Saturday, August 10, 2013

Outside Lands

Outside Lands was the name used in the 19th century for the present-day Richmond District and Sunset District in San Francisco, California. With few roads and no public transportation, the area was covered by sand dunes and was considered inaccessible and uninhabitable. Today, after extensive development, the area is home to Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, and well-developed neighborhoods.


Like all of California, the Outside Lands were a Mexican possession until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in February 1848 ceded it to the United States. The area was U.S. government land at the time of the Gold Rush. The City and County of San Francisco, which was growing rapidly, desired the land and petitioned for it in the 1850s. After years of court battles, the U.S. government declared the area part of San Francisco in 1866. 
In 1866, the federal government upheld the city’s title to the Outside Lands against claims of squatters. During the course of lengthy litigation over the Outside Lands, local politicians, led by Frank McCoppin, and residents of San Francisco rallied for the establishment of a public park in the western quarter of the city. A supervisory committee subdivided the Outside Lands and proposed an arrangement whereby squatters could donate a portion of their claims for a public park in return for clear title to the remainder of their lands. The proposal won McCoppin the Mayor’s office, and gained the approval of the state legislature.

Creation of Golden Gate Park

On April 4, 1870, the state legislature passed “An Act to provide for the improvement of Public Parks in the City of San Francisco”Soon after, the newly-formed park commission advertised bonds to fund park improvements. Enough bonds were sold to finance a topographical survey of Golden Gate Park and its approach. Surveyor and engineer William Hammond Hall won the contract to survey park land, completed his report on February 15, 1871, and in August that year was appointed as engineer of the park. Initial work completed in 1871 included grading, fencing, drainage and irrigation work, and development of a park nursery. The following year, 22,000 hardy and quick-growing trees were planted, park roads were built, and visitors began to arrive by the thousands.

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