Ever since the kids were teeny-tiny, we have been taking them to San Francisco for fun family day trips and somehow we almost always end up walking through, stopping, or driving by Yerba Buena Gardens. It’s central to lots of fun family activities, St. Patrick’s Church, hotels we like, and delicious restaurants like The Grove. On rainy days, we often sneak into the Metreon to see a movie, but on sunny days, it’s all about being outside among the flower-filled planters, trees, and happy families.
One of our favorite parts of Yerba Buena Gardens is the stunning fountain that sits at the center of the outdoor area along the Esplanade, a large, open grassy area that’s perfect for picnicking. From toddler-age to now, the kids have always enjoyed exploring this fountain, walking behind the water, walking up above the fountain to the very top, and dipping their hands in the pool below.
Now that they are older though, the fountain has taken on a whole new meaning, as the gorgeous granite fountain in Yerba Buena Gardens is a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. and they both have learned about his impact on the world in school.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Fountain
Built with Sierra granite, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, titled Revelation, is located behind a stunning 50 foot wide, 20 foot tall waterfall that pours into a 120,000 gallon reflecting pool below.
A photo of Dr. King is displayed the fountain’s west entrance and an inscription of a 1956 speech he made in San Francisco is on the east. Along the walkway behind the water are 12 etched glass panels inscribed with quotes from Dr. King’s speeches such as “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Each quote is translated into the languages of San Francisco’s 13 sister cities, as well as Arabic and some African dialects.
What’s incredible is that the cascading water creates a roar that drowns out the sounds of the city, so you hear nothing else as you read Dr. King’s powerful words.
The entire memorial was a collaborative project between Sculptor Houston Conwill, Poet Estella Majoza and Architect Joseph De Pace. Conwill said the memorial is “a sacred space… meant to be experienced as a cultural pilgrimage and a journey of transformation.” Standing behind the waterfall, immersed in the water represents the Southern tradition of baptism within Baptist churches like those of Martin Luther King Jr.’s grandfather, minister Adam Daniel Williams.
On the terrace level above the waterfall is the upper reflecting pool and the Sister Cities Garden, where visitors can see an expertly manicured garden with plants representing each of San Francisco’s sister cities, as well as a partial view of the downtown skyline. Here you’ll also find Samovar Tea Lounge!
Know Before You Go
- The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens is located at 750 Howard Street, San Francisco, California 94103.
- The memorial is made up of a 50 foot wide by 20 foot tall waterfall, a 120,000 gallon reflecting pool, and quotes from Dr. King’s speeches etched on 12 glass panels.
- To experience the memorial, you walk behind the waterfall.