Blink and you may miss the uniquely positioned and well-manicured park that provides refuge from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco tourists scurrying towards nearby Lombard Street. Compared to other city parks, Fay Park is tiny yet holds its own across ¼ of an acre. Once a family-owned property for over 120 years, the private residence and garden was bequeathed to the City of San Francisco to become the public park it is today. Situated on the northeast slope of Russian Hill, a romantic, intimate, quiet space awaits – filled with a charm that attracts more than just those looking for an affordable wedding venue. An overlook treats visitors to views of San Francisco Bay, while year-round blooms add color to a visit.
FAY PARK ATTRACTIONS & FEATURES
With the reputation for being a ‘hidden gem,’ Fay Park does not have a neighborhood playground, pool, athletic fields, or other buildings to explore. However, what it does offer is a welcomed level of tranquility that provides a beautiful pit stop for rest and relaxation. The Fay Park Garden described below is one of the largest draws, in addition to the following features:
Thomas Church Designed Garden: Known for its gorgeous landscaping, Fay Park is home to a garden designed by renowned and prolific landscape architect Thomas Church, who earned national recognition as one of the pioneers of Modernism in garden landscape design (also referred to as the ‘California Style’). Fay Park is just one of over 4,000 projects that Church has under his belt as a landscape architect.
Former owners of the estate, Mary and Paul Berrigan, hired Church to design their garden in 1957, and the result included a symmetrical wonderland involving a main terrace with twin latticed gazebos acting as focal points; a centralized stretch of lawn; and a white balustrade and benches that overlook the level below – all enclosed by a white painted wooden fence along Leavenworth Street.
With stairs and ramps connecting the various levels of the garden, stacked stone retaining walls add definition with rose-filled planters, ornamental shrubs and flowers, fruit trees, and eye-catching boxwood hedges. It is no wonder that the garden is a popular site for San Francisco weddings and receptions.
Fay House: The house located at 2366 Leavenworth Street offers a snapshot back in time, when striking, gardened residences dominated the scene of 19th century Russian Hill. Although not currently open to the public, the exterior of the house continues to delight architecture buffs and sightseers alike. The Victorian-inspired house you see today is not the original home from 1869, but instead, serves as a rebuilt 1912-version that still oozes with local history and appeal.
Before Mary (Fay) and her husband Brigadier General Paul Berrigan moved into the house in 1953, the residence had been occupied by her brothers (co-founders of Fay Brothers Soap Factory); rented from 1937 through 1942 to the proprietor of a night club featuring female impersonators on Broadway; and rented from 1942 to 1953 to the daughter of the San Francisco Seals owner Paul Fagan.
Fay Park Sundial: Bearing an inscription that reads “grow old along with me, the best is yet to be,” the sundial at Fay Park is just another delightful aspect of this secluded landmark.
Street Lamp Light Fixture: Fay Park has a small connection to the capital of Denmark, as there is a light fixture found in the garden that once served as a street lamp in Copenhagen.
THINGS to DO at FAY PARK
Fay Park is currently owned by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, and when planning an event, you must reserve the park through SFRPD. Activities that do not require the city’s permission include the following:
Take Engagement and/or Wedding Photos: The year-round blooming of roses, attractive gazebos, and overall ‘hideaway’ aspect of Fay Park provides a stunning, intimate backdrop for photographs commemorating an engagement or celebrating nuptials.
Read a Book: Since the park is smaller and more secluded than other San Francisco green spaces, you are less likely to encounter energetic dogs and the squeal of children that will break the silence needed to enjoy a good book.
Deliver a Unique Homeschooling Lesson: Speaking of children, homeschooling parents might find Fay Park a stimulating site for an educational field trip that combines nature, the great outdoors, science lessons involving sundials, and local history.
Additionally, before or after a visit to Fay Park, you may want to look into embarking on the Advanced Hills and Crooked Street Segway Tour from Electric Tour Company, which involves the Russian Hill neighborhood surrounding the park, as well as sees you making your way up to the peak of Lombard Street.
FAY PARK ANNUAL & ONGOING EVENTS
As one of the more secluded green spaces in San Francisco, Fay Park does not host any annual or ongoing events outside of the weddings that take place on the weekends.
FAY PARK WEDDINGS
Fay Park offers three different levels of space to plan a walk down the aisle, and is often noted as one of the most beautiful yet affordable outdoor wedding venues in San Francisco. The latticed twin, white-painted gazebos at Fay Park provide a dreamy scene for the exchange of wedding vows. The upper level of the park easily fits up to 30 seated people.
Renting Fay Park for a wedding includes use of outdoor space only (in addition to a single indoor restroom inside of Fay House) – keep in mind that the house is not open to the public. The SFRPD staff member assigned to an event is in possession of the restroom key. You can book a reservation up to one year in advance of an event date. Chairs and tables are not provided at this site, and amplified sound is not allowed. The bagging and removal of all garbage generated during and in association to an event is the responsibility of renters.
Keep in mind that only one reservation per weekend (Sat-Sun) is allowed at this site. And, if you need any assistance making arrangements to have a wedding at Fay Park, simply use the form below to get a complimentary quote.
Fay Park Wedding Details
Location: John F. Kennedy Drive and 14th Avenue
Maximum Capacity: 100
Ceremonies and Receptions Allowed
Reservation Fee: $240.00
Hourly Rate (2 Hour Minimum): $60
Staff Salary (per hour): $20/hour for required site attendant
Refundable Cleaning/Damage Deposit: $500
FAY PARK IS LOCATED CLOSE TO…
One of the most alluring attractions that Fay Park is located close to is Lombard Street, where just a few steps away, you’ll find yourself at the foot of one of the most famous pathways in the United States. Referred to as “the most crooked street in the world,” the steep, one-block section is comprised of eight hairpin turns that stretches from The Presidio east to The Embarcadero. Lombard Street is a popular fixture in the city (surrounded by flowering bushes that pop with color), and a favorite place for visitors to explore and photograph.
The Russian Hill residential neighborhood offers a handful of restaurants, shops and other green spaces to investigate. Russian Hill Park is a small park on Vallejo Street situated on top of a hill that is especially interesting to visit if you are of Russian ancestry. The Russian government placed a small plaque and memorial there.
Art enthusiasts will find the San Francisco Art Institute a few minutes away from Fay Park on 800 Chestnut Street. As one of the oldest and most esteemed contemporary art schools in the nation, this sight (with its intriguing architectural design) also happens to be home to Walter & McBean Galleries. Here, the talent of seasoned and up-and-coming contemporary artists shines. Tourists also visit the Art Institute to catch a glimpse of the Diego Rivera Gallery, which contains a mural by the artist himself, as well as a collection of student work on display.
Fay Park Information
Established: 1869, but open to public as a park in 2006
Fay Park Location: 2366 Leavenworth St between Chestnut St & Lombard St
GPS Location: Latitude: 37.8028903 * Longitude: -122.4178443
Fay Park Hours: 5 a.m. to Midnight
Fay Park Parking: Public city street – limited availability
Public Transportation for Fay Park: Bus: #30-Stockton or #19-Polk; and Cable Car: Powell-Hyde
Fay Park Facility Contact: (415) 274-0291