6 - Terrace Gardens

An overhead view of Fort Mason's headquarters, with the community garden behind.
Fort Mason Headquarters Building | Frank Schmidt NPS


PANEL DESCRIPTION: The wayside faces east, and overlooks a view of Aquatic Lagoon and the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier. The General's Residence is to the right, and a private residence is to the left.

VIEW FROM WAYSIDE: The wayside is underneath a eucalyptus tree and is surrounded by fallen leaves and peeled bark. You are overlooking the edge of upper Fort Mason. This seaside bluff drops down to Aquatic Park below, which is lined by the large, C-shaped Municipal Pier. Many people fish, bike, and run this pier. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is in this section of the bay, and the historic ships are docked past the Municipal Pier. Alcatraz Island, the Marin Headlands, and stretches of East Bay are visible from here. Behind you is a windowed section of the General's Residence. There may be people milling about inside, likely attending a conference.

TEXT: Bringing Back a Lost Landscape

TEXT: People have long wanted to fashion the natural landscape to their desires. In the 1850s, prominent citizens like explorer John C. Frémont and author Jessie Benton Frémont built homes atop this bluff overlooking the bay. They also created terraces with scenic walks down to the waterfront past stone walls, winding stairs, benches, fruit trees and flowers. Protected from the ocean winds, this was a rare spot for gardening.

The hillside was long a favorite place to meet, stroll, take in the views and garden, but in the 1970s, maintenance lapsed after the Army left. The gardens vanished under overgrowth, and illegal campers took over the empty walks. The National Park Service eventually closed the public paths. Beginning in 2018, volunteers began to clear and maintain the terrace gardens, bringing back this lost landscape for the public to enjoy.

Why do we grow ornamental plants?

DESCRIPTION OF IMAGE: A large black-and-white photograph of Black Point and the terrace gardens. Simple houses are built along the water, and the General's Residence sits up on a hill with dense vegetation.

QUOTE: "The waters of the great bay washed the rocks of our headlands and we looked down over roses and geraniums to the decks of passing ships..." Jessie Benton Frémont, Far-West Sketches, 1890.

DESCRIPTION OF IMAGE: A black-and-white photograph showcasing the officer's housing engulfed by shrubs and trees. It is dated 1870. Small pathways, lined with low shrubs, wind through the garden.

CAPTION: "General's residence overlooks the bay at the top of the terrace gardens."

DESCRIPTION OF IMAGE: A color photograph of volunteers maintaining the terrace gardens in 2019. The sun shines brightly and the garden is green and full.

CAPTION: Volunteers help restore the historic landscape of the terrace gardens.

DIRECTIONS TO NEXT WAYSIDE: Travel back 42 feet in the direction you came. Make a left and walk 6 feet. Make a right and walk 169 feet along the sidewalk. Walk on the road for 50 feet and rejoin the sidewalk on the right side of the road. Once you have reached the sidewalk, continue north for 620 feet. Turn left and walk 10 feet. You have arrived at the next wayside.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Last updated: March 3, 2021