by Frank Dunnigan
Since the time of the California Gold Rush, local residents and government officials desired to have a direct transportation link between San Francisco and Oakland. It wasn’t until the late 1920s, however, that those dreams began to take shape.
In 1929, well after automobiles had become increasingly present on local roadways, the State of California established the California Toll Bridge Authority to build a bridge between San Francisco and Alameda County. By 1931, Governor James Rolph, Jr. (aka: “Sunny Jim” who was Mayor of San Francisco from 1912 until 1931) authorized the use of revenue bonds to finance the building of State bridges, with future toll income earmarked for the repayment of such bonds.
Land was acquired for the approaches, and Congress authorized the use of Yerba Buena Island, which was a United States Navy property at the time. Beginning in the summer of 1931, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, then headquartered in San Francisco, began to relocate underwater telephone cables that were located in the construction area of the proposed bridge.
Ground breaking took place on July 9, 1933 at the Admiral’s Residence on Yerba Buena Island. Former United States President Herbert Hoover (who had been replaced by FDR just a few months earlier as a result of the 1932 election) was present, along with Governor Rolph, San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi, plus a crowd of dignitaries, local residents, and a military marching band. NOTE: The site of the ceremony, the Admiral’s Residence, still exists on the island, and holds an interesting historical footnote related to the Bay Bridge that took place 65 years later in 1998. Read more about it in this California Sun article. Once the ground breaking ceremonies were complete, work commenced on what was to be a three-and-one-half-year project that would transform the entire Bay Area.
Invited guests arrived by Ferry at Yerba Buena Island July 9, 1933 for the official groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge, accompanied by a military marching band. It was an exciting time for civic officials and local residents, as the ground breaking for the Golden Gate Bridge had just taken place a few months earlier in February of 1933.
Most of the early work in 1933-34 involved building foundations beneath the surface of San Francisco Bay. By late 1934, the bridge towers began to emerge upon the skyline, allowing residents to follow construction progress on a daily basis. In this image, the easternmost tower of the western span near Yerba Buena Island was beginning to rise in October of 1934.
Construction of a tunnel through Yerba Buena Island is shown here in 1934. The tunnel itself took another full year to be completed.
San Francisco’s Rincon Hill, site of the bridge’s western anchorage and approach ramps, was a residential neighborhood prior to 1906, but became industrial following the Fire. In this 1934 image, most buildings had already been removed, save for these shacks which soon disappeared.
By April of 1935, the remaining buildings had been cleared and construction was underway on the western anchorage for the bridge at Beale near Bryant Streets. Telephone Building and Call Building are seen at right.
Later in 1935, on- and off-ramps for bridge traffic were under construction at the western anchorage. In this view looking east, the Schmidt Clock Tower is visible in distance.
By April of 1935, the towers of the western span, along with its center anchorage, were nearing completion and ready for the support cables to be installed.
At the time of this image on November 26, 1935, the cables were being installed on the western span, as the cantilever eastern span was nearing completion.
A dramatic nighttime shot before the roadway was installed. Lights on the cables were in place during construction, but did not remain when the bridge opened. They were reintroduced at the time of the bridge’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1986.
Soon after the cable work was completed on the suspension bridge western section, installation of the roadway commenced.
On June 26, 1936—just four-and-one-half months before Opening Day, a worker on a girder near the top of Tower 2 at upper right inspected progress, as the roadway neared completion.
The San Francisco approach was nearing completion in late 1936. The original traffic plan was for three lanes in each direction for automobiles with three lanes of truck and bus traffic–with autos allowed–and rail service on the lower deck.
At the same time in late 1936, the eastern cantilever span from Yerba Buena Island to Oakland was nearly complete.
Early on Opening Day for the Bay Bridge—November 12, 1936—before the crowds began to gather.
Just prior to the 12:30 p.m. Opening Day ceremonies, crowds gathered on the upper deck of the bridge and its approaches, as well as on the adjacent hillside.
A news reporter interviewed Governor Frank Merriam at the Opening Day ceremonies. San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi can be seen at left wearing a vest, and former US President Herbert Hoover was standing among the crowd behind the reporter on the left.
