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Sausalito Vina del Mar Park Has 1915 San Francisco Exposition Statues

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In Sausalito, the Vina del Mar Park holds some interesting architectural elements. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (and resulting fire) leveled parts of the city, the San Francisco Bay Area was chosen as the logical place to build an elaborate World’s Fair event. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific International Exposition to help in celebrating the opening of the famous Panama Canal. Over 18 million people visited the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair and this American tribute to modern technologies.

Sausalito Vina del Mar Park: The Jumbo and Pee-Wee Story

When the San Francisco 1915 Panama-Pacific Fair was created, many types of temporary buildings and accents were created out of an industrial-strength paper mache product that was designed to last about one year. Global artists were represented at this world-class event; about 1500 full-size sculptures adorned the 635-acre complex. Among the large sculptures on display were examples of classical-era art formats in fountains, statues and architectural accents. It was a large honor to be asked to create sculptures for the Expo.

The famous ‘Court of the Universe’ complex at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo was designed by William B. Faville, from Sausalito. Faville commissioned twelve full-size African Gray elephants, decked in finery, to be produced by the well-known ‘McKim, Mead & White’ design firm in New York City for his ‘Court of the Universe’ complex. Each paper mache elephant sat at the base of an elaborate 100-foot-tall flagpole around the outer edges of his full-size, elegant, paper mache temporary buildings in regal style.

In 1915, the harmonizing of all elaborately decorated Expo buildings was achieved with a form of color-coding objects. All tall flagpoles were painted in a pinkish-orange tone to properly stand-out during foggy conditions. The sculptures and statues were painted in lavish gold tones with antique greens and deep blues used heavily in accent colors. All over the Fair, twinkling rhinestone jewels were hung to create the feeling of being among riches beyond imagination. An estimated 109,000 gems were produced as decorations.

At the conclusion of the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the Expo displays were destroyed to make room for more post-earthquake rebuilding efforts in San Francisco. William B. Faville could not bare the thought of his beautiful flagpole elephants being destroyed, so he used his position to ferry his favorite two elephants and one beautiful paper mache fountain across the San Francisco Bay to his Sausalito home. The triangle-shaped park: Vina del Mar, in Sausalito, holds the 1915 Faville treasures.

When the two elephants arrived in Sausalito by ferryboat, they were placed in the park that sits nearby to the ferry-lines station. The town children named their paper mache big elephants: ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Pee-Wee’ while the adults admired the stunning fountain that arrived with the Faville elephants. Against all odds, the industrial-strength paper mache materials remained intact for almost 20-years; however, during the mid-1930s, the Jumbo and Pee-Wee statues, along with the elegant paper mache fountain, started to decompose.

Sausalito Vina del Mar Park: The Faville Statues Today

During the first Great Depression, money was not available to have Jumbo and Pee-Wee professionally reconstructed out of original materials. Instead, the best Faville elephant was used to create a mold that was used to pour the two identical cement elephants that are found in the Vina del Mar Park today. The modern Vina del Mar Park elephants are among the most photographed sights in Sausalito. These highly-decorative and unusual outdoor sculptures are easily visited at the corner of Bridgeway and Portal, nearby to the downtown Sausalito ferryboat pier. Grassy areas are available in the Vina del Mar Park.

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Photos copyright by Jay Graham Photographer