Historical Images

What was this grassy patch of lawn and what happened here?

We started by looking at the site itself and tried to get a sense of things over time.  What was the Kezar Triangle?  What visual record could we find of the changes that took place since the area first became settled?  We know that before the Spanish, this grassy coastal area dominated by sand dunes was home to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Our story, in terms of geographical mapping of the Kezar Triangle area, begins just over a decade after the 49ers discovered gold in the Sierras and San Francisco became a boom town.

Kezar Triangle area in 1861

This is the earliest detailed map we could find of the area. Thanks to the Rumsey Map Archives and other online sources...

Now, here’s the same map, overlaid onto a satellite image of the area.  See if you can spot the Triangle. It helps to find the Kezar Stadium first.  What’s notable is that this was the very edge of the city.  Looks like there was the Gautier ranch not too far away, but the rest was pretty much shifting sand dunes and scattered coastal vegetation.

1861 map overlayNext comes this image, where you can see the roads being laid through what is now Golden Gate Park.  The park was being planned and developed in the 1860’s and the famous William Hammond Hall prepared the first survey and topographic map of the park site in 1870.

1869 map of the Kezar Triangle site

Note the actual location of the Triangle now and see how it was a crossroads even back then…

1969 Kezar Triangle image overlayWilliam Hammond Hall became Park commissioner in 1871. Working with his assistant, John McLaren, from Scotland who eventually replaced him as Commissioner in 1887, they began by stabilizing the dunes and planting trees. Lots of great history here and here and elsewhere.  The short story:  it was an adventure.  The stables once located between the Triangle and what is now Kezar Stadium, might have played a role in making it all possible. Apparently barley from horse feed proved to be the unexpected key (with lupine and bent sea grass) to stabilizing the sand dunes.  Could the Kezar Triangle have been a site where park gardeners first noticed the spilled barley sprouting and stabilizing the sand?

1972 kezar triangle mapWith the overlay, you can see the stables and buildings in the area.  The Stadium area itself was a bit of a natural cove and home to the old park nursery.

1872 kezar triangle map overlayThis detail from 1874 shows more clearly what was there back in the day.  Of curious note, is also Building F, which happens to sit above where there’s a mysterious and isolated patch of nasturtiums now on the Kezar Triangle. Is there a natural seep there or different soil because of that building from way back then?

1874 kezar triangle area mapIt turns out a visitor to this website, Angus McFarlane (see his comments below), knows some of the early history. According to him, “From 1870 to 1912 the triangle was the home of the Quigley family. Patrick Quigley was the supervisor of all the pick-and-shovel guys who really made Golden Gate Park. McLaren was the administrator, but Quigley oversaw the real work that was done.”

In 1873-74 the park nursery was converted into John McLaren’s beloved Rhododendron Dell.

The first phase of Golden Gate Park involved stabilizing sand and planting trees to stabilize the dunes that covered three-quarters of the park’s area. By 1875, some 60,000 trees, mostly Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Monterey pine and Monterey cypress, had been planted. By 1879, that figure more than doubled to 155,000 trees over 1,000 acres.

1876 kezar triangle area mapBy 1892, you could see the dramatic evidence of a tree filled park with water features, roads and buildings.  There’s the Triangle to left.  Only a few houses or small farms here and there, no Inner Sunset, yet, and barely any development on either side of the park heading towards Ocean Beach.

1892 view of Golden Gate Park

Here’s a fun view of the Haight Ashbury District and SE corner of Golden Gate Park.  Want to buy a ranch in Cole Valley? Could it really have been that lush and filled with trees?

1893 view of Haight Ashbury District and SE corner of GG Park

By 1915, a new road can be seen going straight through the Kezar Triangle.  Also note the red line along Lincoln Way/Frederick.  That was apparently a streetcar line that passed along the Southern edge of the park past the Kezar Triangle on from Stanyan to Lincoln Way.  Greg Gaar of HANC contends that there was “heavy” traffic passing through the area even back then.  Also of note, building F is gone.  According to Angus McFarlane, “The large Quigley family lived there till Patrick died in 1912. By then the children had grown and moved away. For a few years the old Quigley house stood empty and was considered haunted till it burned down in 1914.”

1915 kezar triangle area mapOne fun thing to note is the prominent inclusion of the Children’s Playground and the Polytechnic High School, and if you look closely at the map, you can see they had kangaroos near the deer enclosure! This overlay shows  how the Triangle was really the result of the new cut through road to the West and the extension of Arguello when the Kezar Stadium was built a decade later.

1915 Kezar Triangle area map overlayIn 1922, $100,000 was accepted by the City of San Francisco from the estate of Mary A. Kezar to erect a memorial to her mother, Nancey H. Kezar, and her uncles Bartlett, John and Charles F. Doe, pioneers in the area. The SF Park Commission then added an additional $200,000 to build a new stadium. The structure was designed in “Roman style” by architect Willis Polk. Dedication ceremonies were held at Kezar Stadium on May 2, 1925, when a two mile race was held at the venue.

In 1946 the San Francisco 49ers football team was founded and Kezar Stadium was adopted as their home stadium. The 49ers played 25 seasons at Kezar Stadium before moving into Candlestick Park in 1971. Surprisingly, the Stadium also was the initial home of the Oakland Raiders when they were first founded before they could build a stadium of their own in Oakland. The Kezar Triangle site at the foot of the Stadium was used extensively by students from Polytechnic High School for track and field, baseball and even football practice.

