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Snapped SF: Palace of Fine Arts, Old School

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Snapped SF is a collaborative photo essay of sorts— we love seeing the city through your eyes. Submit your snaps to us directly or, better yet, join the Curbed SF Flickr group. Today's history lesson courtesy Flickr user bobster1985

We recently came across this vintage photo of the Palace of Fine Arts— well, part of it— and a brief history lesson, too. "The Palace of Fine Arts is one of the landmarks of San Francisco, but few people know that the building currently standing is a reconstruction of the original, constructed for the 1915 Exposition," begins the passage. Read on for the rest.

By the mid-fifties, the building and grounds were declared unsafe for public use and fenced off. Convinced that the Palace could only be saved for future generations by restoring it in permanent building materials, in 1957 the newly-formed, non-profit Palace of Fine Arts League and two powerful San Francisco advocates joined forces. Assemblyman Caspar Weinberger secured a $2 million matching grant from the State, and the League sponsored a $3.6 million bond issue that was narrowly defeated. Whereupon industrialist and League president, Walter Johnson, donated $2 million to the city, inspiring other contributions and the subsequent passage of a $1.8 million bond in 1960. Funding in place, architect Hans Gerson duplicated Maybeck's original plan and demolition and reconstruction began in 1964. Completion of the Rotunda in 1967 was celebrated in a week-long public festival mounted by the League and Rec and Park.

The '70s saw the Palace's north and south colonnades rise again-- thanks to a gift from Walter Johnson-- and the gallery become a permanent home for the Palace of Fine Arts Theater- to which Johnson had donated $250,000. Described, when he died in 1978, as "the patron who rebuilt the Palace of Fine Arts," Johnson contributed over $4.5 million to the building he called "a symbol of San Francisco." A plaque to "The Walter S. Johnson Park" graces a column inside the park's walkway at Bay and Lyon.

[History lesson courtesy Flickr photog bobster1985. Argue away, Wikipedia style!]