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AN ISLAND IS BORN: BUILDING TREASURE ISLAND
 
GOLDEN GATE INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION: PAGEANT OF THE PACIFIC
 
 
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The Golden Gate International Exposition opened on February 18, 1939. Its theme was Pacific Unity. The architecture used motifs from North and South America, the Pacific Islands, and Asia – Mayan pyramids, Cambodian temples, and sculptural ceremonial elephants.

At night, indirect lighting outlined the facets and curves of the buildings, making them glow with jewel tones. A gleaming white, 80-foot plaster goddess designed by Ralph Stackpole dominated the Court of Pacifica. At her feet were twenty sculptures representing a community of Pacific peoples. Six of these sculptures now flank the entrance to Treasure Island’s Building One.

The fair’s amusement zone, the Gayway, featured the predictable as well as the unexpected: amusement park rides, Incubator Babies, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch (seminude cowgirls), Ripley’s Odditorium, Scottish and Chinese Villages, Voice Recording Machines, a “Holy Land,” Midget Village, and Miss America of 1939.

In 1939, the Hall of Fine and Decorative Arts hosted an exhibition of European master paintings, including Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” as well as the first great collection of Asian art to visit the Bay Area. In 1940, the hall was transformed into an enormous open studio known as “Art in Action,” where fairgoers could see artists at work. It was here that Diego Rivera created his largest San Francisco mural, “Pan American Unity.”

This “Magic City” was more than pageantry and lights. It created employment when jobs were scarce. It was a showcase of the newest (science and industry, fashion, music), the biggest (artificial island, art collections, cash register, Civil War mural), and the smallest (a collection of miniatures).

The fair closed on September 29, 1940. At midnight, with the help of special dimmers, the lights gradually faded. The Tower of the Sun remained lit until dawn.

 
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