Thursday, June 27, 2013

Visiting San Francisco

My pics from that beautiful city by the bay.  Above and below is the Golden Gate Bridge.  This is as close as we got this trip.  Someday, I'd like to walk across it to Marin Point.  I've been driven across it before.

The San Francisco fog rolling in viewed from our hotel window; we had very good luck with the fog this trip.  We had clear bright weather the whole time we were there.  On past trips, the city was usually fogged in every morning until noon, and then the fog would sometimes roll back in at sunset.  It gets cold in San Francisco when the fog rolls in and after the sun sets.  San Francisco is the only city I've ever visited that has electric heaters for outdoor diners in June.

Sutro Tower, a huge broadcast mast built in 1973 that looks like something out of War of the Worlds is the highest thing in the city.  It is usually fog bound as you can see here.

Lombard street; this is not an exaggeration.  The street really is this steep, and we walked up to the top of it.  Great cardio-vascular exercise.

Lombard street;  I'll never complain about climbing the slope up Burnside Avenue in the Bronx again.  There are other streets on Telegraph Hill and Nob Hill that are even steeper.

The Golden Gate Bridge from Lombard Street

The Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina District from Lombard Street

The top of Russian Hill on Lombard and the beginning of the famous zig zag.

Michael with Alcatraz

Michael and me on Russian Hill with a superb view up my nose

From the top of Lombard Street on Russian Hill;  Washington Square is in the middle distance, then Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower, and finally the Bay Bridge.

The famous Lombard Street zig zag, scene of so many car chases in movies.

More of the Lombard Street zig zag

Flowers on Lombard Street; "This place makes Park Avenue look ghetto," said Michael.

Michael on Lombard Street

This is my 4th trip to San Francisco, and I never rode a cable car until this trip.  Here is a Powell Street cable car in a classic Rice-A-Roni shot.

Michael on a cable car

Michael in the Castro

My friend Larry Poole's picture of me in front of the site of Harvey Milk's old camera shop in the Castro.  It is now occupied by the Human Rights Campaign, about which I have very mixed feelings.  The HRC does some good work, but it seems to me to be too much a creature of the consultant and lobbying classes.  While always holding up a finger to test the political winds, it can be remarkably tone deaf to the feelings of its own constituents.  That shows in the very name of the organization, a creation of pure political calculation.  I have a hard time trusting a gay lesbian organization that won't put "gay" or "lesbian" in its title.

Harvey Milk in front of his camera shop;  as time passes, Harvey emerges more and more as a pioneering figure in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights.  The extremes of conservative assimilation and radical separatism have one thing in common, they both in their own ways want same sexuality to disappear from the public forum.  Milk took a totally different path of active engagement in politics and public assertion of a gay identity, of getting gays and lesbians to think of themselves as a people and a community who should take their rightful place as equals in the public realm.  He built on the work of so many others from his former lover Craig Rodwell who was out loud and proud before anyone ever thought of that term, to the Gay Activists Alliance which did both community building and political activism soon after the Stonewall riots.  He built on the work of Jose Sarria of San Francisco, the first openly gay person to run for public office in the USA, even though he didn't win.  Harvey took the boldest step of all into political office becoming the first openly gay elected official in the USA.

A bit of paradise for this chocolate lover, Ghirardelli's, seen here from Fisherman's Wharf.

The newly restored Maritime Museum, an Art Deco building from the 1930s.

A curious unrestored Art Deco structure once part of the Maritime Museum on Fisherman's Wharf.

Michael with Alcatraz

The Bay Area is a very busy port with lots of big container ships constantly coming and going.

A small tanker in the Bay viewed from Telegraph Hill

The Bay Bridge and Treasure Island in the distance from Telegraph Hill

The park on top of Telegraph Hill, one of my favorite spots in the city

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

For all of you Episcopalians, Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill viewed from Telegraph Hill

The old Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge from Telegraph Hill

Downtown from Telegraph Hill

The Palace of Fine Arts

I love this building and look forward to seeing it every time I come to San Francisco.  Yes, I have a dome obsession, but this building is really exceptional.  It was designed by the great Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition.  Originally intended to be a temporary structure, it was such a huge hit with the San Francisco public that they decided to keep the building standing in its original place, the only structure to survive in place from the 1915 Exhibition.

