Beach Chalet WPA Murals
Depicting scenes of everyday life - and specific individuals - in Great Depression era San Francisco.
The inside of the Beach Chalet is adorned with exceptional WPA era murals depicting scenes from the everyday life of the city and Golden Gate Park.
Originally built in 1925 as a city-run restaurant and beach changing rooms, the murals were added in 1936-1937 as part of the city’s several WPA projects.
During the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project, a division of the Work Progress Administration, put many artists to work by commissioning murals across the city. Generally, these murals depict the everyday life of idealized workers and everyday people, however, the fresco murals on the first floor of the Beach Chalet on the west end of the park are unique in that they show specific, important San Francisco figures of the time, including Park Superintendent John McLaren. Painted in, the frescos were done in the traditional wet plaster technique by the artist Lucien Labuadt, assisted by Arnold Bray, Farrell Dwyer, and the plaster, James Wyatt.
The original restaurant at the Beach Chalet did not succeed and closed in 1940, and shortly thereafter the U.S. Military took over the Chalet for housing facilities. It remained in use as a clubhouse and bar for the Veterans of Foreign Wars following WWII and closed once again in 1981. In 1987, renovations started once again, including the murals, and today, it is open to the public as a small museum downstairs and a restaurant upstairs and is home to an impressive scale model diorama of Golden Gate Park.
Hidden among the many artistic interpretations of historical figures and personalities is a rather unusual specimen. Whether an unfortunate mistake by the artist or naturally occurring disfigurement, there is a man with six fingers.
Know Before You Go
The frescoes are immediately inside the Beach Chalet, on the wall of the lobby.
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