Measuring more than 1,000 acres, the Golden Gate Park has stood as a symbol of natural beauty, easily earning the title as one of the most visited city parks in all of America. As San Franciscans turned their attention to the happenings of New York City’s Central Park, residents began to yearn for their own scenic community dwelling. Today, although similar in shape, Golden Gate Park possesses an array of unique and one-of a-kind features that sets it apart from other urban settings.

During the 1860s, plans were put into motion to transform the bleak sand and shore dunes that decorated San Francisco into a usable, inviting park for the all to enjoy. In 1870, a field engineer named William Hammond Hill organized a survey and developed a topographic map that would serve as the blueprint for the new park site. One year later, he was deemed commissioner of the project. At first, the park plans were met with natural opposition as engineers attempted to sketch a course of action that would add traverse roadways throughout the park. The positioning of gems, such as the Concourse and the Arboretum, made this difficult to achieve.

In the beginning, ¾ of the park was covered in ocean dunes, but were soon blanketed with various tree plantings. By 1875, the area bloomed with close to 60,000 trees, such as the Blue Gum Eucalyptus and the Monterey Pine. Four years later, 155,000 trees were placed over 1,000 acres of land. In 1903, the Dutch Windmills found their home at the western end of the park with an initial duty to pump water and life throughout the park.

Throughout the years, Golden Gate Park saw the establishment of a wealth of intriguing and entertaining attractions. To name a few, the Japanese Tea Garden welcomed visitors after it originally served as part of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. The plans for the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum were realized during the 1890s, but planting was stalled until 1937 due to lack of sufficient funds. Local donations helped place the garden on the map. The De Young Museum was first built in 1921 and has since undergone complete renovation and re-opened in 2005.

Changes Throughout the Years

With the evolving times of society and whatever Mother Nature decided to throw at Golden Gate Park, a variety of features or buildings have changed since its start. Over the years, earthquakes and severe storms have weakened some of the structures scattered throughout the park, causing a wave of renovations. In 1995, a major storm with 100 mph winds wreaked havoc on the Conservatory of Flowers, shattering 40% of the glass, until it was once again opened in 2003 after dramatic repair.

In 1989, buildings at the Academy of Sciences were damaged when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco. The Bird Hall building was shut down to ensure the safety of visitors and the Steinhart Aquarium suffered considerable seismic damage. The site is scheduled to reopen in 2008.

Golden Gate Park has also seen a wide-range of wildlife, captive critters, and flora blossom on the premises. In the past, moose, caribou, moose, and antelope galloped throughout the meadows. At the Children’s Playground, chickens once scattered about an imitation barn while donkeys and goats gave rides to younger visitors. Throughout the years, zebras, elephants, kangaroos, ostriches, and peacocks once paraded about the grounds. In 1927, Park Superintendent, John McLaren thought it best to allow the park animals space at the San Francisco Zoological Gardens and relocated the residents to their new home. Today, the only odd creature to call the park, “home” is the bison located at Buffalo Paddock.