Maybeck said that his inspiration was Piranesi's prints of ruins in the city of Rome.  He intended the structure to have a romantic evocative feeling to it.  To that end, he separated the rotunda, the colonnade, and the exhibition hall into free-standing structures.  He designed the rotunda and colonnade to be seen in a central reflecting pool surrounded by vegetation.

The "weeper" sculptures designed by Ulric Ellerhusen

Maybeck may have had Piransesi's prints in mind when he conceived of this building, but the end result is very Baroque with its play of concavities and convexities.

The interior of the rotunda was originally much more richly decorated than what we see today.  The domed ceiling was filled with allegorical paintings by Robert Reid, a now largely forgotten muralist.  Those paintings disintegrated a long time ago, probably because they were painted in tempera or casein paints intended for temporary structures like stage sets.

The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition.  The Palace of Fine Arts is on the lower right.  The Marina District sits on top of most of this site now.

The Palace photographed in 1919

This alarming photograph from 1965 reminds us that the Palace was originally meant to be a temporary structure.  It was built out of wood, plaster, and burlap, and by the 1950s began to decay badly.  In 1965, the original structure was demolished and an almost exact duplicate was built out of reinforced concrete.

Another photo of the 1965 demolition

Today the Palace stands securely, retrofitted for earthquake survival in 2009, and its surrounding grounds restored and improved.  The lingering problem for this building is what to use it for.  Until this year, the Exploratorium, a hands on science museum mostly for kids, occupied the exhibition hall.  The hall stands empty again.  Perhaps it could return to its original role as an art gallery, even if only for temporary exhibitions and installations.

The Palace grounds are now an unofficial bird sanctuary.  Here people feed the resident family of swans.

The swan family with cygnets.

A great blue heron and a snowy egret on the Palace grounds

A black crowned night heron

The heron is bored with us, so it's time to move on.

City Hall

Forgive me folks, but this is another building from my dome obsession that I love, and that I always look forward to visiting in San Francisco.  I've always envied San Fran's city hall that out classes many a state capitol.  I've posted about this building before.

City Hall is the centerpiece of San Francisco's Civic Center and architect Arthur Brown's masterpiece.  Brown was a local architect and former student and partner of Bernard Maybeck.  He designed a lot of major public buildings in San Francisco including Coit Tower.

Rounded corners seem to be a trademark of Arthur Brown, never used more gratifyingly than here.

City Hall's dome, a hybrid of Michelangelo's dome for St. Peter's and Hardouin-Mansart's dome for the Invalides in Paris.

The south side of the building is covered with extravagant carving.

The telamons on the south entrance of City Hall

Just inside the entrance of City Hall is this hand sanitizer.  Perhaps every city hall should have one.

The grand staircase to the Board of Supervisors chamber

The interior of the dome of the City Hall

A model showing the innards of City Hall's dome

Samples of the rich stucco carving inside City Hall

The entrance to the Chamber of the Board of Supervisors; Brown made this room to be the centerpiece of the building.  City Hall emphasizes the supremacy of the legislature as the people's representatives over the executive.

Next to the entrance to the Board of Supervisors is this monument to Harvey Milk, and a reminder that this magnificent building was the location for one of the darkest and most shocking events in San Francisco's history, the assassination of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone on November 27, 1978.  Those of us of a certain age will never forget this whether we were in San Francisco or not.  I was a freshman art student in Kansas City, MO at the time and I remember this vividly.

This event was the culmination of a very dark year for San Francisco, probably the darkest year since the 1906 earthquake.  Earlier in November, The People's Temple cult led by Jim Jones, committed mass suicide in Guyana, the largest in US history.  The cult was located in San Francisco for many years and many San Franciscans died in the mass murder-suicide.
The assassinations of Milk and Moscone set off a series of fights between the city's gay community and the San Francisco Police Department culminating in the "White Night" riots after assassin Dan White was convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter.

