I was born and raised in San Francisco. In my years growing up, there are a myriad of tastes, smells, and sounds that meant everything to me. But in terms of place there is only one locale that rings true in that way—and it’s the Palace of Fine Arts. My father and I made it our place when I was a little girl, and it has always continued to be that for me. Many of my personal pivotal moments, loves and losses, dreams and goals, have been experienced or remembered while looking out over the lagoon, or watching the sun set over the dome. My father and I still come here, separately or together; for us it is so much of what we both cherish in San Francisco. At this particular stage of my life, choreographing and working with dancers, I see and appreciate the Palace in a whole new way its lines, its beauty, its presence is something heartfelt and valuable and it makes me glad to be an Artist close to such Art. I hope that it stays with us for a long, long time.
—Sara T., San Franciscan


I’m not old line San Francisco, didn’t grow up in The City, have never even lived in The City. But I am as protective and proud of the Palace of Fine Arts as if I grew up in the neighborhood. First let me confess that there used to be some confusion in my mind about names: The Legion of Honor and the Palace of Fine Arts often became in my mind The Palace of the Legion of Honor—situated somewhere on the Bay and filled with Old Masters and swans. But I’ve got that sorted out now, thank you. Since I first visited the Palace when I was a freshman at Stanford in 1967—fresh from Montana—I’ve been entranced. It has no business being here on the rough and tumble West Coast, but then it fits so well with much of San Francisco—the oversized City Hall, the trout fishing ponds in Golden Gate Park, the windmills, to name a few—the Grand Gestures that make San Francisco so endlessly fascinating. When I visit the Palace, I’m transported into poems and paintings, into Seuat’s “La Grande Jatte” and Yeats’ “The Wild Swans at Coole.” There are no stories I can tell or incidents to relate, just a sense of wonder. Oh, and one question has always bothered me: What are those ladies looking at, anyway?
— Steve Tollefson, UC Berkeley

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For almost 10 years I had the Palace of Fine Arts to myself … well, me and several thousand residents of the Marina community in San Francisco. Having lost my home in the Oakland Hills Fire of 1991, I saw this as an important (and dramatic) sign that it was time for me to return to living in The City. A friend helped me find a wonderful apartment at the corner of Beach and Fillmore. Even though there were 75 steps up and 75 steps down between my door and groceries, laundry, and the outside world in general, I immediately fell in love with the view of The Palace of Fine Arts from both my living room bay window and my bedroom. Rain, shine, fog, dead of night … we could see each other. The Palace was always there for me: a source of comfort on bad days, a welcome distraction when I needed a break from my computer, an opportunity to let my mind wander during long phone chats, a conversation starter when guests came to visit, a subtle but effective way to impress first dates. Five years ago a career opportunity brought me to New York City where I quickly came to understand that life is all about tradeoffs. Yes, I traded in my view of the Palace for a view of my neighborhood Deli. No more daydreaming. Now I wake up in the morning to a view of produce. I will always treasure my “Palace years.” Just between us, I loved being a princess. Some day, I’ll be back.
— Laurie Winthrop


As someone who was born and raised in the Bay Area, I wanted San Francisco to be part of one of the most important nights of my life. When I decided to propose to my girlfriend on that cold January night, I knew I wanted to attach the memory of the event to some of my favorite San Francisco landmarks. Including the Palace of Fine Arts was an absolute must. On a night when the forecast had called for heavy rains, we somehow lucked out and ended up with a perfectly clear evening in the city. The Palace was our first stop. As we walked out under the dome in the darkness, a glowing full moon was framed perfectly in the archway directly in front of us. While I didn’t pop the question right there, I sometimes wish I had. Every time I’m near the Palace I think of that amazing night and how that setting made Katie seem that much more beautiful. Oh, and by the way, she said yes. Four and a half years later, Katie and I live in Portland now with our six-month-old son, Will. I can’t wait for our first visit back to San Francisco to show Will the Palace and tell him the story of what it means to his mom and dad.
— Ben Peterson


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When I was a kid growing up on Jefferson Street just four doors from the lagoon, the Palace was a great place to get into mischief. I’d sit at the edge of the water with my little fishing pole, patiently waiting. Then, my mother would fish me out when I “accidentally” fell in. Now, I see the Palace as part of San Francisco’s soul, a beautiful link to our past and a gateway to the future. It’s one of our City’s architectural icons, and we have an obligation to restore and preserve what we’ve inherited.
— Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco



My love for the Palace began with ducks. When I was little, my dad made a ritual of saving our leftover bread, and every Saturday, when we’d visit my great grandmother and her sisters on Baker Street, we’d feed the Palace muscovies and mallards.Today, I treasure the Palace for sentimental reasons, but also because of what it means to the City. It’s a reminder of an important era in our history. And it’s simply beautiful, like a jewel on the water. It’s a symbol of what draws people to San Francisco—and what keeps so many of us here.
—Michela Alioto-Pier, San Francisco Supervisor


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I first saw the Palace as a college student visiting from out of town. On that sunny fall day, as I sat on the lawn and looked at the lagoon, I became a “San Franciscan.” Now, whenever I pass the Palace, I notice people having their own special moments, whether it’s an evening walk, a first date, or a family picnic. And when I cross the Golden Gate Bridge and see that glowing orb on the waterfront, I know I’ve arrived in a city that values history, beauty, and the important contributions urban parks make to our quality of life.
— John Murray, San Francisco Recreation and Park Commissioner and Technology Entrepeneur



When we were dating and living in the City, the Palace was one of our regular haunts. We’d walk there to escape the hustle of City crowds and talk about our future—when we’d get married, when we might start a family. Now, everything we discussed at the Palace has happened, and we want Gemma to know this place that was so important to us. It doesn’t surprise us that there are more weddings here than anywhere else in America—it’s a romantic spot! We can’t wait till Gemma is old enough to feed the swans and understand Mama and Papa’s connection to this beautiful landmark.
— Emily, Eric, and Gemma Leach, Palace Appreciators

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The Greenbergs have been part of the City since the Gold Rush, when our family company forged some of San Francisco’s first fire hydrants. We were here for the 1906 earthquake and the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, the Great Depression and the 1960s. Six generations later, the products of M. Greenberg’s Sons can still be found on San Francisco streets. We’re proud to be part of a community that prizes the Palace as part of its legacy to future generations. We like to think the Palace is a little like the Greenbergs—part of San Francisco’s romance and its history and here to stay.
— John Greenberg and daughter Janie Friend, Native San Franciscans



Bernard Maybeck didn’t design the Palace as an avian refuge, but birds were part of his vision: If you look at his original sketches, you’ll see swans. Today, thanks to several generations of volunteer swan stewards like me, these inspiring creatures continue to grace the Palace. They preen and float on the lagoon. They court on the lawns and nest against the colonnades. And when they lead their cygnets down for their first swim, it’s an event for the whole neighborhood. Joggers, tourists, brides and grooms, grandparents, parents, and kids—everyone comes out to see the youngsters take to the water.
— Judy Whilt, “Swan Lady”


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