SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One of San Francisco’s most beloved landmarks reopened to the public Friday after a seven-year, $21 million renovation.
The extensive overhaul of the Palace of Fine Arts included seismic upgrades, the addition of new entrances and pathways, and the replacement of the rotunda floor and the roof of its dome.
The 95-year-old site is the only original structure left from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. With its 30 Corinthian columns framing the palace walkway and 1,100-foot-wide rotunda, it was designed to resemble a Roman ruin reflected in a lake.
Over the years, the palace has housed everything from art exhibits to trucks and jeeps during World War II. It also has provided a popular backdrop for marriage proposals and wedding photographs.
For its reopening, city leaders and residents praised the palace while passersby pushed strollers or walked dogs along the paths surrounding the newly restored lagoon, stopping to admire its famous white swans.
Animal-control officers removed the last remaining swan in November after one bird was killed. Earlier this month, the surviving swan and two new additions were placed in the lagoon in preparation for the reopening celebration.
The project was a public-private partnership between San Francisco and the nonprofit Maybeck Foundation, named after the palace’s architect, Bernard Maybeck. It was funded by a combination of city and state funds and contributions from over 1,200 donors.
The palace was not designed as a permanent structure and was originally built using plaster and chicken wire, according to the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. It quickly began to decay and was rebuilt in the 1930s and again in the 1960s before the latest renovations began in 2003.
A website created by the Maybeck Foundation, LoveThePalace.org, includes a “memory book” where San Franciscans can share their personal connections to the site.
In an entry by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the city’s former mayor recalled fishing in the lagoon — and occasionally jumping in — as a young boy.
“Now, I see the Palace as part of San Francisco’s soul, a beautiful link to our past and a gateway to the future,” he wrote.