THE ROMANTIC STORY OF SAN FRANCISCOS
SIGMUND STERN GROVE
While taking a course in San Francisco History at the University of San Francisco, D. Don Christianson became intrigued by the romance and legends that surround the citys world-
From a cow pasture. to cantatas, from a roadhouse to Rigoletto is the
history of Sigmund Stern Grove in brief. Before the Forty-
In 1847 one George M. Greene of the State of Maine was advised by a friend of the family who was employed in the Government Service of the excellent farming and cattle lands open to homesteaders in Northern California. Greene and his wife came across the plains from Maine and took up a homestead on land near what is now 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard.
Greenes brothers took up all available land from the end of his grant,
comprising 160 acres, to the Pacific Ocean. Later he increased his holdings
to 185 acres. The property adjoining his on the west comprised 320 acres
and was owned by his brother, Alfred Greene, Another brother, John
Greene, owned the property on the east. It was on Alfred Greenes
property that one of the first
homes in San Francisco was built. This portable home was brought all the
way across the Continent from Maine.
The country in 1847 was in its virgin state. There was a great deal of
underbrush where wild cattle, rabbits, and coyotes roamed. Ducks were
plentiful on the large, spring-
In the home of Alfred Greene was born the son of the original pioneer, George M. Greene. The son was named after his father.
The gold fever came in 1850 and affected the farming life and production of the early settlers, but only for a few years. The elder George Greene was not only a farmer but a miner, and he caught the fever. He continued intermittently as a prospector all his life. He also was one of the first oil men in California, commencing his activities in 1865.
In about 1871 young George Greene conceived the idea of planting their
property with eucalyptus trees. The first eucalyptus seeds had been sent
here from Australia by
Bishop William Taylor. Greenes father consented to this plan, and George
carried it out, Later he further developed their land by planting "Holland
grass" on the sand dunes to prevent their shifting with the wind.
Mahoney hired red shirts to drive the Greenes and other settlers from the property. The U. S. Marshal came to the Greenes and read the ruling whereby the land would have to be relinquished. The Greenes refused the order and hired a lawyer, Mastick, to secure an injunction.
In the meantime a fort was built on the land. The fort consisted of a fourteen-foot shed which was lined with metal. George Greene, Sr., George Greene, Jr., Leo Greene, and a Canadian who had been with Custer on the plains held the fort. To use Greenes own words, "We were advised to shoot low, in the stomach, for it would take two men to carry them away."
The Greenes remained holding the fort for three months until a Special Act of Congress in 1887 was passed granting them the land.
In 1892 George M. Greene, Jr. conceived the idea of building a public
It was under Cook, prize fight referee and man-about-town, that the
Trocadero reached the zenith of its glory. It was in great order then. The
area had a deer park, a beer garden, an open-
Such noted characters as Dr. Frederick Cook, explorer of the North Pole
Region, and David S. Terry (of duel fame) have lived on the property. The
Trocadero Inn was Abe Ruefs hideout when the Ruef-
In 1931 George Greene was still living in the Trocadero when he sold his
land to Mrs. Sigmund Stern. Mrs. Stern, searching for a fitting memorial
to her late husband
She turned it over to the people of San Francisco as a recreation site, deeding it in perpetuity to the city with the express provision that it would forever be used only for recreational purposes.
For this it had obvious advantages
On June 4, 1932, the city gratefully accepted the gift and the childish trebles of a playground chorus gave the first test to a musical center that now ranks among the worlds finest.
From that days inaugural stemmed a steady growth of the citys musical reputation. For the first time San Francisco, the cultural heart of the Pacific Coast, had an outdoor center to vie in service to the people with Chicagos Ravinia Park, St. Louiss Forest Park and Hollywoods Bowl.
Over the years the city augmented various gifts
by Mrs. Stern so that today the entire Stern Grove area with the adjoining
Pine Lake land is comprised of some 63 acres bounded by Sloat Boulevard
on the south, Wawona Street on the north, 19th Avenue on the east and
34th Avenue on the west.
In 1938 Mrs. Stern rallied a group of equally civic minded citizens to form the Sigmund Stern Grove Music Festival Committee. With that support and impetus, the idea of a full summer season of music events, free to all, burgeoned into full life.
At first, attendance of 1,000 persons at any single performance was
considered sensational. These days, however, it is not unusual to see 15,000
gathered on a sunny day. Last years attendance at the series of 15
programs - the first of which, Carnival, is produced by the playground
children of the Recreation and Park Department
For these thousands Sunday at the Grove is an eagerly awaited summer
event. They come in social groups, in clubs, as families en masse and alone.
And always there, are the children, romping madly until the show begins
and then owl-eyed
at the marvels.
There is no attempt to stuff the theories of any particular musical sect down the listeners throats. Operas presented, usually complete, have run the scale of taste from Gilbert and Sullivan to Verdi. Ballets include the traditional and the experimental. Orchestral concerts impartially schedule worthwhile musical comedy hits next to major works of the immortals.
The Grove is more than a home for outdoor music spectacles, as any
moderately adventurous concert-
Just plain hiking has its unique pleasures amid the files of eucalypti, on lush
turf banked with fuchsia and evergreens.
Sunny weather brings the picnickers, and there are plenty of barbecue pits for them. In bad weather, there is the Trocadero. It is in heavy demand the year around by clubs and social organizations for dinners, parties and dances.
But the Summer Music Festival is the biggest attraction and as one music critic put it accurately if lightly the programs are the only ones given hereabouts that can smell as good as they sound, thanks to the action of sunlight on wet eucalyptus trees.