The legacy of Depression-era San Francisco
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War Memorial Opera House( Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times )
War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building
I returned to the War Memorial complex the next morning to be shown a few backstage sights by veteran tour guide George F. Lucas (no, not that one). For me, the most striking stop was the Herbst Theatre (formerly known as Veterans Auditorium), where in June 1945, world leaders huddled to sign the charter creating the United Nations. Though the Rockefeller family's offer of some precious Manhattan real estate eventually lured the organization to New York, it looked for a while as though the U.N.'s home would be San Francisco.
The interior space has been changed and upgraded through the years, but the Herbst Theatre (which opens for tours most Mondays) is still used for speakers' series and other special events. Those speakers have some serious competition; the auditorium's side walls are dominated by eight enormous paintings celebrating earth, air, fire and water. They were painted for a 1915 exposition by celebrated landscape artist Frank Brangwyn, but somebody clever held onto them and had the theater interior designed around them.
From here, our tour morphs into a mural medley, with a little comfort food on the side.
Pictured: Herbst Theatre