The site, along Sloat Boulevard between 19th and 34th Avenues about two miles (3 km) south of the Golden Gate Park, was donated to the city in 1931 by Rosalie Meyer Stern, who named the park for her late husband Sigmund Stern, a philanthropist and a nephew of Levi Strauss. The original Stern Grove landscaping and facilities were built by the Works Progress Administration, consisting of several mini-parks, including the Concert Meadow, the West Meadow, and Pine Lake Park. The grove's Pine Lake is one of three natural lakes in the city of San Francisco. In 2005, Stern Grove underwent a $15 million renovation, designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. New features included drainage improvements and erosion control, an expanded outdoor stage and performance facilities, and terraces and additional bleacher-style seating, built of stone walls, along the slope opposite the stage.
Since 1938, there have been weekly concerts and performances in the outdoor amphitheater during the summer months. Supported entirely by contributions, the concerts have always been free to the public. Crowds have often exceeded 20,000 persons.