Golden Gate Park superintendent John McLaren HATED statues.
He fought city officials every time they wanted to place a statue in his park. When he lost the fight, he would send his men to hide the offending monument by planting trees, shrubs and vines around it, obscuring the view. Perhaps out of reverence, or perhaps as a snarky joke, on his 65th birthday McLaren was presented with a life size statue of himself.
Horrified, he hid it in a box and it was not seen again until after he died.
In 1943, the statue was taken out of storage and put on display at the back of the John McLaren Memorial Rhododendron Dell.
Three things should be observed about the statue: Unlike every other statue in the park, McLaren’s likeness stands directly on the ground instead of on a pedestal, this was to symbolize his closeness with nature. He holds a pine cone in his hand, a symbol of the over 2 million trees he planted in the Golden Gate Park.
Finally, the saw marks on McLaren’s right leg are from the second of two unsuccessful attempts to steal the statue in 1953. In the first attempt the assailants attempted to pry the statue from its base.
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- Christopher Pollock; “San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park - A Thousand Acres of Stories” 2001, West Winds Press