We hope those days are long behind us, and that better days are ahead.  Here is a newlywed couple posing for pictures in front of a bronze Diane Feinstein.  City Hall is a very popular venue for weddings, and soon with the recent demise of Proposition 8, same sex weddings will return to City Hall and make this magnificent building what it was meant to be; a monument to the city's durability despite catastrophe, and to faith in the ability of people through their elected representatives to make things right.

That's what Arthur Brown intended with this building. He wanted it to be testimony to San Francisco's rebirth after the 1906 earthquake, and to sound honest government.  He made this building to be a deliberate break with its predecessor in its clarity of design and organization.

This is the old pre-1906 City Hall, San Francisco's version of the Tweed Courthouse, a creation of graft and corruption.  Like the Tweed Courthouse in New York, construction on this building ran way over schedule and over budget because of so many pols, bosses, and shady contractors skimming off the construction funds.  For an American Renaissance architect like Arthur Brown, the confused hodgepodge and vulgar over elaborate ornamentation of this building reflected the corruption within.  To our tastes, this city hall is full of inventive fantasy, much more so than the present one.

The 1906 Earthquake exposed the scandal of the old city hall's construction.  Citizens became infuriated upon the discovery that what they thought was marble and limestone turned out to be plaster and stucco stuffed with old newspapers and trash.  The earthquake collapsed the building's shoddy construction.

The Mission District

The oldest building in San Francisco, the Dolores Mission, built in 1791.  Goya's patron King Charles IV was King of Spain when this was built.

San Francisco took its present name in the 1850s from this once very remote outpost of the Spanish Empire officially known as Mision San Francisco de Asis.

The ceiling of the mission church is the original redwood beams bound with rawhide lashings supported by 4 feet thick adobe walls.  The painting is a restoration of the original Ohlone Indian designs.

18th century Franciscan saints from Mexico

An early 19th century painting

Michael at the Mission.  As you can see, he does not like churches.

The Mission cemetery, just a small remaining fragment of what was once a much more extensive burial ground.  Most of the tombstones are from after 1850 and have Irish names.

Bird of Paradise flowers in the Mission cemetery

Apartment houses in the Mission District; I wonder how much apartment is there behind those big bay windows.  Not much I'm afraid.  I visited the apartment of a friend of mine down near the Civic Center.  Behind his bay window facing Market Street is a small bedroom with a kitchen area and a bath, and that's it.  It's smaller than our apartment in Brooklyn.  He's doing relatively well financially, but this is the first apartment he's had in 20 years of living in San Francisco to himself.

A beautifully painted Victorian in the Castro;  these old houses all over the city really are beautiful.

More apartments in the Mission District

Another one of my favorite spots in the city, Mission Dolores Park with a view of the city that out classes the more famous vista in Alamo Park.

Yours Truly in Mission Dolores Park


Unknown said...

Though I have never been to the City by the Bay, your trip and pictures have given me such a feel of the sites and I love it! Thanks Doug.

susan s. said...

More great pictures!

Thanks for all the info on the Palace of Fine Arts! I see I was completely wrong about where the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition was built! I had it mixed up with the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939-40.

Gerrit said...

Maybe you will enjoy this ( or maybe not, obviously ):

it's margaret said...

Dolores Park used to be a cemetery... in the 1906 earthquake, there were terrible problems with coffins popping out of the earth. So all the coffins that could be found were dug up and reinterred outside City limits. It is now illegal to bury someone within City limits.

At least, that is the story I was told.

All my great uncles lives on Dolores St about six blocks away. In the earth quake, one of the great aunts ran back in to the house, wrecked by earth quake and then threatened with fire, in order to get her cast iron pot. Her husband was furious. Until --in the weeks that ensued, she made enough money cooking for everyone that they could rebuild the house.

At least, that is the story I was told!

JCF said...

Wow, Margaret, those are some California roots. My grandmother didn't arrive in the blessed Golden State until 1915!

Counterlight said...

That is indeed quite a story Margaret! Good for your great aunt!
Some of New York's parks were cemeteries, like Washington Square, only they didn't bother to move any of the burials. They are still there beneath the lawns, trees, and swingsets.