Horticulturist Dr. John Hayes McLaren of Bannockburn, Scotland, a village by the headwaters of The Firth of Forth, is said to have planted two million trees in his lifetime. Half that many now cover a thousand acres in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, a justly famous living monument to this Scotsman who spent a half a century implementing, devising, planting, digging, and sculpting a great urban oasis. In his mid-20s, he arrived on America's West Coast to work as a landscape gardener on the George Howard Estate, Rancho San Mateo, and later the Leland Stanford Estate, both legacies of founding San Francisco families. McLaren was appointed San Francisco Park Superintendent in 1887. To house himself and the department's offices he commissioned architect Edward R. Swain in 1897 to build a great lodge at the park's eastern entry. McLaren lived for over four decades in the stone Moorish and Gothic lodge with its 18-inch stone walls that must have reminded him of the solidity of fortresses and great hunting lodges back home in Scotland. It's homely grandeur welcomes park visitors passing it on their way into the mystic groves that stretch for three miles to the Pacific Ocean, all planted by the hand of a man on shifting sands slowly and diligently over decades. Our city is unimaginable without McLaren's lifework -- these woods, lakes, hills and fields crafted by the great hand of the man from Bannockburn.
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