El Presidio – 1776-2014

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In a little corner of San Francisco is an old army post. When I say old, I mean it. Spain established El Presidio in 1776 as its northern most post in the Americas. However the Spanish weren’t the first people to live in the area. Archeologists have found evidence that Indian people lived in the area for over 1500 years. IMG_4339When the Spaniards arrived, The Ohlone People, also known as Muwekma, were forced to change their traditional way of living. They lived in villages built on shell mounds between the San Francisco and Monterey bays. Two shell mound sites, dating back from 750-1350 and 1350-1795, have been preserved at the Presidio. There are still Ohlone people living here in the Bay Area, today.

Spain first occupied California in 1769. It established four presidios at important ports along the Pacific coast for protection against the possible encroachment from the British and the Russians.  Near each presidio, missions were established by Catholic priests, so they could convert the native people.  El Presidio was home to the Spanish soldiers and their families who came from Mexico.  presidio officers clubToday the Presidio is part of the National Park System as well as being a National Historic Landmark District with over 425 historic buildings. The rehabilitation budget for the Presidio was $19 million overseen by Perkins + Will for the Presidio Trust. Last weekend, my friend Alice and I went to see the recently renovated Officer’s Club.

Our first stop was for lunch at the newly opened restaurant, the Commissary that is housed in the former army mess hall. It is located in a building built in 1895 across from the beautiful Parade grounds on “Infantry Row”.

The original fort was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812 and enlarged when it was rebuilt the same year. In the 1930’s the fort was remodeled again. The goal of the most recent restoration was to repair what needed fixing and to leave the rest alone. They wanted to bring back to life as much as the old building as possible. In the Mesa Room, the architects exposed the adobe bricks that date from between 1780 and 1812. IMG_4322From 1847 to about 1890, the Presidio defended the Golden Gate and also participated in the Western Indian Wars. Thousands of soldiers were housed and trained before being deployed to overseas battlefields.   As the years went on, the Presidio was the last point on the mainland of America’s defense of the Pacific.IMG_4353The above photo was taken in 1916 of Private and Mrs. McFurson with baby William on March 25, 1914.  This was just before Private McFurson shipped off to fight in WWI.  The photo was taken by, C.Tucker Bennett.IMG_4359Above is a photo of Mr. C. Tucker Bennett with his camera before WWI

There is no charge to visit the Officer’s Club. Park guides are stationed in the rooms to answer questions about the history of San Francisco and the Presidio Army Post – 1847-1994. This post evolved into the most important Army installation on the Pacific Coast.IMG_4312Infantry RowIMG_4356Parade grounds and San Francisco Bay

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