Goddess of Progress
Sometimes known as the Goddess of
Liberty, the statue was one of the more picturesque ruins of the Great Earthquake.
The head was apparently given to John C. Irvine by former mayor James
D. Phelan after it was removed from the old City Hall. It was, later, owned by his
son, William Irvine.
It then came into possession of the South of Market Boys who gave it back
to the city April 18, 1950, the 44th anniversary of the Great Earthquake.
It was later displayed in Golden Gate Park, then placed in storage.
Seven years later, in 1957, the head was sold, along with several cable
cars, at public auction to Knott's Berry Farm, a Southern California amusement park.
It was given back to the city by Knott's Berry Farm in the mid-1970s.
The goddess was, for many years, displayed at the Fire Department Museum,
but was moved in 1993 to the Museum of the City of San Francisco. The goddess was
then moved to City Hall in 1998 to celebrate the reopening of the structure after
it was repaired following the 1989 earthquake. It will be the centerpiece of the
Museum's exibit space in the Light Court of City Hall.
The electric lights which crown the goddess like a wreath were not original to the
sculpture, but added sometime after the statute was taken down from City Hall, but
before its sale to the amusement park.
Goddess Comes Down at Last
Liberty's Dethronement Breaks at Waist and Many View Remains
With her graceful waist parted in twain from the cruel embrace of a cable
wire and hauled to the dust from a position of pride as leading lady of the city,
a place which even the earthquake permitted to hold, the goddess of the city hall
dome came down yesterday in two pieces, a broken goddess who had outlived her usefulness
in pointing the way to San Francisco from her lofty height.
A large crowd gathered to view the remains, and they will lay in state
for a day or two longer. Treasurer McDougald has been promised her head in case
she is broken up for junk.
San Francisco Evening Post
March 12, 1909
The "Goddess of Progress" was sculpted by Marion Wells, probably in the 1870s, during
the early construction phase of City Hall. The head weighs 400 pounds.
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