Bordered by the Presidio National Park to the west and Russian Hill to the east, and with more than a half mile of waterfront, the Marina District is in an undeniably enviable location. Prior to becoming a residential neighborhood, the Marina was the site of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition, a world's fair hosted by the city of San Francisco. Thus, it is a relatively young neighborhood only about one-hundred years old and its current residents likewise reflect the youth and vitality that the Panama Pacific Exposition was meant to showcase. In terms of commerce, the Marina has a clear axis on Chestnut Street, one block north of Lombard Street, its boundary with Cow Hollow. Chestnut Street offers a variety of international cuisine, cafes, bars, and retailers, with a noted focus on fashion and athletic apparel. In terms of recreation, the Marina's center is the waterfront, whether on Crissy Beach in the northwest, on Marina Green, or in Great Meadow Park, all of which afford dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. After serving as an Army post and military port for more than 100 years, Fort Mason, in the neighborhood's northeast, is now a Center for Arts and Culture, hosting performances and exhibitions, as well as a Sunday farmer's market.
One piece of architecture remains from the Panama Pacific Exposition: the Palace of Fine Arts, designed by celebrated San Francisco architect Bernard Maybeck. Comprising a rotunda, a sprawling colonnade, as well as an extensive exhibition hall, Maybeck envisioned the complex as a simulated Roman ruins. That visual drama is undeniable when one glimpses these structures from across the lagoon, which today serves both as a reflecting pool and as an important wildlife habitat. While the Palace of Fine Arts anchors the western edge of the neighborhood, articulating its boundary with the vast and varied parkland known as the Presidio, another notable aspect of the Marina's architecture is found throughout its miles of residential streets and even beyond its borders. Emerging during the building boom of the 1920s that followed the Panama Pacific Exposition, Marina-style architecture combined the Mission Revival style with Art Deco. With wide, front-facing bay windows and generous interior spaces, it defined an era of San Francisco's residential architecture and it continues to prove eminently comfortable and versatile in the twenty-first century as well. Originating nearly one hundred years ago and supporting the vivacious lifestyle of San Francisco's north waterfront through the present day, Marina-style architecture is the perfect emblem of the neighborhood after which it was named.