3. tedstrutz says:

    My favorite building and a must visit when I am in The City. Fab photos.

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