Presidio of San Francisco




Presidio of San Francisco

Site Information

Country: United States of America
State: CA
Location: 37° 47' 49" N - 122° 27' 27" W
Field Documentation Date(s): April 18th, 2007
Project Release Date(s): June 15th, 2007
Time Range: 1776 CE - 1994 CE
Era: Spanish Colonial period - Mid 20th Century
Culture: Spanish and U.S. Militaries
Site Authority: Presidio Trust/National Park Service
Heritage Listing: US National Register of Historic Places
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Photo-textured 3D point cloud of Building 1204 at Fort Winfield Scott

Site Description

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California's beautiful Presidio, located within the Golden Gate Recreation Area at the entry to San Francisco Bay, saw continuous use as a military base by the Spanish, Mexican, and American armies over the course of 218 years. It has retained numerous examples of standing architecture from these different periods, providing an invaluable glimpse into the architectural traditions of several different militaries that greatly influenced Californian history.

Designated a National Park since 1994, the Presidio draws thousands of visitors each year with its natural beauty, historic significance, and new uses for such purposes as film studios and sets; in this capacity, it is the only economically self-sustaining National Park in the United States. The Presidio Trust has actively restored and managed the site, and the park today looks very much as it did when the base was finally decommissioned 15 years ago.
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History

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The Presidio of San Francisco has a long and illustrious history. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Ohlone/Costanoan people had settlements here at least as far back as the 8th century CE, and their way of life seems to have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. In 1776, however, a major shift came to the region with the arrival of Spanish military forces; the Presidio represented the northernmost outpost of the Spanish empire and was created to challenge Russian and English colonization of America's west coast. Under the command of Juan Batista De Anza, El Presidio (which means "the garrison" in Spanish) and the nearby Mission Dolores were quickly established in order to regulate maritime access to San Francisco Bay. The Mission and Presidio were also used to pacify, control, and forcibly conscript the local Ohlone/Costanoan peoples into labor to help build and maintain these new institutions. By the early 1800s these native populations had been decimated by introduced disease, displacement, and warfare. This demographic shift also transformed the natural landscape, with a host of introduced (domesticated) plant and animal species largely replacing the native marshland and scrubgrass/sand dune habitat. During this time the new architecture built by the colonists also went through a number of changes and expansions. Its fortifications were built primarily from adobe, and went through a number of reconstructions and repairs from 1779 until 1815 following a series of devastating storms and earthquakes. El Presidio took the shape of what was essentially a military settlement, with a large number of civilians dwelling within its boundaries along with the garrison soldiers themselves.

The Spanish controlled the region for 46 years until the Mexican Revolution of 1822, when administration passed to the newly-founded Mexican government, who maintained a military presence for another 22 years during the Californiano period. In 1846, following the Mexican-American War, the United States military occupied El Presidio as part of the territory of California, and it remained a vital military base protecting San Francisco Bay and its burgeoning cities. The U.S. military remained in control of the Presidio area as a primary west coast base for most of its major actions in the state and beyond, from wars of native suppression to protecting the new national parks from exploitation to serving as a training ground for scores of soldiers shipping off to foreign wars. The base was decommissioned in 1994 and turned into a National Park, with control passing to the National Park Service and, in 1998, the Presidio Trust. Due to its continuous usage for military purposes, the Presidio was insulated from the ever-expanding urban development that surrounds it, and has retained much of its basic form. With some of the oldest buildings in the state, El Presidio serves as a well-preserved snapshot of several important eras of military architecture during California's history.
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Perspective of the fireplace in the Mesa Room, Officers' Club, created from photo-textured laser scan data

Project Narrative

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The Digital Preservation of the Presidio began with a pilot project to document the Mesa Room of the Officers’ Club. Following the success of this project, a larger documentation of the Historic Plaza de las Armas was conducted. The documentation of Fort Scott took place several months later as part of a year long internship program being taught at UC Berkeley's CyArk Visualization Lab. The internship taught students how to capture, create, manage and share High Definition Documentation data. The internship students, along with professionals from the Presidio Trust, CyArk, CHI and SVLS performed a High Definition Documentation of one of the barracks of Fort Scott in March of 2007. Following the collection of raw data in the field, students worked to produce content that could be geographically referenced to a map of the fort.
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Area Descriptions

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Fort Winfield Scott
Building 1204
Historic El Presidio (Plaza de las Armas)
Officers' Club
Mesa Room

Fort Winfield Scott

Fort Winfield Scott Description:

