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The Administration Building, Treasure Island from “The Parent Trap”

Feb 10th, 2017 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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The stalking itinerary for my October 2016 trip to Northern California was extremely Scream-centric.  So much so that I did not really do any research on area locales from other productions.  But life threw a pleasant surprise my way shortly after I arrived in the City by the Bay.  Upon landing at SFO, my mom and I headed to Treasure Island to pick up my uncle who was spending the weekend with us.  As we passed through the island’s main entrance, I happened to look to my right and noticed a striking curved structure that I immediately recognized as the exterior of The Stafford Hotel from the 1998 re-make of The Parent Trap.  I had long known of the building’s use in the movie and even mentioned it in this 2012 post about The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey (which also masked at The Stafford in the film), but had completely overlooked it while planning my NorCal getaway and didn’t really put two and two together until I actually drove right by the place.  So I, of course, had to jump out and snap some pics.

Prior to my October trip, I had never actually visited Treasure Island, despite growing up in San Francisco – and despite the fact that my parents held their wedding reception there!  (Fun fact – their reception took place at Casa de la Vista, the same spot where Patty Hearst’s wedding reception was held a few years later.)  The 403-acre man-made island was created by the US Army Corps of Engineers from 1937 to 1939 on what was then the Yerba Buena Shoals.  Named after the popular Robert Lewis Stephenson book, the 1-mile by 2/3-mile land mass was constructed for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exhibition, a World’s Fair that celebrated the completion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was originally intended that when the event ended, Treasure Island would be utilized as an airport.  In 1938, engineer William Peyton Day and architect George William Kelham were commissioned to construct an Administration Building for the Exhibition that would later serve as the airport’s main terminal.

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Utilizing Art Deco and Streamline design elements, the duo created a dramatic 148,000-square-foot, U-shaped, Art Moderne-style structure out of reinforced concrete.

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Researching the history of locations is easily my favorite part of writing my blog.  Sometimes though, just reading words in a book or online makes a place’s past intangible and flat.  Such was the case with the Golden Gate International Exhibition.  I perused articles about the fair’s exhibits and artwork, but didn’t really grasp its grandeur.  Then while talking to my grandma on the phone a couple of days ago, she happened to ask what I was working on for my next post.  I told her that I was writing about Treasure Island and she exclaimed, “I was there on opening day!”  Yes, on February 18th, 1939, my grandma attended the inaugural day of the Golden Gate International Exhibition with her parents and sister!  The fair remained in operation through October 29th, 1939 and then reopened again from May 25th to September 29th the following year.  Throughout that time, my grandma visited on several occasions, with her family and also on a school trip.  It was amazing to hear her stories and first-hand accounts of an event and place that I had been researching all day.  She really brought the exhibition to life for me.  Listening to her tales, I could practically see her walking among the towering exhibits, sampling the food, and staring in wonder at the various exotic civilizations represented in the performances and shows.  The fair truly was like Disneyland!  My grandma was especially fascinated by Billy Rose’s Aquacade, in which synchronized swimmers, including a young and unknown Esther Williams and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller, performed dazzling in-water routines.  You can check out some photographs that really show the magic of the Golden Gate International Exhibition here, here, here, here, and here (in the last one, you can even see the side of the Administration Building on the extreme left).

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When the Golden Gate International Exhibition closed for good in 1940, the plans to make Treasure Island an airport were put on hold due to the onslaught of World War II and the site instead became a naval base.  It continued to operate as such until being decommissioned in 1997.  Though the city immediately set about redeveloping Treasure Island at that time, it was not until last year (yep, last year!) that construction on the massive project actually began.  Though it may take an additional 15 years to complete, more than 8.000 homes, several hotels, parkland, 240,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, a large marina, and a ferry terminal are all set to be built on the island.  The Administration Building will be left intact (thankfully it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and will likely be turned into a museum.

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The Administration Building, Treasure Island pops up as The Stafford Hotel in a few scenes in The Parent Trap.  It is there that Hallie Parker and Annie James (both played spectacularly by Lindsay Lohan) scheme to rekindle the spark between their parents, Nick Parker (Dennis Quaid) and Elizabeth James (Natasha Richardson).

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Only the exterior of the building was used in the shoot.  Interior Stafford Hotel scenes were filmed at the Langham Huntington, Pasadena, while the pool segments were shot at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey.

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The Administration Building, Treasure Island was also featured briefly in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the Berlin airport where Indy (Harrison Ford) and his father, Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery), caught an airship flightAs was the case with The Parent Trap, only the exterior of the property appeared in the film.  Interior airport scenes were shot at Lawrence Hall in London.

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The Administration Building, Treasure Island, aka the exterior of The Stafford Hotel from The Parent Trap, is located at 1 Avenue of the Palms in San Francisco.

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One comment

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  1. Richard Y says:

    Hi, how funny that you post something about the Island today. For the past couple of weeks I have been researching a Treasure trove (pun intended) of filming locals on the island that I am sure you have come across as well. Although, other than the ones you mentioned and a couple of others most of the filming have been sets built out inside Hangar 2 or 3, permanent for a TV series or one time use for films. What a history that Island has.


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