John McLaren

December 20, 1937, outside McLaren Lodge on his 91st birthday

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Born and trained in landscaping in Scotland, John McLaren moved to California in 1872 and worked on large estates in San Mateo. In 1886 he was hired by William Hammond Hall as head gardener of Golden Gate Park, and later became Superintendent. He held that position for 53 years — it was his life’s work.  It’s said that he would ride in his carriage from McLaren Lodge where he lived (now Recreation and Park Department headquarters at Stanyan and the entrance to the park) to visit every part of the park and check up on his gardeners. He loved trees and was famously disdainful of other additions to the park such as statues, which he called “stookies”. He expanded the variety of trees and plants in the park enormously. A list of species presented to the Park Commission in 1893 catalogued over 750 different species of trees and shrubs from all over the world and the United States in the park. But he continued to plant out the three canopy trees that give the park its special character to this day.

Image courtesy of OpenSF History/wnp14.0847

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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.