107-year-old Japanese Tea Garden Pagoda unveiled in San Francisco after 2-year, $1.1 million restoration

107-year-old Japanese Tea Garden Pagoda unveiled in San Francisco after 2-year, $1.1 million restoration
Michelle De Pacina
September 28, 2022
The Japanese Tea Garden Pagoda, which was constructed for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, was unveiled in San Francisco on Wednesday after two years of restoration.
At the end of the Panama-Pacific Exposition, which celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and a milestone in San Francisco history, the indoor pagoda was moved into the Japanese Tea Garden in 1943 by park superintendent John T. McLaren. 
The ornate pagoda, along with its temple gates, was previously placed in the Palace of Food Products, which was torn down at the end of the fair. Although revonators said it would have been easier to tear it down and build a new one, Steven Pittsenbarger, the head gardener at the Japanese Tea Garden, noted that only its rotten parts were removed and replaced in the restoration.
“The swirls on the top of the roof have gotten worse and the paint has deteriorated to the point where it holds together,” Pittsenbarger told San Francisco Chronicle. “You can squeeze the wood and it will break in your hands.”
“The goal was to build something that would last another 100 years,” he added. “This thing won’t go down.”
The renovation reportedly cost $1.1 million and took the Recreation and Park Department’s carpentry staff almost two years to complete. The pagoda features five floors and stands 52 feet tall when including its five-foot concrete base and 12-foot spire. It can be seen from the Music Concourse and the Botanical Backyard. 
The chime of its copper bells in the wind can be heard once again after at least a century. According to Pittsenbarger, the Japanese believe that “plagues travel through the wind, and the reason for the bells is to fight the plague.”
Although the pagoda’s renovation is complete, the area around its foundation will obtain a new landscape, increasing the renovation budget to $2 million. This phase of the project will reportedly begin next year, along with the reconstruction of the landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara’s bridge, which serves as the pagoda’s main road. 
“You see this huge white thing coming in and you can’t imagine what it is,” Tanako, a tea garden engineer and Hagiwara’s great-granddaughter, said. “I think more people will come in because I know the pagoda has been renovated and is available to see.”
Featured Image via @japaneseteagardensf (left, right)
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