Western Neighborhoods Project board member Jamie O’Keefe came by the office the other day with an amazing piece of San Francisco history, a large framed artwork commemorating a party for long-time San Francisco Parks Superintendent (and recognized father of Golden Gate Park), John McLaren, given by the Bohemian Club on March 14, 1935. Created on illustration board, it measures about 3 by 4 feet and is signed by dozens of club members, John McLaren included, and features original artwork by Jo Mora.
Jamie came across it a few months back in the basement of an antiques store in Nevada City and could not believe her eyes. The signatures are a veritable who’s who of San Francisco artists, photographers, architects, businessmen and politicians of the early 1930s, including Mayor Angelo Rossi, photographer Gabriel Moulin, Marshall Hale, Herbert Fleishhacker, architect Timothy Pflueger and a host of googleable names. Many of these Bohemian Club artists had a part in designing and building the Golden Gate International Exhibition on Treasure Island in 1939.
The real prize of the piece is the original artwork by Jo Mora, renowned California artist and Illustrator. The banner is a tribute to McLaren’s work turning over 1,000 acres of rolling sand dunes into the Golden Gate Park we know today (or that we knew in 1934). A likeness of McLaren is flanked by two views of Golden Gate Park (sand dunes and a forlorn squirrel on the left, a bright flowerbed on the right). McLaren’s Scottish heritage is acknowledged with a thistle alongside a California poppy, and a line of dancing owls (a Bohemian Club animal motif) in kilts.
Stored in a dank basement, the piece has some water damage, but thanks to Jamie and her excellent eye for history, it will survive. Jamie is a member of the Western Neighborhoods Project’s board of directors, works closely with The Guardians of the City organization, and is one of the prime organizers of Jimmy’s Old Car Picnic. Her plan is to get it reframed, restored, and to research all the names. Hopefully, at some point, we’ll get her to let us display it to the public somewhere.