See more images from the Bay Bridge Dedication parade here.
by Arnold Woods
From France to a World’s Fair to a city cemetery turned city park and golf course, the Palace of the Legion of Honor has a fascinating history in addition to breath-taking views from its location on a hilltop above Lands End. We have this art museum in Lincoln Park quite literally because of a sugar mama. On a personal level, my introduction to San Francisco and art museums was the Legion of Honor thanks to high school French Club trips to the City that always started there. To learn how we got it, we first must go back to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (“PPIE”).
Though the name was tied to the opening of the Panama Canal the previous year, the 1915 PPIE was San Francisco’s announcement to the world that it had recovered from the 1906 earthquake. The world’s fair featured pavilions from various countries around the world. For its pavilion, France built a three-quarters temporary replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur, which had been constructed in Paris in the 1780s. Originally built by architect Pierre Rousseau as the Hotel de Salm for a German Prince, it was nationalized and renamed after the French revolution. Then Napoleon made it the home of the Légion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit. France decided the landmark would make a good face for the country at the PPIE.
Presentation of gold shovel to French Field Marshal Joseph Joffre in Lincoln Park, April 7, 1922. (wnp36.02714; DPW Horace Chaffee, photographer – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
At the PPIE, Alma Spreckels, wife of sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels, fell in love with the French Pavilion. Already a noted art collector and major charitable influence in San Francisco society, Alma convinced her husband to fund the construction of a new art museum modeled on the French Pavilion as a way to honor Californians who died in World War I.1 They sought and received permission from the French government to build a replica in San Francisco. With World War I raging in Europe though, construction could not begin immediately. A site was chosen on a Lincoln Park and a cornerstone laying ceremony was finally held on February 19, 1921 with mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph acting as the master of ceremonies.2 During a state visit on April 7, 1922, French Field Marshal Joseph Joffre was presented with a gold shovel and planted a cypress tree by the construction site in a rainy ceremony.3
The Spreckels chose architect George Applegarth, who was essentially their personal architect, to draw up a design that mirrored the French Pavilion at the PPIE as a three-quarter scale reproduction of the Paris building. Unlike the temporary structure at the PPIE though, Applegarth incorporated the then very latest in museum construction ideas. This included 21-inch thick walls with hollow tiles to maintain a constant temperature inside and a heating and air filtration system that eliminated dust. The construction poured seven thousand cubic yards of cement and used a million pounds of reinforcing bar.
While construction was going on in Lincoln Park, the original Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris opened an exhibition on June 7, 1923 of French art that was going to be donated to the San Francisco Palace of Legion of Honor.4 U.S. Ambassador to France, Myron Herrick, attended the opening ceremony and said that Californians would be ever grateful to France for appropriating money for the French Pavilion at the PPIE soon after being attacked by Germany at the outset of World War I. The collection of art being donated by France included 11 Rodin sculptures, a marble copy of the Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture, a series of Jean Paul Laurens’ tapestries depicting Joan of Arc’s life, and many other works.
Besides the French artwork, Alma collected donations from other European countries during a five-month jaunt to the continent in the spring and summer of 1923.5 The Queen of Romania donated mannequins costumed in dresses once worn by her grandmother, Queen Victoria of England. General Joffre, who had visited the year before, donated a uniform he wore at the turning point Battle of the Marne in World War I. Alma also visited the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur exhibit and declared it impressive. She also said it was “remarkable” how European nations were cooperating with the Legion of Honor.
Sadly, Alma’s husband, Adolph Spreckels, did not live to see the opening of the Palace of the Legion of Honor. On June 28, 1924, Adolph dies suddenly from a hemorrhage that he suffered after being sick with a cold for several weeks.6 Mayor Rolph declared that the Legion of Honor would serve as an “ever-enduring monument” to Adolph, who served as a Park Commissioner for the City. Although the Legion of Honor was to be a gift from Alma & Adolph Spreckels to San Francisco, the City determined late in the process that it should have a public vote on whether to accept and manage this gift.7 Fortunately, the amendment passed by an overwhelming 73,500 vote margin at the November 4, 1924 ballot.8
On the morning of November 11, 1924, the Palace of the Legion of Honor was officially dedicated and turned over to the City of San Francisco.9 The date was deliberately chosen to be Armistice Day since the museum was dedicated to those who fell during World War I. California Senator Samuel Shortridge delivered the keynote address, calling the Palace a masterpiece of architecture and an apt memorial for those who fought in the war. French Councillor Albert Tirman delivered praise for the monument and thanks for America’s assistance in the war that France would “never forget.”
