Sweeney Observatory Site – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura
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San Francisco, California

Sweeney Observatory Site

Barely visible foundations remain where Stow Lake’s “observatory” once welcomed visitors. 

At the center of Stow Lake, a small hill offers fantastic views of western San Francisco.

A perfect place for a picnic lunch, the park’s earliest days revolved around Sweeney’s Observatory which stood on this lovely spot until it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The Colosseum-like structure was built in 1891 as a picturesque vista point (rather than an astronomical observatory) accessible by carriage ride for day-trippers and picnickers alike.

Today, only the barest traces of possible foundation stones can be discerned, all other traces of the building are sadly long gone. The earthquake of 1906 took out the observatory (along with many other structures around the park), and was never rebuilt. The remains of the artificial pond that once sat next to the observatory are still readily visible, and the empty basin is now a picnic area.

Know Before You Go

Hike up from the base of Strawberry Hill to the top. The ruins are easy to spot if you know what to look for.