[Speedway Meadow, now Hellman Hollow. Images via SF City Guides]
Rec & Parks Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to rename Golden Pate Park's Speedway Meadow after San Francisco financier/banjo picker/philanthropist Warren Hellman, whose generosity over the years brought us the San Francisco Free Clinic and eleven years of underwriting the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Speedway Meadow. Hellman is also credited with helping to make the park's sole underground parking garage a reality- serving the De Young and the Academy of Sciences- in the face of fierce opposition.
Speedway Meadow's origins are foggy for most of us, but it was once part of a horse/buggy race route for well-off San Franciscans in the park's early days. Recommended reading: Susan Saperstein's brief history of the Speedway at San Francisco City Guides. Below, the track in 1898, when you could still see the ocean over the sand dunes. The Polo Field took over the western part of the Speedway around 1900. More than a thousand earthquake refugees camped there in 1906; soon after, the serious landscaping began and it became the grassy picnic venue we know today.