Panama Pacific International

The 1915 Fair celebrated both the opening of the newly- completed Panama Canal - a triumph of Franco-American engineering - and the newly-rebuilt San Francisco, vital and vigorous after recovering from the 1906 earthquake and fire. The Fair opened on February 20, 1915, and closed December 4, 1915, having attracted 18,876,438 visits by several million visitors.

The exposition was divided at Laguna Street. The "Zone" or "playland" was the amusement portion. It ran east from Laguna to Van Ness Avenue.
The western portion of the exposition ran from Laguna to the Palace of Fine Arts, the only surviving building. The Palace was reconstructed in 1964. The Tower of Jewels was in the center, at Scott Street. The Exposition fronted on Chestnut Street.
The Exposition covered 635 acres of land in the Marina district of the city, including: 81 city blocks, 18 acres in Fort Mason, and 287 acres of The Presidio.
Total admissions to the Exposition were 18,876,438. Total revenues: $27,178,065.14. Total expenses: $25,865,914.38.

More information: Wikipedia

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Tower of Jewels, P.P.I.E., 1915

This 435 foot Tower, the centerpiece of the PPIE,
was adorned with 102,000 novagems. These 1-2 inch colored glass "jewels" were suspended loosely to swing in the breeze and shimmer as they caught and refracted sunlight by day or searchlights at night.
Statues of the mythical Phoenix bird, the City's symbol of rebirth after the fire, sit upon the Tower.


also B&W

Japanese Golden Pavilion & Hagiwara Gate, P.P.I.E., 1915

Japan constructed an exotic compound containing five large buildings and two smaller ones arranged around a restful lilly pond and tea garden containing over 4,000 native plants.  It was a novel and exotic locale, and was visited by more fairgoers than any other foreign site.
Some of these exhibits became part of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Although pavilions had been donated to the fair by 43 US states and 24 foreign countries, the fair planners enforced a strict adherence to a pastel color scheme, which unified the look of all the structures. This style even extended to the 1,500 murals and sculptures produced for the fair, and the hundreds of thousands of flowers, trees, and shrubs used in landscaping.


A show feature, these replica gadens had two Italowers, the Tower of Jewels and the glass dome of the Horticulture Palace as a backdrop.



The Avenue of Palms, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, February 20, 1915

Held to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the PPIE brought in almost 20,000,000 visitors and $27 million in revenue for the city in nine months (February to December, 1915), which was instrumental to San Francisco's recovery after the disasters of 1906.


The Avenue of Palms was the main thoroughfare between the group of exhibit palaces and the South gardens, the Palace of Horticulture, and Festival Hall. California palms, ranging from eighteen to twenty-five feet in height, line each side of the beautiful avenue. The Tower of Jewels is seen toward the center, Palace of Horticulture in far background

Source: OPL


Italian Towers and Festival Hall, P.P.I.E. 1915

These towers epitomize the noble architecture of the Italian Renaissance. Festival Hall resembled the Theater Beaux Arts in Paris, and staged many important congresses, conventions and concerts. The beautiful Court of Flowers is in the foreground.


Court of Four Seasons, PPIE 1915

The Court found its architectural motif in the famous Villa of Hadrian, one of the most exquisite examples of Roman architecture. The Court is surrounded by a colonnade, in each of the four corners of which are niches containing statuary representing the four seasons.

This court lay directly between the Court of the Universe and the Palace of Fine Arts.
Primarily designed with the goal of lasting only a year, the building details were exquisite. Many buildings were constructed with a wood base covered in plaster and fiber material, which was easily molded and sculpted.

Palace of Horticulture, P.P.I.E. 1915

This Palace, which stood at the western end of the South Gardens covering a five acre area, was remarkable for its magnificent green glass dome, larger than that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Much of the building was steam heated for its abundant tropical display.

Dome 186 feet high, 152 feet in diameter. 8 smaller domes surround it. Cost $341,000


Cawston Ostrich Farm Exhibit, P.P.I.E. 1915

Live ostriches were ridden at this exhibit on the "Zone", which included a farm in the rear. The Zone was the 3,000' long main avenue of the amusement district of the Exposition, which covered 65 acres and contained the most elaborate amusement features ever conceived. Cost of construction was $12,000,000.


Booth at the Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915

The Zone was the primary amusement area of the fair. Filled with rides, concessions, exotic foods, games of skill and chance, performers and live shows, it also exhibited giant scale-models of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, and a five-acre working replica of the Panama Canal.


Inspecting Contruction at the PPIE 1915


Miniature train system at the PPIE 1915


Touring the Palace of Fine Arts, PPIE 1915


Touring the Colonnade of the Palace of Fine Arts, P.P.I.E., 1915

This Palace was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who chose as his theme a Roman ruin, mutilated and overgrown. He visualized its colonnade "streaming with people, finding a reward within the great doors." The uncovered Colonnade ran along both sides of the Rotunda, featuring shrubbery as background to the marble scupltures.

The building is constructed entirely of concrete and steel at a cost of $580,000.



Palace of Fine Arts, PPIE 1915

The Roman-styled Palace of Fine Arts was the last of the buildings to be erected for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. Incorporating an exhibition hall to house the work of living artists, a colonnade, and a rotunda, it was designed to be as beautiful reflected in the water as it was against the sky.



Dance Event, Panama Pacific ..E., 1915

The Woman's Board presided over the social functions and "the dispensing of hospitality" at the Exposition. The California State building was the official host building, and held over six hundred and fifteen festivities including balls, conferences, banquets, tea dances, and concerts.


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