It seems strange to think of progressive, peace-loving San Francisco as a town with tremendous military history. Yet the City’s warlike past is nowhere more evident than at the Presidio (foot of Lombard St., www.nps.gov/prsf). This sweeping stretch of land running along the San Francisco Headlands down to the Golden Gate has been a military installation since 1776, when the Spanish created their El Presidio del San Francisco fort on the site.
In 1846, the United States army took the site (peacefully) and in 1848 the American Presidio military installation formally opened for business. It was finally abandoned by the military and became a national park in 1994. The Presidio had a role in every Pacific-touching war from the Civil War through Desert Storm.
To orient yourself among the more than 800 buildings that make up the Presidio, start at the visitors center at the Officers’ Club, Building 50 (Moraga Ave. near Arguello Blvd., 415/561-4323, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.).
As you explore the huge park, you can visit pioneering aviation area Crissy Field, Civil War–era fortifications at Fort Point, and the Letterman Digital Arts Center (Chesnut and Lyon Sts., www.onelettermandrive.com) built on the site of the Letterman Army Hospital, which served as a top-notch care facility for returning wounded and ailing soldiers over more than a century’s worth of wars.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition