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Garden Travel

A Secret Garden in San Francisco : Fay Park

Fay Park Gazebo – Cotoneaster lacteus

Walk down toward North Beach, just beyond the city’s ‘crooked’ landmark street – where Lombard twists & turns to the delight of photo-snapping tourists – and you’ll find Fay Park tucked away at Leavenworth and Chestnut Streets, adjacent to a spacious Edwardian home on the corner. Mrs. Mary Fay Berrigan bequeathed this historic property — the house and its rare attached garden, to the City of San Francisco.

Renowned American landscape architect, Thomas Church designed the garden for Mrs. Berrigan in 1957. A San Francisco resident, Church lived nearby for more than 4 decades, until he passed away in 1978. Fay Park is now thought to be the only residential garden designed by Thomas Dolliver Church that is open to the public. (I invite readers to contact me if they know of any other Church garden that may have a similar history.)

Fay Park Gazebo 

The park’s twin gazebos represent a design element closely associated with Church’s landscape projects.

Fay Park – Thomas Church Design   

From the park’s Russian Hill locale, you can look beyond to take in views of the San Francisco Bay.

Opened to the public in 2006, the park has been restored by city’s Parks and Recreation Department, and is now ADA accessible. The Friends of Fay Park include volunteers who work with the city to lavish care on the rose beds, lawns and topiary; reflected in the meticulous maintenance of this gem of a space.

The berries of mature cotoneasters provide a colorful winter backdrop at the perimeter of the upper terrace.

To learn about Church’s work, read Marc Treib’s book: Thomas Church, Landscape Architect: Designing A Modern California Landscape

The park’s harmonious layout creates a peaceful oasis, where the hardscape allies with the living structure of greenery – clipped boxwood outlining planting beds and postage-stamp size lawns. The active linear forms of deciduous trees and roses serve to play off the simple yet eye-catching white gazebos, balustrade, and stair railing.

The Upper Terrace Walkway: Stairs lead to the lower level and a gateway to the street.

Terraced Rose Beds .. A Winter View

Note: As of March 2019, the San Francisco Rec & Parks Web Site lists open hours as 5am – Midnight

For More Info:

Below: Streetside view of the fence and gate; alongside tidy rose beds, lower lawn with sun dial, and bench.

Fay Park Terraced Rose Beds © Alice Joyce

3 comments to Secret Garden in San Francisco: Fay Park

  • Thanks for this Alice – yet another fascinating post.
    My peers over here regard Church as a bit old hat.
    But I love him!
    Best Wishes

  • Dear Alice, As I am sure you can imagine, Fay Park looks to be exactly my kind of garden. I love the formal layout and the use of green structural elements. It is so good that the garden is being cherished and being saved from falling into decay. The view of the Bay from its elevated position is breathtaking.

    A somewhat belated but warmly sent Happy New Year!!

  • Alice, hi
    What an interesting place. For my sins, I always associate Church with the Dewey Donnell Garden and had forgotten that much of his work was rather more geometric. But this little park looks delightful, full of interest and appropriate scale.
    Thanks for visiting my blog – it’s great to find someone else interested in mid-twentieth century modernism!