The Grove’s Trocadero House
The quiet eucalyptus and redwood lined canyon of Stern Grove dampens the everyday drone of highway traffic whizzing down 19th avenue. There, sunk a few hundred feet below surface streets is a park and outdoor amphitheater that’s hosted free summer musical festivals since 1932. World class and the up and coming musicians have performed a wide range of music from symphonies, opera, rock-n-roll to jazz and everything in between. Each summer the music serenades those picnicking on the green lawns and echoes off of the soft hillsides and drifts into nearby homes.
At the base of the canyon is the Trocadero building, which dates back to the early 1890s that’s been home to many weddings, community meetings and parties for nearly 100 years. The Grove’s Pine Lake is one of three natural lakes in the city of San Francisco. The beloved Trocadero was originally built as an Inn. And when it was donated to the City, the famous architect Bernard Maybeck, known for the Palace of Fine Arts, supervised the restoration and renovation of the Trocadero.
All of the building’s wondrous history and beauty has inspired Parkside and Sunset District residents to rally for it to be designated as a historic City landmark. Preservationists call the structure, a Stick-Eastlake style building.
When it comes to the Western neighborhoods of San Francisco like West Portal, Forest Hill, St. Francis Woods, Lakeside, they are not known for many historic landmarks. That seems reasonable because in the early days of San Francisco, these neighborhoods were the really considered on the far outskirts of the City.
The first homesteaders of what we now call Stern Grove was the Green family, who in the 1850s operated and leased out the Trocadero Inn. As a remote destination, it became a secluded hideaway for gamblers, boxers, drinking parties and racing men exercising their horses. In fact, the notorious Abe Ruef, the corrupt right hand “boss” man to Mayor Eugene Schmidt’s political kick-back machine sought refuge there to evade the post-1906 earthquake Graft Trials. But Ruef was discovered and arrested there without incident.
The original landscaping of Stern Grove was built by the Works Progress Administration after the land was donated to the city by Rosalie Meyer Stern in 1931. It is one of the treasured areas on the west side of the City, not really known for historic landmarks. In 2005, Stern Grove underwent a $15 million renovation, designed by legendary landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who also designed Ghiradelli Square.
Next time you venture into the neighborhoods of St. Francis Woods, Lakeside and West Portal and wander down Sloat Blvd into this magical canyon, you will see our little Yosemite. Walk past the Trocadero and admire its charming character. The Grove is open daily for walking and is a favorite destination for neighbors exercising their dogs. We look forward to future world class symphony, opera, dance and world music each summer in our City’s amazing outdoor setting. And we can be reassured that our beloved Trocadero will continue to be a gathering for memorable events for San Franciscans.