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Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park is rededicated after 10 years of renovations

By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Oct 3, 2010 in Travel
Skies were blue and sunny in Golden Gate Park as a small crowd of less than 100 gathered on Sept. 10 for the official rededication ceremony of the Music Concourse hosted by Friends of the Music Concourse and San Francisco Recreation & Parks Dept.
Rec. & Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg along with Richmond District Supervisor Eric Mar was pleased to greet the people that Friday morning as the San Francisco Municipal Band played music to celebrate the event.
Such rare summer weather made the occasion more inviting as City residents were treated to coffee, tea and fresh baked scones compliments of Tal-y-Tara Tea & Polo Shoppe.
Hugh Meakin, owner of the tea & polo said he and his family were very pleased to see the restorations finally completed and to serve the crowds for the occasion was an honor.
Ginsburg mentioned how the Music Concourse with the surrounding, Tea Garden, de Young Museum, California Academy of Science and Spreckels Temple of Music (often referred to as the "band shell"), has been a part of San Francisco history. "Today the vision is finally realized," he said.
Originally the Music Concourse was part of the 1894 Midwinter Fair and referred to back then as "concert valley." Over the years other edifices have been added.
Joined by California Academy of Science, executive director, Gregory Farrington, Fine Arts Museum SF director John Buchanan, Toni Moran, Rec. & Parks fundraiser, John Dennis, Dept. of Public Works landscape architect and Rick Thall, Rec. & Parks project manager for the renovations, Ginsburg was in high spirits.
He was grateful for all the work that had been done and thanked all the people involved. Ginsburg noted that the work took longer than anticipated, 10 years.
At over $12 million, most of the funding for the entire project came from Prop 40 passed by California voters in 2002 as part of the "California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002" (2002 Resources Bond). The passage of Proposition 40 provided funds for local assistance grants.
The Friends of the Music Concourse provided information about the estimation of costs to The Sunset Beacon, yet Elton Pon, media rep for Rec. & Parks would only confirm the various total costs. He said nothing to explain why the restoration took a decade to complete.
Cost of restoring the band shell itself was $1,615,800. Perhaps, one of the reasons for the 10-year duration of the restoration might be the fact that the decorative stone features for the band shell had failed, resulting in the closing of the space to the public.
The bandshell and the encompassing concourse area have long been the place for San Franciscans to gather on weekends, especially Sunday afternoons. It has been customary to sit underneath the trees and listen to the SF Municipal Band in concert playing familiar songs from popular show tunes to waltzes and of course a rousing John Philip Sousa composition like "Stars and Stripes Forever"
Members of the Friends of the Music Concourse, like Katherine Howard were very pleased about the work and appeared in Turn-of-the-Century attire. Chris Duderstadt, who serves as the group’s chair was in a top hat as he said that "after 10 years of suffering with the various construction projects, the fences has been taken down and the Music Concourse is returned to its original glory."
Duderstadt and historians like Woody LaBounty later noted that the band shell as we know it today is the third one since the Midwinter Fair. Built in 1900 and named after the prominent Claus Spreckels, it was damaged in both the Great Quake of 1906 and the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989.
Supervisor Mar at the rededication on behalf of Mayor Newsom and the entire SF Board of Supervisors was honored to be part of the ceremony as Ginsburg let him give the command to make the fountains within the Concourse flow with water.
"The restoration is awesome," Mar told the crowd. "These fountains represent life, art and beauty, Golden Gate Park is a beautiful place for everyone to enjoy," Mar said.
People huddled around the main fountain amid the trees, which has a sculpted figure of a mountain lion grasping a large serpent. They applauded and cheered as water sprayed up, spanning the entire circumference of the fountain.
Ginsburg said the fountains in the Music Concourse would help with the irrigation system in the park.
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Note: this article also appears in the Sunset Beacon Newspaper, a monthly publication serving the Sunset and Richmond Districts of San Francisco. These two districts are next to Golden Gate Park. To read more about this significant portion of San Francisco, visit

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