John Mclaren
how he changed San Francisco


John McLaren

John McLaren Park was named for the master gardener and creator of world-famous Golden Gate Park. McLaren was entranced with nature from a very young age, and possessed unsurpassed passion and talent for growing plants of all kinds, but especially trees. He is credited with planting more than one million trees during his long and very productive life.

John loved to go camping with naturalist John Muir in the Sierras, where he found much inspiration for his gardening creations back in San Francisco. He was also infamous for giving heartburn to various city officials who incessantly wanted to install statues (which he derisively called "stookies") and other man-made objects in his beloved park, where he prized a naturalistic look beyond all else. Frequently the statues were installed despite his protestations, but then again many were eventually forgotten behind the trees and hedges that he planted around them.  

John McLaren



There was a young Scotsman came to California in 1870. John McLaren he was called, as though it were a single word — JohnMcLaren. Throughout his life friends would meet him and greet him with "How are you, JohnMcLaren, and how are your trees?"
From: San Francisco is My Home by Samuel Dickson



Me boy, if ye have nothing to do, go plant a tree and it'll grow while ye sleeps.
- John McLaren

John McLaren and Golden Gate Park



A short documentary about superintendent John McLaren and his effect on Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Interviews with Golden Gate Park historians Christopher Pollock and Ernie Ng.

John McLaren Historical Resources

McLaren was honored by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in 1935 for his tireless efforts to develop Golden Gate Park. Here is their short biography of him.

McLaren was fabled to have consulted on the design of Brentwood Park in Los Angeles and their promos back in 1915 or so claimed "modeled after Golden Gate Park in San Francisco".   Here is the Brentwood Park Property Owner's Association biography of McLaren.

The Encyclopedia of SF's entry about Golden Gate Park includes this discussion of McLaren and his predecessor William Hammond Hall.


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