1946 kezar triangle area mapYou can see the size of the stadium and how relatively bare the general area was. Fewer trees (especially along Whiskey Hill NW of the Triangle) and no evidence of pedestrian pathways through the grass either.  The Triangle was apparently maintained by the Polytechnic High maintenance staff as a sports field until the school closed in the early 1970s. Then it was turned over to SF Rec and Park staff. According to park officials, the brown dirt trails through the Kezar Triangle formed after an irrigation dispute caused the site to remain unwatered for a period of months.  Once the pedestrian and bicycle paths were established, the lawn proved impossible to restore and we were left with the two trails visible today.

In the meantime, the Stadium was used for a range of sporting events, concerts and and even films. Several scenes from Clint Eastwood’s original Dirty Harry film were shot there in 1971. The film’s serial killer villain, the “Scorpio Killer” was the caretaker at the stadium. Numerous rock concerts were held there too, including Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Carlos Santana, The Crunchees, Waylon Jennings, and Neil Young.

1987 kezar triangle area map

The Kezar Stadium was finally demolished in 1989 after suffering extensive earthquake damage and had been proving an unwieldy traffic and parking burden for the neighborhood. The new Kezar Stadium was reconstructed providing seating for 10,000 fans, an all-weather track eight lanes wide, a soccer field and two scoreboards. Although the new stadium was designed for hosting track meets and even includes a discus area, the layout proved to be too crowded for safe use during actual track meets.  Several years later, in coordination with SF Rec and Park, local coaches managed to locate the old Polytechnic High discus ring and reinstall it with a new safety cage at the Kezar Triangle as an alternative location for discus throwing. By the early 1990’s you can notice the increased vegetation in the area as trees get larger and see two very visible dirt trails cutting through the Triangle.

1993 Kezar Triangle area mapFinally, here it is today.  What do you notice now?  How does the area compare to the earliest photo from 1946?

Since the early days of Golden Gate Park, the Kezar Triangle area has paralleled major themes in the history of public space and land use as the city grew up around it.  From it’s early role as open space and then as a home to the Quigley family (see comments below!) as the crossroads past the park nursery and then McLaren’s rhododendron dell and the park horse stables, to a sports field for Polytechnic High to a kind of overflow area for sports and cultural events and finally as a site without a whole lot going on. How can this highly visible but somewhat overlooked plot of land best serve the ecology and needs of people now as they pass through and around this small section of Golden Gate Park?  What can we do to bring the Kezar Triangle to life and make it a delightful place to visit and not just a pass-through park?

2011 kezar triangle map

8 Responses to 'Historical Images'

  1. Alma Dunstan-McDaniel says:

    Graduated Poly in 1955 and spent many afternoons at the Triangle. I hope you can re-vitalize it somehow. Thanks for your work.

    • friendsofkezartriangle says:

      Thanks Alma! Do you have any stories you’d like to share or photos of the Triangle back then? Please let us know! Thanks for your support. :)

  2. Angus Macfarlane says:

    From 1870 to 1912 the triangle was the home of the Quigley family. Patrick Quigley was the supervisor of all the pick-and-shovel guys who really made Golden Gate Park. McLaren was the administrator, but Quigley oversaw the real work that was done. The large Quigley family lived there till Patrick died in 1912. By then the children had grown and moved away. For a few years the old Quigley house stood empty and was considered haunted till it burned down in 1914.

    • friendsofkezartriangle says:

      Thanks so much Angus!

      We’ve been wondering what that building was that you can see in the 1874 and 1876 maps next to Kezar Drive. Sounds like that was the Quigley house.

      The next mystery is the incongruous nasturtium patch on the Triangle now, that coincides with the same location as the former building. We’ve been wondering how the park ended up with a patch of nasturtiums and thought it might be covering some different patch of soil or a former garden or something. Any guesses?

  3. Mary Lane Cryns says:

    I grew up on Second Avenue right off Lincoln Way. And the “Triangle” was like our giant back yard when I was a kid — it was our neighborhood hang out area and there were many concerts there in the ’60’s. I have so many stories, so many memories of a group of kids running around that park every day. My favorite tree resided there…and we never called it the Triangle. We always called that area “The Greens.” my neighbors around the corner dubbed the place “The Greens” and that is forever what that wonderful area will always be…filled with memories of a group of kids who loved the place in the ’60’s and ’70’s. oh yes it was also a good place to bring your dog too! :) and there was always a lovely little mound of sawdust, lots of trees…bushes, perfect place for kids to play. our parents could look out the window and see us (except when we ditched into Whiskey Hill, where we weren’t supposed to go but went anyway).

  4. Mary Lane Cryns says:

    also there were many free concerts at the Greens (the Kezar Triangle). lots more trees and bushes than there are now too. The Grateful Dead performed there many times, and once there was a huge rally to save the Park Police Station — and a concert with hippies mingling with the police and us kids and families… many free community dinners were brought in — organized by the Haight St. Switchboard. everyone in the neighborhood participated. My best friends lived right on Lincoln Way across the street from “the Greens” and we lived three buildings off Lincoln Way on Second Avenue.

  5. Robert Gardner says:

    Great chronological record! It was a fascinating look at the history of the neighborhood. Would you also happen to have access to photographs of 3rd ave between Lincoln and Hugo from the period of 1900 to 1940? I’d be interested in finding early images of my house out of an interest in restoration of the house.

    • friendsofkezartriangle says:

      Hi Robert – We don’t have any photos of that area ourselves. Greg Gaar has a nice collection of historical photos and we’re hoping to scan some of them. Not sure if he has any of 3rd St. in particular. One image we’re looking for is a shot of the Quigley House that used to be on the Triangle itself. If anyone has an image of that we’d love to share it on this site!

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