As San Franciscans know, the Lincoln Park location of the Legion of Honor once was home to City Cemetery. When the cemetery was removed to make way for the park and golf course, not all the bodies left. During the construction of the museum, more than 1500 bodies were uncovered.10 Many of them were covered up and left in place. Some workers refused to touch the bones. Years later, during a post-1989 earthquake renovation, almost 500 more bodies were discovered.11 Chances are more bodies lie beneath one of San Francisco’s premiere art museums, an eerie reminder that the Palace of the Legion of Honor is a monument to those lost at war.
2. “War Memorial Corner Stone Laid In Park,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 20, 1921, p. 7.
3. “City’s Guest Plants Tree In Lincoln Park,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 8, 1922, p. 3.
4. “French Exhibit California’s Art Donation,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 1923, p. 9.
5. “Honor Palace Tour Is Ended By S.F. Woman,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 8, 1923, p. 13.
6. “A.B. Spreckels Dies Suddenly At S.F. Home,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 1924, p. 1.
7. “Honor Legion Memorial Will Be On Ballot,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 14, 1924, p. 16.
8. “Police And Firemen Get Pay Boosts,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 6, 1924, p. 7.
9. “Dedication Of Honor Legion Palace Held,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 12, 1924, p. 3.
10. “City Scrapers Tear Open 1500 Graves in Old S.F. Cemetery,” San Francisco Daily News, December 23, 1921.
11. “S.F. to Rebury Remains of Early Residents,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 5, 1994, p. C16.
by Arnold Woods
Rock and roll has long been used as an instrument to raise funds for worthy programs. From the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 to Live Aid in 1985 to Neil Young’s local Bridge School Concerts, music has brought people together to support noble, but underfunded causes. Here in San Francisco, one of the earliest such benefits brought together a lot of local rock and roll royalty to ensure local school sports, music, and arts education endured.
In 1975, the San Francisco school board, facing budget issues, announced that they would have to cut various programs. Among the first cuts were all extra-curricular activities, such as music and drama which were announced on January 28, 1975.1 A week later, athletic programs also got the axe.2 Other programs were also cut, school maintenance was delayed, and some employees were scheduled for layoff as the school district attempted to make up budget deficits that ran into the millions of dollars.
Local music promoter Bill Graham was dismayed at all the programs being cut, so he decided to do something about it. On February 10, 1975, he announced that he would mount a “benefit extravaganza” at Kezar Stadium to raise money so the San Francisco Unified School District could keep its sports and extra-curricular programs.3 The ticket price for the concert would only be $2, though Graham stated that he believed the attendees would donate additional monies during the all-day show. Besides musicians, Graham declared that “the whole range of the entertainment world will be represented.” Mayor Joseph Alioto, who joined Graham for the announcement, pledged $10,000 of his own money toward the cause.
On February 19, 1975, Graham announced that the show, dubbed the SNACK concert, would be held on Sunday, March 23, 1975.4 SNACK was an acronym for Students Need Athletics, Culture and Kicks. Although he had initially announced a $2 ticket price, Graham said the tickets would cost $5 so they could save more programs. The initial line-up included Jefferson Starship, Santana, Joan Baez with her sister Mimi Farina, Jerry Garcia & Friends, Tower of Power, and Graham Central Station. Celebrities like Willie Mays, John Brodie, Frankie Albert, Jesse Owens, Rosie Casals, and Glide Church’s Reverend Cecil Williams were also scheduled to appear. Graham promised that he was not done booking for the event.
