Old World Splendor

“the mortality of grandeur and 


the vanity of human wishes…”

There is so much more to this other San Francisco scenic spot than just a showcase of man’s creations. “Although it was meant to give delight by its exterior beauty, its purpose was also to offer all visitors a stimulating experience within doors,” says the creator of this iconic park.

In the Marina District of San Francisco sits the Palace of Fine Arts, a part of the city’s 49 Mile Scenic drive that highlights many of the city’s major attractions and historic structures. The Romanesque and Grecian inspired architecture was originally built when this California city played host to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition almost a century ago, in February 1915 when San Francisco was the honoring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, the completion of the Panama Canal and a celebration of the city’s resurrection from the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. 

The magnificent structure was Bernard Maybeck’s brainchild, an architect who was known for his ingenious styles. His jump-off point in designing this project was “in the mood of a Piranesi engraving,” choosing the ruins of Rome as his inspiration. 
But this “ruins” interpretation he described as showing “the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes …. ” Not only did the Palace of Fine arts give pleasure with the magnificence of the exterior, the interior was made as stimulating.

The result- a harmony of poetry and romance, an alluring fusion of Roman architecture and Grecian adornment, enchanting. Ideal description of this amazing edifice and the only structure standing in the original design of a complex.

Beautiful against the California blue sky, beautiful as reflected on water.

There used to be three buildings built for the exposition but only this remain. The other two were the Japanese Tea House –not the tea house in the 1894 Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park- and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Maybeck’s Palace of the Fine Arts was the last structure to be constructed. The palace rested on a perfect location, on the lagoon and a group of Monterrey cypresses nearby. Exuding a very old world European appeal, an artist’s dream is fulfilled- a structure as beautiful against the California sky as it is reflected in the water.

The palace was an instant hit to the public and its appeal never diminished to this day. Its tranquility and romantic essence of the palace has even made it a preferred site to exchange vows. Saving the palace was a wise decision indeed.

If you are experiencing deja vu and feeling that you have seen this place before, chances are you have. You are not delusional. The Palace of the Fine Arts has been a popular backdrop for Hollywood films- Alfred Hitchcock;s psychological thriller “Vertigo”, “Jagged Edge”, the scenic first date walk in “So I Married an Axe Murderer”,  Chris O’Donnell on a canoe at lake in “The Bachelor”. But this might make you nod, Nicolas Cage confronted Sean Connery “The Rock” at the palace dome.

What a great way to end another day of fleeting around San Francisco. The tranquil ambience the Palace of Fine Arts radiated was very soothing to these tired tourists. 

Dominic C. makes the best tour guide (my heartfelt gratitude for taking time with us Dom!) pointing out  that there is more than to San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge and the Fisherman’s Wharf. In fact, there are more than fifty entries of great sites on famous 49 Mile Scenic Drive of this city. Now tell me avid San Francisco regulars, how many have you seen?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

thirty two − twenty eight =