On our recent trip to San Francisco we spent a bit of time at The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District. The Palace of Fine Arts was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. The Exposition was in honor of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the completion of the Panama Canal. It also celebrated the ‘resurrection’ of San Francisco after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.
Strangely enough, on our recent visit I felt as though something was not right – this didn’t seem to be as I recalled. It had been many, many years since I had first visited this beautiful place and I wondered if my memory was fading. At times I was puzzled that it seemed so different this time. Then I read of the history of this monument of honor and I was quite relieved to learn that shortly after I left San Francisco and my college years there so long ago, the Palace was moved to a different location and completely restored and refurbished. Whew – what a relief! The puzzle pieces all fit. Now my mind (and memory) could rest and be at ease!
The inspiration for this place of beauty, designed by Bernard Maybeck, came from Roman and Greek architecture. The sculptured frieze and allegorical figures representing Contemplation, Wonderment and Meditation were created by Ulric Ellerhusan.
It seemed as if there was a sense of awe and quiet whenever anyone stepped inside and stood under the dome.
(It was humorous to watch quite a few people lie on the ground in the center, under the dome, in order to photograph the design high overhead. And there were quite a few ‘interesting’ ways to pose people for photos of the dome and detail high above. Fearing that I wouldn’t be able to get up again, and choosing to maintain my ladylike decorum, I, however, preferred to bend and lean and angle the camera in an attempt to capture the images we saw!)
Columns and pillars and sculptures abound. They capture the eye and the imagination and give a sense that you have stepped into another world.
The lagoon was designed to echo those found in classical settings in Europe. The surface of the water mirrors the reflection of the grand structures above.
As we walked along the pathway toward the lagoon our hearts were captured by three, small hummingbirds that were hard at work gathering food. Such sweet and tiny creatures – seemingly oblivious to the crowds that passed by.
It was amazing how this quiet place in the heart of the hustle and bustle of city life could slow the pace and calm the soul. It didn’t seem possible that just steps away from here we would soon rejoin the fast-paced movement of pedestrians and vehicles again. But during the time we wandered through the beauty and quiet in the city we felt we had stepped into another world and that we had been touched by the heart and soul of those who created this place so long ago.