Music Concourse

Music Concourse in Spring with people watching a concert

The Music Concourse, a landscaped basin between the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum, is a vital civic and cultural space within Golden Gate Park, hosting free concerts on Sundays during the summer and serving as a respite and picnic spot year-round for visitors to nearby cultural facilities.

The oval-shaped basin was excavated in 1893 to create the Grand Court for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, also known as the Midwinter Fair, and statuary and other relics from the exposition can still be found scattered around the concourse. The Music Concourse itself was built in 1900 to accommodate audiences for concerts at the Spreckels Temple of Music (often referred to as the Bandshell), built the same year as a gift from Claus Spreckels, the “sugar king.” The original layout of the concourse was much as you see it today. The depressed elevation was intended to provide protection from summer winds, and terraces around the perimeter were designed to seat an anticipated capacity of 20,000.

The Spreckels Temple of Music and the original M.H. de Young Museum, which was built for the Midwinter Fair, were the first structures in the Music Concourse area. The California Academy of Sciences was added in 1916, and the concourse’s central fountain, Rideout Fountain, in 1924. Many other monuments and statues are located in and around the concourse, and other historic features include three pedestrian tunnels under adjacent roadways. The striking modern building that now houses the de Young’s collection opened in 2005, and the California Academy of Sciences’ innovative “green” building opened in 2008.

The concourse’s grove of pollarded (severely pruned) trees are primarily London plane trees and Wych elms, with some maples and walnuts. It’s not clear when the present trees were planted. Original drawings and photos of the concourse show fewer trees.

The Spreckels Temple of Music, damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was rededicated in 1994 after a complete seismic reconstruction. The concourse and its four fountains have also been restored.