John McLaren

Deceased Person

1846 – 1943


Who was John McLaren?

Dr John Hays McLaren served as superintendent of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA for 53 years.

Born at Bannockburn, near Stirling in Scotland, and worked as a dairyman before studying horticulture at the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens where he worked as an apprentice gardener's helper. He planted grasses anchoring the beach dunes along the Firth of Forth then emigrated to the United States in 1870 and worked on the George Howard estate in the San Mateo foothills, then on the Leland Stanford estate in Palo Alto and planted trees on the Coyote Point on the shore of the Bay.

He was friends with John Muir, and dedicated his life to vigorous advocacy and development of the 1,017-acre Golden Gate Park, one of the largest public parks in the world, using considerable political skill in addition to his remarkable gardening skill. Appointed Park Superintendent in 1887, he requested thirty thousand dollars a year for park building. One of John McLaren's stipulations before taking the superintendent job was, "There will be no 'Keep off the Grass" signs."


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