10 Ways to See the 1915 World’s Fair in 2015 (and Beyond)

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You may have heard by now that it’s the 100th anniversary of the Panama Pacific International Expo, a.k.a. the 1915 World’s Fair. The PPIE marked the completion of the Panama Canal and SF was host to one of the most elaborate displays in history. 635 acres known as Jewel City teemed with palatial gardens, monuments and marvels representing countries around the world. Today there are just a handful of gems from Jewel City hidden around the Bay Area. We’ve rounded up 10 that you and your little locals can spot for yourself.

jewelcity-357 post card (1)Courtesy Saratoga Historical Society

1. Japanese Pavilion, Golden Gate Park:  The Japanese Tea Garden itself was actually planted in 1894 as part of a Midwinter Exposition. The Japanese Pavilion inside is one of the more well-known pieces salvaged from the 1915 World’s Fair. This one is pretty easy to spot (it’s big, bright and is marked by a plaque) but can you also find the two gates that were part of the fair? Hint: One is wicker.

conservatory urnPhoto by Ed Bierman via Flickr Creative Commons 

2. Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park: Although the Conservatory itself was already standing long before the fair, today’s Victorian glasshouse holds two remnants from the World’s Fair: an urn and a marble bench. Can you find them?

3. The Pioneer Mother, Golden Gate Park: Next time you want to go boating on Stow Lake, take a moment to check out this statue of a mother with children tugging at her skirts (sound familiar?) before heading up the path to the lake. You’ll see her just off JFK drive.

thinker at legion of honorPhoto by Mike D. via Flickr Creative Commons

3. Legion of Honor: The Legion is actually a full-scale replica of the French Pavilion from the Expo; its patron Alma Spreckels fell in love with the design when she saw it at the fair and received permission from the French to recreate it with the Legion of Honor. She also donated the famous Rodin’s Thinker, a statue which once greeted fair goers.

star maiden at chs sfPhoto: Amber Guetebier

5. Star Maiden at 1 Sansome: For the grand expo more than 90 Star Maidens were cast (by Sterling Calder, Alexander Calder’s dad) and used in the Court of the Universe. Today you can see one in the lobby of the Citicorp Building at 1 Sansome St. in the Financial District. Other maidens are hidden around the Bay: SFO, the Oakland Museum and even Santa Cruz. Currently you can get a good close look at a Star Maiden at the California Historical Society’s City Rising exhibition which features an awesome display of artifacts from the Pan Pacific Expo as well as kid-friendly ways to learn more.

football players statue, UC BerkeleyPhoto of Football Players by rmnichholas via Flickr Creative Commons

6. The Football Players at UC Berkeley: Southwest of the Life Sciences building you’ll spot this iconic Berkeley sculpture that was actually loaned to the Expo and returned shortly after the close of the fair.

7. Chabot Space Center Telescope: The fair’s 20-inch Warner and Swasey Refracting Telescope has found a permanent home at the Chabot Space & Science Center in the Oakland Hills, where it is fondly known as Rachel.

elephants at sausalito plazaPhoto by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney via Flickr Creative Commons

8. The Elephants at the Plaza Vina del Mar in Sausalito: Hop a ferry over to the Bay’s sweetest little port town, and check out the two elephants flanking the plaza. The fountain is from the World’s Fair too!

9. Lunette Painting at the MVPL: If you haven’t spent an afternoon at the Mill Valley Public Library, here’s your excuse. Along with floor to ceiling windows and amazing children’s section, the library is home to the Lunette Painting, which once hung at the Marin County Exhibit at the fair.

10. Ride the Rails or the Carousel at Vasona ParkPhoto courtesy Billy Jones Wildcat Railway

10. Oak Meadow Park, Los Gatos: An extra fun one to explore with the kiddos, the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad that runs through the park includes passenger cars from the 1915 fair. The beautiful W.E. W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel is also from the PPIE!!  See, history is fun!

See lots more PPIE artifacts including a replica model of the fair at California Historical Society, 678 Mission St., San Francisco. Open Tues, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $5/adults; children and members are free. More info: californiahistoricalsociety.org

Kids can also visit the Palace of Fine Arts (the largest remaining building from the PPIE) where the City Rising exhibit continues there and shares space with the Innovation Hangar which offers tons of  hands-on history and experiments. Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St.,  San Francisco. Open Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free. More info: ppie100.org

Thanks to the California Historical Society for help in generating this awesome scavenger hunt! Check out their complete list of where to find the relics of the Expo around the Bay and the world here.

What pieces of the Pan Pacific Expo have you found hidden around the Bay Area? 

–Amber Guetebier