Originally excavated for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, it underwent a significant redesign after the fair in order to be repurposed as a venue for public gatherings centered on music performances.
The focal point of the plaza, Spreckels Temple of Music, also called the "Bandshell", was a gift to the city from sugar magnate Claus Spreckels. The structure was built in 1899, in advance of the Music Concourse's completion in 1900. It was severely damaged in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, has repeatedly undergone extensive renovation, and has served as a stage for numerous performers over the years ranging from Luciano Pavarotti to the Grateful Dead. It has for decades been the venue for annual celebrations of the anniversary of the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791.
In the 2000s an extensive renovation of the Music Concourse and construction of new buildings for the two museums was performed, together with the installation of an 800-car underground parking garage, which opened in 2005. The Music Concourse, including the bowl itself plus the surrounding land containing the statues, was named a San Francisco Designated Landmark in December 2006.
Three fountains line the center of the plaza with a fourth at the top of a staircase adjacent to the bowl. The plaza is planted with many trees laid out in a regular grid array. The trees, mostly London plane and Scotch elm, are heavily pollarded to give a very regular and formal appearance to the plaza.
Numerous statuary dot the area, including representations of a Roman gladiator, Ulysses S. Grant, Ludwig von Beethoven, Giuseppe Verdi, and Junípero Serra. At the opposite end of the Music Concourse from the Bandshell is a monument dedicated to Francis Scott Key, though this was not its original location, having been moved to this spot in 1967.
Several pedestrian tunnels lead from surrounding areas directly into the bowl.
- Pollock, Christopher (2001). San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. West Winds Press. ISBN 1-55868-545-6.
- Music for the People, Praise for the Donor: Spreckels’ Temple of Music and the Public Spirit of San Francisco (September 26, 1900)
- Ilene Lelchuk (October 14, 2005). "Controversial garage for museum opens / Neighborhoods fought over where to locate entrances". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Music Concourse.|
- Friends of the Music Concourse non-profit organization
- Music Concourse History at the San Francisco Department of Parks and Recreation