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The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco’s Marina District

Palace of fine arts

What was once the site of a world’s fair is now a collection of waterfront homes and breezy condos in one of San Francisco’s most upscale neighborhoods. When the Pacific Union Headquarters was located in the Presidio, my office had a stunning view of The Palace of Fine Arts with the Bay and the Marina District. After reading this article by SFGate, it dawned on me that this iconic landmark has a very interesting history and was almost demolished despite renovation efforts.

The Palace of Fine Arts was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, the world’s fair hosted in our very own San Francisco almost 100 years ago. For an area spanning a 1 square mile, the fair showcased the latest discoveries and inventions of the time. The elaborately designed buildings were made of plaster and burlap and were meant to be temporary. In fact, looking at old photographs, there were more impressive and grandiose buildings that had been demolished. It’s amazing to think that a whole residential community, the Marina District, is now in the place of this impressive site, with its gorgeous homes and luxury condos.

Panama pacific exposition

1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, the world’s fair was built is what is now The Marina District. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As to why The Palace of Fine Arts was the only structure standing is unknown. It could be that the theatre area was used as a garage during WWII. After the war, continuing renovation efforts were encourage by a few philanthropists as the city of San Francisco hemmed and hawed about the costs of restoring the monument, which needed structural materials and a earthquake retrofit. The structure as we see it now is finally structurally sound, after the two restoring periods in the 1960’s and in 2009.

World's fair structure

Another grand structure at the World’s Fair. Source: Wikipedia

It’s super awesome that we have the Palace of Fine Arts to tell a story of a remarkable event that took place in San Francisco over 100 years ago.

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