Fort Point is a masonry seacoast fortification located at the southern side of the Golden Gate at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. This fort was completed just before the American Civil War by the United States Army, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. The fort is a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
In 1769 Spain occupied the San Francisco area and by 1776 had established the area’s first European settlement, with a mission and a presidio. To protect against encroachment by the British and Russians, Spain fortified the high white cliff at the narrowest part of the bay’s entrance, where Fort Point now stands. The Castillo de San Joaquin, built in 1794, was an adobe structure housing nine to thirteen cannons.
Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, gaining control of the region and the fort, but in 1835 the Mexican army moved to Sonoma leaving the castillo’s adobe walls to crumble in the wind and rain. On July 1, 1846, after the Mexican-American War broke out between Mexico and the United States, U.S. forces, including Captain John Charles Fremont, Kit Carson and a band of 10 followers, captured and occupied the empty castillo anddisabled the cannons.
In 1926 the American Institute of Architects proposed preserving the fort for its outstanding military architecture. Funds were unavailable, and the ideas languished. Plans for the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s called for the fort’s removal, but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss redesigned the bridge to save the fort. “While the old fort has no military value now,” Strauss said, “it remains nevertheless a fine example of the mason’s art…. It should be preserved and restored as a national monument.” The fort is situated directly below the southern approach to the bridge, underneath an arch that supports the roadway.
FORT POINT (CASTILLO DE ADOBE OR CASTILLO DE SAN JOAQUIN )
The Fort has been called “the pride of the Pacific,” “the Gibraltar of the West Coast,” and “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America.” When construction began during the height of the California Gold Rush, Fort Point was planned as the most formidable deterrence America could offer to a naval attack on California. Although its guns never fired a shot in anger, the “Fort at Fort Point” as it was originally named has witnessed Civil War, obsolescence, earthquake, bridge construction, reuse for World War II, and preservation as a National Historic Site.
PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO
The Presidio of San Francisco is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It had been a fortified location since September 17, 1776, when New Spain established it to gain a foothold in Alta California and the San Francisco Bay. It passed to Mexico, which in turn passed it to the United States in 1848. In Congress voted to end the Presidio’s status as an active military installation of the U.S. Army. On October 1, 1994, it was transferred to the National Park Service, ending 219 years of military use.