This 1925 Spanish Revival-style building at the park’s western end, designed by renowned architect Willis Polk, originally housed a lounge and bathing facilities for Ocean Beach swimmers on the ground floor and a restaurant upstairs. The ground floor’s striking frescoes, mosaics, and wood carvings were added in 1936-37 in a project funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Painted by French-born painter and clothing designer Lucien Labaudt, the frescoes depict life in San Francisco during the Depression, including images of residents at play in Golden Gate Park and Land’s End. Labaudt recruited friends and family as models, but several well-known figures are included, among them legendary Golden Gate Park Superintendent John McLaren.
Labaudt also designed and directed the tile work, created by Primo Caredio, and magnolia-wood carvings done by sculptor Michael von Meyer, including the intricate balustrade along the stairs leading to the second floor, with octopus newel posts, mermaids, deep-sea divers, old ships, and a sea monster.
During World War II the Chalet was commandeered by the U.S. Army and used as a barracks for coastal defense forces operating the nearby signal station. In 1947, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) leased the building as a social hall, with a bar and pool tables downstairs and meeting rooms upstairs. Over time, the building deteriorated and the bar acquired a bad reputation. The VFW moved out in 1979 and the building sat empty and fenced off from the public until 1981, when an extensive restoration of the structure and artwork began; the chalet was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same year. It reopened in 1996, and today the ground floor houses the Golden Gate Park visitor center and the Park Chalet restaurant; upstairs is the Beach Chalet restaurant, with sweeping views of the Pacific.
The Beach Chalet is at 1000 Great Highway, across from Ocean Beach, on the western edge of Golden Gate Park.