San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

San Mateo County Places: The Cow Palace

When the livestock exposition at the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco was shown to be one of the most popular features, the idea of building a permanent structure to house future livestock expositions in the San Francisco area was born.  Ten years later, it was still just an idea.  Then in 1925, the San Francisco Exposition Company was formed to finance the project. 

Nineteen firms and individuals each contributed $20,000, and the land was purchased in the Marina District, the site of the 1915 fair.  

Six years later, the plan was still just a dream. The San Francisco Chronicle in their issue of 2 Feb 1936, gives a picture of what happened next.  
The article goes on "After being kept secret in several hundred column inches of type over a period of five years the proposed pavilion blossomed forth as a brand new project when work actually began last week."

In 1931 the California state legislature formed Agricultural District 1A in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.  The stated purpose was to raise funds for an "agricultural exhibition palace on the county line."  The legislature promised to match up to $250,000 in funding.  

Getting started wasn't easy.  First SF Mayor Rossi vetoed the funding, later the Board voted it down.  When finally it was passed in SF the State Board of Equalization stepped in and deleted it from the county budget stating that it was over the maximum allowed according to the "Riley Plan".

Finally in 1935 it was approved by everyone, and Federal money was added to make it happen. Now a program of the WPA,  thousands were employed in construction.

Although designed mainly to hold "animal" exhibitions, plans included a half mile track for harness racing and a polo field was to be included in an adjacent lot.  There were also hopes that there could be bike races and boxing and wrestling matches.

The name evolved from a local newspaper which asked,  "Why, when people are starving, should money be spent on a "palace for cows?" A headline writer turned the phrase around and the name was born.

Completed in 1941, the first show at the Cow Palace was held in April.
UC Berkeley - SF Bulletin Collections
The Cow Palace (Grand National Livestock Exposition Pavilion) was completed in 1941. The new arena boasted a concrete and steel roof that covered nearly six acres. The first event to be held in the new arena was the Western Classic Holstein Show in April, 1941. In November of that year, the first Grand National Livestock Expo, Horse Show and Rodeo was held, featuring a tribute to the late Will Rogers. The show was declared a smash hit.

December brought the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of World Ward II.  The government rented the Cow Palace for $1 a year for the next five years. for the staging of troops being deployed to the Pacific Theatre and as a repair garage for the ordnance department. 

Following the war the Cow Palace saw the return of the Grand National, circuses, national conventions, the SF Shamrocks, the Dickens Fair, Raves and much more.  Read more........

History of the Cow Palace
The Palace for Cows belongs to San Mateo
Stock Plant biggest of it's Kind   SF Chronicle 14 Apr 1937

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