Woodward's Gardens

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Woodward's Gardens
Woodward's Gardens in San Francisco, California circa 1880's showing Gus Buisley’s balloon ascending (Society of California Pioneers #C050292)
Location San Francisco, California
Opened 1866
Closed 1891

Woodward's Gardens is a combination amusement park, museum, art gallery, zoo, and aquarium operating from 1866 to 1891 in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. The Gardens covered two city blocks, bounded by Mission, Valencia, 13th, and 15th Streets in San Francisco. The site currently has a brick building at 1700 Mission Street, built after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which features a California Historical Site plaque, and Woodward's Gardens Restaurant on the first floor. The former Gardens site also features the San Francisco Armory, completed in 1914.

Woodward's Gardens was owned and operated by Robert B. Woodward (1824-1879), who became wealthy during the Gold Rush of 1849 and through his ownership the What Cheer House, a hotel and inn at 527-531 Sacramento Street at Leidesdorff Alley in San Francisco. Woodward opened the Gardens on the site of his four-acre estate after moving to Napa, California with his wife and four children. Early in his career, photographer and cinematographer Eadweard Muybridge took many photographs of the Gardens.[1] Woodward had bought the property from U. S. Senator John C. Fremont.[2]

View of Woodward's Gardens

In November 1889 Woodward's Gardens housed the famous "Monarch" bear, a bear that was memorialized on the Flag of California. Monarch was one of the last known wild grizzly bears captured in California and more than 20,000 people attended the opening day unveiling on November 10, 1889.[3]

The venue would attract up to 10,000 people on major holidays such as May Day. The facility lost popularity after Woodward's death in 1879, and finally closed in 1891. When the Woodward family auctioned off the collection in 1894, much of it was purchased by San Francisco philanthropist Adolph Sutro. Sutro displayed some of the Woodward's Gardens collection at his Cliff House beginning in 1896, and at his Sutro Baths in the early part of the 20th century.[4]

A new book by Marilyn Blaisdell, San Francisciana Photographs of Woodward's Gardens, with 100 photos of the site, was published in October 2012.[5]

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