Although not particularly majestic to behold in scale or artistry, the stones of the so-called “Druid Circles” hiding in the trees near the California Academy of Sciences actually have an impressive pedigree.
Brought in by William Randolph Hearst to San Francisco for the building of a second grandiose manor in California following his construction of his mansion at San Simeon, the stones came from the ruins of a 12th century Monastery in Ovila, Spain, which Hearst had brought over at no small expense on 11 boats. The Great Depression dampened his ardor for new construction, and the stones came to rest in Golden Gate Park for decades.
Today, there are two notable installations of the stones still in the park: these stone circles, and the small garden patio at Strybing Arboretum. The rest of the stones have recently found their way back into religious hands, and have been magnificently reassembled into a chapter house at the Cistercian Monastery in Vina, California. Other stones can still be found around the park, in the botanical gardens and occasionally beside quiet paths in the trees. As often than not, they can be found covered in bird seed and opportunistic squirrels, but they are sometimes visited for more sacred purposes by local modern practitioners of nature worship.
In 2010 the city briefly came into conflict with local modern druids who objected to the park’s snatching of stones from the circles for use in the renovation at the Rhododendron Dell (home to the McLaren Statue). In the end, citing a “a ‘live and let live’ policy toward the nice people who like to wear robes and put twelve rocks in a circle calling it a church”, the park gave in and returned the stones.
Once you know which path to follow, they are not difficult to find at all, located just to the west of the AIDS Memorial Grove. There is a small stone obelisk just uphill from the two circles.
Know Before You Go
Located just across Nancy Pelosi Drive from the back side of California Academy of Science. The base of the train is marked with a solitary monastery stone.