Friday, June 8, 2012

Nancy Hannaford Doe Kezar (1831-1898) - Stadium named in her honor

Doe family vault (photo by Michael Colbruno)

Inside the Doe family vault on Millionaire’s Row is Nancy Kezar, who like her brother Charles Doe, was immortalized by a structure built by a famed architect. Doe, who is featured on this site, bequeathed a portion of his estate to build the Doe Library at the University of California at Berkeley, which was designed by John Galen Howard.  

Nancy Hannaford Doe was born on May 6, 1831 in Parsonsfield, Maine. She married Samuel F. Kezar on December 4, 1853., with whom she had two children, John (1855-1898) and Mary 1859-1917), who like her uncle, Charles Doe, never married.

We know little else about Nancy Kezar other than the famous stadium in San Francisco bears her name. At her death in 1917, Mary Kezar bequeathed $100,000 for the construction of a “playground” for the San Francisco Polytechnic School to honor her mother. The executors decided to build a stadium in Nancy Kezar’s honor, after debating whether it was consistent with Mary’s wishes. The probate judge ruled that a stadium was an appropriate use and construction began in 1924.  The City of San Francisco kicked in an additional $200,000 to finance the stadium.

Kezar Stadium

The stadium was designed by Willis Polk, who designed some of the Bay Area’s most historically significant homes. Unlike most stadiums that are oriented from north to south, Kezar was oriented from east to west at the request of Park Superintendent John McClaren. The orientation was intended to protect acreage belonging to the park.

The stadium was dedicated on May 2, 1925 before 22,000 celebrants with a track race that featured Finnish runners Paavo Nurmi and Willie Ratola.  The San Francisco 49ers called Kezar home from 1946 until 1971, as well as the Oakland Raiders for one season.  After the 49ers left, Kezar became a popular concert venue that featured the greatest musicians of the time, including Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, Tower of Power, Joan Baez, The Clash, The Grateful Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Carlos Santana, Waylon Jennings, and Neil Young.

Future United States President Gerald Ford played an East-West Shriners game there in 1935. In 1971, several scenes of the movie “Dirty Harry” were filmed there.

The original stadium was demolished in 1989 due to structural deficiencies and rebuilt with less than half the original capacity.  The arch is a replica of one that was part of the original stadium.

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