Devastated after the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco’s City Hall was rebuilt to prepare for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. In 1911 the city was selected to host the Exposition, and a commission comprising John Galen Howard, Frederick W. Meyer, and John Reid, Jr., oversaw a City Hall design competition, created a plan, and implemented the scheme. They established a Beaux Arts central plaza surrounded by classical buildings, including a city hall, state building, public library, and exposition hall. The exposition hall and plaza were constructed in time for the Exposition, while the other buildings were added between 1916 and 1936. The cultural and administrative center of San Francisco, this City Beautiful assemblage defined San Francisco as a notable city in the west.
An integral part of the composition, the plaza provides long axial views and a public forum for rallies and festivals. It has been redesigned several times as public needs have been reassessed. From 1956 to 1958, Brooks Hall and a parking garage designed by Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, with Douglas Baylis involved as the landscape architect, were built. In the 1960s, a lawn panel with an octagon path and allée of pollarded sycamore trees was designed by Thomas Church as part of the War Memorial Opera House complex. The Civic Center was listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1978 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.