William Hammond Hall’s proposal  for Golden Gate Park. 1870

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Initially given the job of surveying the 1000+ acre site, the young army-trained engineer William Hammond Hall was subsequently appointed Engineer and Superintendent of the park.  Hall laid out the basic design of Golden Gate Park with its curving roadways and lakes and then devised methods to stabilize the dunes with Ammophila grasses, barley, and lupine. After experimenting with various species of trees, many of which did not survive, he discovered that Monterey cypress, Monterey pine, and blue gum eucalyptus thrived once he found a way to provide water. 

 

Hall built a nursery in the eastern part of the park that supplied the first 60,000 trees. Different soils from other parts of the city and Bay area were transported to supplement the existing sand, and special streetcars were built to transport manure from the horse-drawn carriages downtown. In 1876, an admiring Frederick Law Olmsted said, “There is no like enterprise anywhere else, which so far as I can judge has been conducted with equal foresight, ingenuity and economy.” 

 

However, a political dispute with a disgruntled associate led to Hall’s resignation in 1876. He later became California State Engineer. The next 10 years were not happy ones for the park. Neglected and underfunded, the trees which were purposely planted close together to be thinned grew badly and overcrowded.  In 1886 Hall returned at the request of officials, demanded the thinning of the forest and hired John McLaren.

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San Francisco Botanical Garden is a public/private partnership between San Francisco Botanical Garden Society and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.