Soon Graham brought the news that the Doobie Brothers and the Miracles had been added to the bill.5 Graham wasn’t done yet though. In early March 1975, he announced that Neil Young would appear, backed by two members of The Band, Levon Helm and Rick Danko.6 Within three weeks, all tickets for the SNACK benefit at Kezar Stadium had been sold.7
With the concert sold out, Graham sold the radio simulcasting rights to K-101 for $12,000.8 With some possibility of rain in March, it was announced ahead of time that the SNACK show would happen “rain or shine” because it would be impossible to get the roster of artists together on another date.9 Those familiar with Kezar Stadium knew there were no covered areas for fans to wait out bad weather.
Finally, the big day arrived. At 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 23, 1975, the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra hit the stage to warm the crowd up with some Latin Salsa music.10 They were followed by the funky sounds of Graham Central Station, who played one of the longer sets of the day because the Miracles were unable to make it there after their flight was canceled. Much of the Grateful Dead, billed as Jerry Garcia & Friends, finished out the morning music.
The music sets were generally about a half-hour each. While the crew was setting up each performer’s equipment, celebrities took to the stage to make further appeals for donations. Among the celebrities were a number of San Francisco 49er greats, including John Brodie, Frankie Albert, Cedric Hartman, and Gene Washington, who told the crowd that he had “never witnessed this kind of enthusiasm in this stadium for any event.” The biggest ovation of the day went to San Francisco Giants superstar Willie Mays, then only a year and a half into his retirement. Marlon Brando made a surprise appearance to urge the crowd with a “colorful speech” to donate to Native Americans. Brando said he was also donating $5,000 to the SNACK cause.11
Tower of Power, then still breaking in new lead singer Hubert Tubbs, kicked off the music in the afternoon. Next came Santana and his sizzling guitar, followed by the Doobie Brothers. The Examiner’s Philip Elwood declared the Doobies to be the “hands-down best during the long concert,” because they had a number of top 40 hits and “generate gut-level enthusiasm.”12 Jefferson Starship, then riding high with their recently released “Miracles” single, appeared next and were another big favorite with the mostly teenage crowd.
In the late afternoon/early evening, Joan Baez took to the stage with her signature folk music sound. The final act of the day was to be Neil Young with members of the Band, but they had an even bigger surprise in store. Joining them on stage was Bob Dylan. The All-Star group did renditions of Young’s “Helpless” and Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and closed the night with a rendition of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” The entire day ran smoothly and police were impressed by the lack of issues caused by the large crowd.
Shortly before the SNACK benefit, San Francisco schools discovered an extra $2.1 million in funds, so there was some doubt on the day of the show where the monies raised would go.13 Graham said that was a “strange mistake,” but that the money would be deposited into a benefit fund until the performers decided what to do with it. Ultimately though, the proceeds did go to the school district for athletics and arts programs.13 After a meeting with Mayor Alioto and school district officials, Graham was satisfied that the money was still needed, but required that they provide monthly reports on how the funds were spent. Alioto stated afterwards that he asked Graham to consider establishing a summer rock festival in the City. A little over 25 years later, not one, but two annual summer music festivals in Golden Gate Park began and continue today.
1. “School ‘Emergency’–Budget Slashed,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 1975, p. 1.
2. “S.F. Schools End Sports Programs,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 5, 1975, p. 1.
3. “Big Kezar Fund-Raiser For Schools,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 11, 1975, p. 1.
4. “The Line-Up For S.F.’s Big Show,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 20, 1975, p. 3.
5. “Something Else,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 1975, p. 42.
6. “Neil Young Added to Kezar Show,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 3, 1975, p. 35.
7. “What’s Happening,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 1975, p. 48.
8. “In So Many Words…,” by Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 1975, p. 29.
9. “The Noon Balloon,” by Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 1975, p. 27.
10. “Nine Hours of Top Talent,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 1975, p. 3.
11. “All the greats groove the sounds of SNACK,” San Francisco Examiner, March 24, 1975, pp. 1, 18.
12. “Kezar’s Finest Hour,” San Francisco Examiner, March 24, 1975, p. 18.
13. “60,000 Pack Kezar for Rock Benefit Spectacular,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 1975, p. 1.
14. “Schools will get concert money,” San Francisco Examiner, April 1, 1975, p. 2.