The Historic Presidio

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Barb B on March 25, 2001

Red shingled roofs atop rows of now abandoned barracks, make a left face to greet the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s gateway to the Pacific. The bugle announcing morning revile is now silent, and the memories of military marching bands are now as faded as the paint on the old Headquarters Building.

San Francisco's Historic Presidio was first populated by Spanish settlers in the 1770's and on September 17, 1776, Spanish authorities established the Presidio as the northernmost of Spain's military garrisons on the Pacific Coast. Troops constructed a temporary mud and thatched quadrangle, near the present site of the Officers' Club (Building 50).

Since that humble beginning, the Presidio has seen almost continuous use by Armies and the military forces of several nations--first Spain, then Mexico, and finally the United States--each occupying it as a primary military outpost.

Following the devistating 1906 earthquake, the military erected "tent cities" on the Presidio's main parade ground to provide refuge for the city's displaced citizenry. During the 1930s its appearance was dramatically altered when construction of the Golden Gate Bridge required approaches from the South, thereby dividing the Presidio into four parts. During the Depression, the Presidio provided much needed jobs for citizens with numerous relief projects completed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and California Conservation Corps (CCC) Programs. Letterman Hospital served as the largest debarkation hospital in the country, handling thousands of returning wounded veterans during the Second World War (1941-1945). In the mid-70's, the Presidio was the primary relocation center for evacuees during "Operation Baby-Lift" when hundreds of Vietnamese Orphans were rescued and removed from war zones.

Times change, and by the end of the Cold War, the Presidio's presence was no longer required by the US Military. The Presidio was turned over to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1994 for the enjoyment of San Francisco's citizens. Today, visitors can enjoy the history and beauty of the Presidio. Within its 1,480 acres are more than 500 historic buildings, a collection of coastal defense fortifications, a national cemetery, an historic airfield, a saltwater marsh, forests, beaches, native plant habitats, coastal bluffs, miles of hiking and biking, and some of the most spectacular vistas in the world.

From the Historic Fort Point Museum, to beautiful Bakers' Beach; from the National Cemetary on the shaded hillside to the simple Pet cemetary near the base of the bridge--the Presidio provides a unique and marvelous historic experience.

Admission to the Presidio is free, so begin your visit at the Visitors' Center, Bldg 102(9 am to 5 pm daily). Maps, guides and information are available.

Presidio National Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
San Francisco, California, 94123
(415) 561-4323

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