Located within San Francisco's Presidio, lies a series of buildings arranged in a horseshoe shape called Fort Winfield Scott. Originally constructed between 1910 and 1915, the structures of Fort Scott represent one of the finest examples of the Mission Revival Style. The use of the natural topography supports 20th century planning concepts in which architecture, setting and landscape are integrated. Although always physically a part of the Presidio of San Francisco, Fort Winfield Scott sometimes functioned as a separate military command. In 1912 Fort Scott was established as an independent coast artillery post and the headquarters of the Artillery District of San Francisco. The Fort had responsibility for all the seacoast defense batteries, torpedo or mine facilities and other supporting structures elsewhere in the Presidio. It was decommissioned in 1994, along with the rest of the Presidio, and the grounds are now a public park.


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Building 1204

Building 1204 Description:

Originally constructed between 1910 and 1915, the structures of Fort Scott represent one of the finest examples of the Mission Revival Style. Although always physically a part of the Presidio of San Francisco, Fort Winfield Scott sometimes functioned as a separate military command. In 1912 Fort Scott was established as an independent coast artillery post and the headquarters of the Artillery District of San Francisco. The Fort had responsibility for all the seacoast defense batteries, torpedo or mine facilities and other supporting structures elsewhere in the Presidio.


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Historic El Presidio (Plaza de las Armas)

Historic El Presidio (Plaza de las Armas) Description:

Originally known as the Plaza de las Armas, this area was the location of the central quadrangle of El Presidio de San Francisco, the Spanish fort designed by Lt. Jose Joaquin Moraga in 1776. It was built with forced labor from local native populations. The fort was Spain's northernmost colonial outpost, designed to control the local native populations, guard nearby Mission Dolores, and regulate the comings and goings of foreign ship traffic into the San Francisco Bay. Its fortifications were built primarily from adobe, and went through a number of reconstructions and repairs from 1779 until 1815 following a series of devastating storms and earthquakes.

El Presidio fell into disrepair in the mid-19th century, and was in poor condition with only a small regiment of soldiers when the Americans took control of the territory following the Mexican-American War in 1847. The fort's quadrangle area was redesigned and expanded by the American military over different construction phases since that time up until the 1970s; however, much of the basic layout was retained and certain buildings, such as the Officers’ Club, were built around and on top of existing adobe structures in lieu of their demolition.


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Officers' Club

Officers' Club Description:

Because El Presidio was always a military base, much of the underlying foundational structures and archaeological remains from its earliest periods remain intact under the present constructions and grounds. The present-day Officers’ Club, 188 feet by 119 feet in plan, is located in the southwest corner of the Plaza de las Armas, the central quadrangle of the original Spanish fort. The old adobe fort, currently the oldest surviving Spanish colonial military building in California, was never demolished to make room for new construction. Rather, the American military expanded it during two different construction periods; first in 1847, by the Mexico who had controlled El Presidio since 1822, then later in 1884-1885 when the central assembly hall was built. Today, the appearance of the front facade of the fort primarily reflects additional remodeling from the 1930s in the Colonial Revival style, with original adobe walls enclosed under metal lath and plaster. A large rear addition to the building was built during the 1970s in the Mission Revival style seen at Fort Winfield Scott.


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Mesa Room

Mesa Room Description:

The Mesa Room is located in the east wing of the Officers’ Club, and, along with the west wing (the de Anza Room), was probably constructed during the rebuilding and expansion of the Spanish fort's central quadrangle between 1812-1815, following the earthquake of 1812. The remains of the quadrangle share the distinction, along with Mission Dolores further to the south, of being San Francisco's oldest standing Colonial-era constructions. Currently, the Mesa Room contains exhibits from the current archaeological excavation efforts at El Presidio. Following the takeover of California by the United States in 1847, the American military elaborated and revised the fort but left earlier portions of architecture largely intact under new walls. In 2005, archaeologists peeled back sections of the modern drywall, revealing stenciled wall fabric from the 1930s, which was then peeled back to reveal woodwork from the early American period that was designed to make the thick adobe walls look like a wood frame building. Underneath the wood were the Spanish colonial adobe walls themselves, some of which possibly date as far back as 1791.


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Credits:

more     - Michael Ashley
     - John Ristevski
CyArk
     - Anthony Fassero
     - Elizabeth Lee
            Director of Projects and Development

     - John Mink
            Lead Researcher

     - Oliver Monson
     - Hans Barnaal