History of the Music Concourse
Home | Upcoming Public Hearings | Vendor design and long-range plan needed | Bands, bands, bands! | Celebration, September 10th, 2010 | History and Current Conditions | Our Role | RPD Tree Management Plan | Photos by guest photographer Meigan Canfield | San Francisco Beautiful Award | A Few Photos - 2006 | Park Ranger Funding Updates | LANDMARK CELEBRATION | LANDMARK CELEBRATION - More Photos | LANDMARKING - OUR THANKS TO ALL OF THESE WONDERFUL PEOPLE | Landmark Celebration Invitation | Our Goals | CONTACT US!

The Music Concourse - a Beloved Part of San Francisco's History

The Music Concourse as we know it today was built in 1900, when Claus Spreckels gave his Temple of Music to the people of San Francisco. Hundreds of trees were planted in a grid pattern in the Bowl to provide shade for the concert-goers. At the dedication, one of the speakers referred to the tree grid and how future generations of San Franciscans would enjoy music under "these trees in their age and decrepitude as now in their early growth."

The Music Concourse has been a significant outdoor performance space that is important to San Francisco's history. According to the Landmarks application prepared by architectural historian William Kostura, "...the Music Concourse has significance at the local level as an outdoor performance space and for its association with the Park Band...for most of the twentieth centery the Concourse was one of several free cultural attractions in this part of Golden Gate Park...the Music concourse, then, represents important themes in San Francisco's cultural history."

In addition, Kostura states, "...the Music Concourse has significance at the national level as a late nineteenth century and early twentieth century urban park landscape. The landscape is an unusually complex one, with a musical performance space, dual circulation systems (for vehicles and pedestrians), trees, and many commemorative monuments. The aesthetic quality of the place is very high... Very few urban park landscape in the United States are this complex, have this level of quality, and retain this degree of integrity."

"The integrity of the district is very high. The major elements - the concourse bowl, the Temple of Music, the London plane trees, the benches, the staircases, the paths, and strets, the pedestrian tunnels, the fountains, the monuments - all survive, with remarkabley few modern intrusions." [Please note: there are elm trees and a few other species in the Bowl, which Kostura mentions elsewhere; in addition, the tunnels have now been destroyed by the present construction but are scheduled to be replaced.]


The historic trees are now mature. Over the years, trees have been lost due to lack of funding for specialized maintenance, vehicular damage during public events and other accidents. These trees need careful monitoring and maintenance that is threatened by our current budget cuts.

In addition, this should be a full grid, but it has been missing many trees. As part of the Surface Improvements Project, the City replanted many of the missing trees, as described in the Golden Gate Park Master Plan.  Sadly, someone (as yet unknown) attacked many of the new trees, destroying 17 of them.  New trees are scheduled to be replanted soon.
Friends of the Music Concourse is also advocating for replacement of all of the missing trees in front of the Bandshell. This tree grid provides shade for concert-goers on sunny days as well as protection from our rolling fogs.

Some historical Concourse structures have been lost forever due to the current construction. However, the remaining elements, such as the fountains, bandshell, and decomposed granite walking surface must be preserved and maintained.    Recently, the bandshell roof was renovated.  The fountains are under renovation and will be running again by fall, 2010.  The new benches, both in the Bowl and around the upper pathway, add needed seating to the area.  More moveable benches are needed for the larger musical events.

The character of the Bowl is formed with all of these historic features. They are an integral part of the cherished memories of visitors from all over the world.

To read the full application by William Kostura, type in: images/index.html

Last updated on

The name Friends of the Music Concourse, all text, and all photos are Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by K. Howard unless otherwise noted. Please contact us if you would like to use our information or photos for tree or historic preservation.