SH Archive 1915 San Francisco: Panama-Pacific International Exposition OP Username
KorbenDallas OP Date
2020-01-01 02:05:32 Reaction Score
13 Reply Count

KD Archive

Not actually KorbenDallas
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Sep 22, 2020
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It's kind of weird that we have no dedicated thread to the 1915 San Francisco Expo. Anyways, here is what we have in a nutshell. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was a world's fair held in San Francisco from February 20 to December 4, 1915. Its stated purpose was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, but it was widely seen in the city as an opportunity to showcase its recovery from the 1906 earthquake. The fair was constructed on a 636 acre site along the northern shore, between the Presidio and Fort Mason, now known as the Marina District.


Constructed from temporary materials (primarily staff, a combination of plaster and burlap fiber), almost all the fair's various buildings and attractions were pulled down in late 1915. Intended to fall into pieces at the close of the fair (reportedly because the architect believed every great city needed ruins), the only surviving building on the Exposition grounds, Bernard Maybeck's Palace of Fine Arts, remained in place, slowly falling into disrepair. The Palace, including the colonnade with its signature weeping women and rotunda dome, was completely reconstructed in the 1960s.
  • Summary: The buildings were made of wood, plaster, and burlap to make them easy to demolish.


Other Surviving Buildings
Buildings from the Exposition that still stand today (other than the Palace of Fine Arts) include what is now called the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium at Civic Center Plaza and the Japanese Tea house, which was barged down the Bay to Belmont, California and currently operates as a restaurant.

Also surviving are the one-third scale steam locomotives of the Overfair Railroad that operated at the Exposition. They are maintained in working order at the Swanton Pacific Railroad Society located on Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Swanton Ranch just north of Santa Cruz.

The Legion of Honor Museum, in Lincoln Park, was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of the sugar magnate and thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder Adolph B. Spreckels. The building is a full-scale replica of the French Pavilion from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, which in turn was a three-quarter-scale version of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur also known as the Hôtel de Salm in Paris by George Applegarth and H. Guillaume. At the close of the exposition, the French government granted Spreckels permission to construct a permanent replica of the French Pavilion, but World War I delayed the groundbreaking until 1921.


1915 Expo Links:
KD: Created this thread due to some Expo photographs presented on the California State Library website. Additionally, there could be something pertaining to this expo we would like to discuss. It's weird, for I thought we did have a dedicated 1915 Expo thread. I hope I did not just overlook it. Anyways.

Here are the steps to see full size photographs. It's kinda tricky in there.
  • 1. Once here.​
  • 2. Click on the desired photograph.​
  • 3. PC: On the slide out window look for a green link - Available Online- click on it.​
    • Phone, or tablet: I did not try those.​

  • 4. The window will scroll down to the Digital Version(s) Availability​
  • 5. Look for the blue link (Court of the Universe in the example below) - that is your full size photo. It will open in a new window.​
These photographs were allegedly made in 1915 (per our source). All the structures were supposed to be temporary, with the exception of the ones mentioned above.

Please inspect the photographs and see what your opinion is on this temporary thing. To me, most of the structures look pretty weathered, with some overgrown with vegetation. Some were definitely temporary, but some l do not know... they were supposed to be temporary, but were they?

Here are a few photographs I selected for your comments. Please choose yours and let's see what opinions we can come up with.

The Questions:
  • 1. Is it (specific structure) temporary, or permanent?
    • Meaning plaster or stone?
  • 2. Does it look fairly new, or rather old?
    • Keep in mind that it could be plaster, and as they said: "Intended to fall into pieces at the close of the fair"
  • 3. Comment on vegetation.
  • 4. And ultimately, was this expo built in its entirety when TPTB says it was, or was it only partially built, with the rest being older (pre-existing) renovated structures?
    • X - when a statue (not worthy of a comment), etc is the centerpiece of the photograph, please comment on the accompanying structure. Its name should be in the title.
Statue outside Italian building
Statue outside Italian building.jpg

Boy & Fish. F. Arts colonnade
Boy & Fish. F. Arts colonnade.jpg

"Runner," Italian concession
Runner, Italian concession.jpg

"Fountain of Earth," Court Abundance
Fountain of Earth, Court Abundance.jpg
PS: This thread is not limited to my questions posted above. As long it pertains to this 1915 SF Expo, anything goes.
Note: This OP was recovered from the Wayback Archive.


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Aug 25, 2020
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(Griffin, at one point, frostily informed Maybeck that "plaster or stucco are hardly considered as temporary expedients [in Australia] for they are largely employed for buildings both commercial and governmental, already deemed to be permanent.")

So even the story of temporary buildings is riddled with inconsistencies - what they consider temporary are normal parts of the old world architecture - mostly used for ornamentation and outer facades.
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