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Interesting Parallels

Articles: Interesting Parallels

Young, Terence. 2004. Building San Francisco’s Parks 1850-1930. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins Press.
Hart, John, Russell A Beatty, and Michael Boland. 1996. Gardens of Alcatraz. San Francisco: Golden Gate National Parks Association.

It might not occur to the majority of San Francisco’s visitors that two of its most important and popular attractions are actually human-made gardens—one masquerading as a natural forest, the other with a checkered history as a penal institution. Both have an air of inevitability but, in fact, date only to the mid-1800s. They reflected larger political trends of the era.

The 1840s were a time of upheaval all over the world. The industrial revolution had dislocated millions of people from the countryside to city slums, and discontent had begun to boil over. In England, the public parks movement, which began in 1841, was one response.

Victoria Park, in the east end of London, and Birkenhead Park, in that Merseyside community, both offered something totally new: open space that was public from the outset and belonged to the people by right and not by noblesse oblige. The cost of building such parks was seen as an investment in civic cal...

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