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Palace of Fine Arts


Where was the first world’s fair of the twentieth century held? San Francisco! The Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 ran for nine months and hosted over 18 million visitors. In order to create its fairgrounds, over 600 acres of bay marsh were filled-in to create new land! Today, the area is a residential neighborhood with one graceful curiosity along the waterfront, the Palace of Fine Arts. Originally, it was one of the eleven “palaces” that were fashioned for the Panama Pacific International Exposition in order to showcase exhibits from all over the world. Architect Bernard R. Maybeck, designed the pavilion site with a domed-rotunda, a colonnade topped with statues of weeping maidens, a reflecting pool, and an exhibition hall. The Palace was to appear as a modern Greco-Roman ruin and then disappear quietly at the end. Like most of the fair’s creations, it was all constructed of wood and steel framing and finished with plaster and chicken wire.

However, the Palace of Fine Arts was considered the most beautiful of the exhibition pavilions and there was an immediate push to save it from destruction. By the early 1960’s fundraising and preservation efforts finally allowed for the original buildings to be torn down and replaced with permanent ones.

What is there today? The Palace of Fine Arts is now a popular urban park and its iconic structures are a permanent part of the San Francisco landscape. The exhibit hall houses a performance theater and the lagoon is a freshwater habitat for birds and wildlife. The site is one of the most photographed in the city, and it has long been used as a filming location for movies and television. It is also popular for formal wedding photos, so don’t be surprised to see a bride or two being ushered around. Bring your camera, lie on the grass and enjoy the scenery.

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