During the depths of the Depression in the late 1930s, 300 craftspeople came together for two years to build an enormous scale model of the City of San Francisco. This Works Progress Administration (WPA) project was conceived as a way of putting artists to work while also creating a planning tool for the city to imagine its future.
The massive work was meant to remain on public view for all to see, but World War II broke out and the 6,000 piece, hand-carved and painted wooden model was put into storage for almost 80 years.
This audio story of an almost forgotten, three-dimensional, freeze-frame model of 1938 San Francisco features poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, historian Gary Kamiya, writer Maya Angelou as well as current “Keeper of the Model” Stella Lochman and more.
Understanding the model’s history involves traveling back to the Golden Gate Exposition on Treasure Island where it was first put on display in 1939, plus a trip to Angel Island with San Francisco Jazz Poet Laureate Genny Lim, a ridealong with bicycle historians Chris Carlsson and LisaRuth Elliott of Shaping San Francisco and a conversation with geographer Gray Brechin, who helped save the model.
The Kitchen Sisters originally produced this story for SFMOMA’s Raw Material podcast in conjunction with their Public Knowledge program “Take Part” in which the museum partnered with the San Francisco Public Library and artists Bik Van Der Pol to engage the community in a series of talks and events around the model.