“While an unusually large proportion of the population of the San Francisco is engaged in no useful industry, the more important part of it is wearing itself out with constant labor, study, and business anxieties, at a rate which is unknown elsewhere. A public recreation ground is essential in preserving the health and vigor and especially the moral tone of this larger class.”

Fredrick Olmsted, co-creator of New York’s Central Park,
in a report commissioned by SF Mayor H. P. Coon, 1866.

In 1870, by agreement of the city, state, and federal governments, 1016 acres were set aside for Golden Gate Park. William Hammond Hall, at the age of 24, won by low bid the contract to survey Golden Gate Park. He subsequently created a proposal for the Park and was appointed Engineer and Superintendent in 1871. In 5 years, through trial and error, he developed techniques to first stabilize the shifting sand dunes that made up 73% of the Park, and then to plant 60,000 trees and shrubs.

In 1882, Gustave Fuchs conducted a 12-piece band in the newly constructed bandstand in the western end of Conservatory Valley, and thus began a long history of public open-air concerts in Golden Gate Park.
In 1888, a far grander structure was erected where the tennis court pavilion now stands. For the 1894 Mid-Winters Fair, the current Concourse area was carved out to serve as the Court of Honor. Following the fair development continued with the addition of the pedestrian tunnels and the planting of elm trees to be trimmed to form the formal canopy that would shade concertgoers.

With the prodding of his son, Park Commissioner Adolph Spreckels, Claus Spreckels donated the Spreckels Temple of Music. At the formal dedication of the Concourse and ‘bandshell’ on Sept. 5th 1900, Claus addressed a crowd 75,000 and proclaimed “ This noble pleasure ground will doubtless be the chief scene of the open air festivities of the people of California and indeed of the whole Pacific Coast for all time to come.”

And so it has, hosting musians from John Phillips Sousa and Pavarotti, to the Grateful Dead. The Golden Gate Park Band continues a 120-year tradition performing every summer Sunday.

Most Saturdays, festivals fill the ’bandshell’ with music and dance. Additionally, dozens meet daily, under the shade of the elms, for Eastern exercise and meditation.

Every Sunday morning, a large group gathers to swing dance and every Sunday afternoon, a smaller group gathers to Tango.

The Music Concourse is an integral part of the fabric that makes Golden Gate Park a true pleasure ground.


THE POOL OF ENCHANTMENT - 1917 -
DESTROYED BY THE FINE ARTS MUSEUMS - 2002 -

HISTORIC IMAGES COURTESY GREG GARR
CURRENT IMAGES : CHRISTOPHER DUDERSTADT
WRITING & EDITING: KATHY ROBERTS, JANICE ROTHSTEIN, MARY ANN MILLER, STEVE WILLIS AND CHRISTOPHER DUDERSTADT

labor donated

BACK TO THE ALLIANCE

The Park is Dying!

Though the Alliance is concerned with all of Golden Gate Park and with all who use it, this issue is concerned with the Concourse and the changes it faces.