View of Palace of Fine Arts fit for first lady

She’s been San Francisco’s first lady for a just more than one month, and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, television actress on “Life” and co-founder of Women’s Independent Cinema.com, wants to work to help the homeless, empower women and children.

She also has a reverence for the outdoors. The Stanford University graduate and former U.S. Women’s Junior National Soccer team player has worked for humanitarian efforts, wildlife preservation and is a member of Conservation International.

“I feel a responsibility to give back, to support those in need,” Siebel Newsom says. “I have an opportunity to do that.”

One of her favorite outdoor spots in San Francisco is the Palace of Fine Arts and its surrounding grounds; it’s an extraordinary place where the arts meet nature.

The structure, which originally had multiple domes, was built for the Pacific Panama Exposition of 1915. Its single remaining Bernard Maybeck-designed gold dome and 26 adjoining columns, featuring statuary of weeping maidens, and the adjacent lagoon have become international and garden landmarks in The City.

None other than Thomas Edison said, “The architect of the building is a genius. There is not the equal anywhere in the world.”

The recently restored reflecting pond, which was a natural tidewater basin fed by underground streams under the Presidio, abuts a ribbon of land surrounding the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium.

The water’s edge is buffeted, so that a path wending around the lagoon is free of fencing, allowing access to the magnificent view from east to west and to the reflection of the statuesque buildings mirrored in the pool.

Native grasses, rocks and boulders line the shore, and Australian eucalyptus trees bookend the main buildings, adding grace and style as they sweep to the ground and the pond.

Lawns, planted from seed, ease down to the water’s edge, and swans, geese, herons and seagulls swim in harmony. Day lilies and sword ferns flank the shoreline.

Siebel Newsom, who loves kids and is ready “whenever it’s right” to have them, also is an animal lover.

Having selected a remote, serene, quiet location in nature for her recent wedding, Siebel Newsom breathes in the early morning air at the Palace of Fine Arts grounds, looks around, and smiles: “It’s a perfect place, here. Isn’t it?”

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