Tuesday, February 22, 2011

San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is sadly not the actual house of horror I thought it was when I first heard the name. One of my favorite books is The Devil in The White City by Erik Larsen which tells the story of the serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes and the 1893 Chicago's World's Fair nicknamed the "White City". At the time of the fair, Dr. Holmes lured an unknown number of helpless women to their death in the World Fair's Hotel and struck fear into the residents and visitors of Chicago (similar to SF's very own Zodiac killer). When I first saw the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina, I thought "how cool", but my friend pointed out this was built 1915, not 1893 and this is San Francisco's Palace, not Chicago's and I was in the wrong place.

Palace of Fine Arts, 1919

Although it's not a house of horror, it's still one of my favorite spots in the city. San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition to house works of art presented there. Due to its unsiesmically sound structure, the original Palace was demolished in 1964 and a replica rebuilt in its place. The new Palace is almost exactly the same as the old except for the absence of the murals in the dome and a few lesser details. Today, the Palace is also home to the Exploratorium and 1,000 person theater.

Palace of Fine Arts, 2010
 The Palace is popular among locals and visitors. The lagoon and its white geese as well as the manicured green lawns make it a picture perfect picnic spot. On a sunny day in the city, the lawn surrounding the lagoon is teeming with families, couples and friends enjoying a bite to eat, relaxing in the sun, or flying a kite. The Palace is also popular for engagement and wedding party pictures. It's a beautiful old world backdrop in the middle of a modern city. I always make a point to bring out-of-town visitors here to show them the beauty, diversity and history of San Francisco. The spot is so iconic that Disney made a replica of it in Disney's California Adventure Park. Even Disney thinks it's important!

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