The Very Old Hospital in Golden Gate Park

Here’s an interesting bit of Golden Gate Park history, courtesy of

“Tucked in the parking lot of Kezar Stadium is the Park Emergency Hospital. Originally built in 1902 as the first permanent emergency hospital in San Francisco, it’s since been used as an ambulance station and offices. It was listed as Local Landmark #201 in 1991.

The city’s emergency hospital services dates back to 1872 when it was located in the basement of City Hall, but didn’t have it’s first permanent, freestanding building until the Park Emergency Hospital was built in 1902. It was designed by Newton J. Tharp, who as City Architect designed a whole slew of firehouses, schools, and the basic plan for SF General Hospital. The building was constructed by park employees and was the first publicly funded service of its kind in the country – at that time it was pretty revolutionary to have city medical services out in the neighborhoods where people lived and offer ambulance services, instead of having to schlep down to City Hall.

[Park Emergency Hospital c1902, photo via UC Berkeley via Cole Valley Alley]

The plan backfired a bit when the 1906 Earthquake and Fire struck – the hospital was almost instantly damaged, as the main entry way collapsed. The staff grabbed whatever supplies they could and opened a temporary hospital in the park tunnel near Haight and Stanyan. Doctors set up large Army tents in the field next to the damaged Emergency Hospital building and treated patients there. The building was reconstructed using stone from other buildings downtown that also collapsed.

[Park Emergency Hospital after 1906 Earthquake, photo via SF Rec & Park via Cole Valley Alley]

(Fun fact: the building can be seen in 1971’s Dirty Harry, when Scorpio visits the hospital after being stabbed by Harry at Mt Davidson.)

[Park Emergency Hospital in Dirty Harry, photo via Dirty Harry Filming Locations]

The emergency hospital closed in 1978, but continued to be uses as a station house for ambulance crews. It was transferred to Rec and Park in 1990 and they use it for the offices for the Natural Areas and Volunteer Programs. The whole place got a nip-tuck in 2010.”

· Local Landmark #201 [SF Planning]

· GGP Park Aid Station Renovation [SF Rec & Park]

· Park Emergency Hospital [Dirty Harry Filming Locations]

via The Landmarks: The Very Old Hospital in Golden Gate Park – The Landmarks – Curbed SF.


About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
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