Wednesday, April 02, 2008

See It

Prayer-Book Cross is hidden from plain view, but amidst the trees above Angel Falls, its gray Celtic form can be made out through the green camouflage of overlapping branches.

Honoring the first sermon on the Pacific coast preached in English, a giant stone cross, dedicated as Prayer-Book Cross, stands 57 feet tall atop a hill in central Golden Gate Park. Although designed originally as a wooden cross, according to an 1894 New York Times article, in 1893 Bishop Nichols of the Episcopal Diocese of California received word that he was to “‘go ahead with the matter so near [his] heart and have it done to [his] entire satisfaction,’” thus allowing for a stone cross. Furthermore, donor George W. Childs would “‘cheerfully pay all expenses.’” , (Childs made his fortune in part by developing the Philadelphia Public Ledger into a supremely influential journal.)

In 1894 at the dedication of the cross, M.H. De Young introduced Nichols, representing Childs, who presented the religious marvel to W.W. Stow of the Park Commission and the State of California. Its placement in the park, 800 feet above sea level, made it visible to ocean-goers, citizens of San Francisco, and to travelers on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sadly, Childs died on February 3, 1894 in Philadelphia. Known as a philanthropist and a man of great compassion, it is hard not to assume this quote—found on the site Best Inspiration—came from a different G.W. Childs:

“Do not keep the alabaster box of your friendship sealed up until your friends are dead. Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them, and while their hearts can be thrilled and made happier. The kind of things you mean to say when they are gone, say before they go.”

Childs seemed to act out his words, having shared his gift to the Episcopal Church with the rest of the world. Today, although many people either don't know of Prayer-Book cross or have little knowledge of it, the cross is a park monument that is visited by many tourists and SF citizens in Golden Gate park each year. Located just above Crossover Drive on JFK, it lies in one of the most central spots in GG park--just east of Speedway Meadow, just west of Marx Meadow and the De Young Museum, and just north of Stow Lake. The cross represents at least a small portion of the past beliefs that helped shape San Francisco into the complex and ornately diverse city it is today, although one may not see it right away.

George Williams Childs (1829-1894)


Jacob Marx said...

Look below to see commentary about Prayer-Book Cross from some SF locals.

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