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1915 Panama Pacific Exposition

History of the Celebration & Pictures of the Palace of Fine Arts

The 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition is an important event in the history of San Francisco. Shortly after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco was selected as the site for this international event. The event celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914.

The people of San Francisco were excited to host the event. Not only could they celebrate the canal, but they could also show visitors the rebuilt San Francisco.

You can still relive a small piece of the Panama Pacific Exposition at the Palace of Fine Arts. This is the only building still standing in its original location from this huge international exposition. Its gold dome stands proud and is easy to see from the bay and many surrounding neighborhoods.

Panama Pacific Exposition History

Before the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco showed some interest in hosting this large international event. However, after the earthquake hit, city officials knew the event was critical for the city. With millions of visitors expected, it was one of the best ways to showcase how far San Francisco had come after the devastating earthquake.

The site only took four years to build. The buildings covered 635 acres of land in an area that is now the San Francisco Marina. It stretched all along the water front from Van Ness Street to Fort Point. In total, the buildings for the event housed more than 70,000 exhibits from around the world.

The Panama Pacific Exposition opened on February 20, 1915. For 288 days, more than 19 million people from around the world visited San Francisco for the event.

At the close of the event in December 1915, the buildings were scheduled for demolition. However, the city decided to keep one of the most beautiful buildings -- the Palace of Fine Arts. To ensure it was structurally sound, it was rebuilt in 1965 and renovated again in 2009.

Palace of Fine Arts

This San Francisco attraction is one of my favorites. The entire building is a work of art with intricate details on its columns and beautiful dome.

It's free to stroll around the outside of the building. It is also the perfect place for a picnic lunch or a place to hang out to relax for a little while.

The beauty of the building attracts both locals and visitors. It is very common to see at least one wedding party taking pictures here -- in fact, you might even see two or three during your visit.

To give you a sense of work that went into the building, here are just a few pictures from my last visit.

panama pacific exposition
A view of the dome and the small lake on the eastern side of the building

palace of fine arts
A closer look at the columns and inside of the dome

panama pacific exposition
A view of the top of the large columns that line the
sidewalk on the western side of the building

The inside of the building is home to the Exploratorium. This interactive science museum was added to the building in 1969. Unfortunately, this part isn't free, but it's another great stop if you are traveling with kids or if you like learning even more about how things work.

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Visiting the Palace of Fine Arts

You are welcome to visit the Palace of Fine Arts on your own. However, here are just a few other ways to enjoy it along with other San Francisco attractions.

GPS Guided Talking Tour Cars

go car san franciscoYou will see these cute yellow cars all over San Francisco during your visit. It's the perfect way to get around and spend some time on your own at each attraction. The pre-programmed cars take you to see all of the top attractions in San Francisco including the Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Booking Info: Guided Talking Tour Cars


San Francisco Public Library Walking Tour

palace of fine artsThe San Francisco library has a number of free walks throughout San Francisco. This one is a dedicated tour of the history surrounding the Panama Pacific Exposition and the Palace of Fine Arts. Your guide will also share with you more about the importance of this event to the revitalization of San Francisco.

Tour Schedule: Palace of Fine Arts/Marina

Other SF Attractions

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