Special feature highlights Centennial of the PPIE

Open up the San Francisco Chronicle today and you will find an incredible special section dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and the planned centennial celebrations this year. The section contains feature articles by Chronicle reporters, and a detailed program of the upcoming Community Day event at the Palace of Fine Arts (February 21st).

Be sure to start with Carl Note’s wonderful essay on how the PPIE changed San Francisco forever:

Why should we remember the 1915 fair? Because it was the showpiece of a new San Francisco, a city undergoing a transformation just as profound as it is now with the digital age. Instead of a Super Bowl, or the dream of an Olympics, San Francisco threw a huge celebration of itself and called it a world’s fair.

Only nine years before, most of San Francisco was a smoking ruin, shaken by a giant earthquake and wrecked by fires that burned for four days. There was a line in the little ditty that San Franciscans liked to quote after the 1906 disaster: “From the Ferry to Van Ness/ You’re a godforsaken mess.”

But in a few years, not only did San Francisco stage a world’s fair, but it also built a grand City Hall, developed a brand-new Municipal Railway and stocked it with the most modern equipment in the country, started work on the Hetch Hetchy water and power system, and built a new General Hospital — all at pretty much the same time. It was “an extraordinary explosion of civic patriotism,” Starr said.

Don’t miss columnist Sam Whiting’s wide-ranging review of the artifacts, remnants and remains that can be tracked down across the Bay Area and beyond. An excellent explorer’s guide, Whiting maps out attractions from Golden Gate park, to San Rafael, to Santa Cruz and beyond.