Fort Point National Historic Site

Nestled under the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, Fort Point reminds us of another age, when cannons protected the bay. It’s pretty amazing that this structure was preserved when the bridge was built. Original plans required the fort to be knocked down, but they ended up redesigning the bridge so that the fort would be saved. In 1970, President Nixon further protected the fort by establishing Fort Point National Historic Site.

Today, if you take the pedestrian walkway on east side of the Golden Gate Bridge, you can look down into the fort, or you walk down to the waterfront and see the fort nestled under the arch. We didn’t go inside the fort. It is possible, but there are limited days and times when visitors are allowed. But even from the top and outside you can see what a great example of military architecture this is.

History of Fort Point

This fort was constructed in the mid-1800’s by the US military as part of a series of fortifications that included Fort Point, Fort Mason and Alcatraz. But this was not the first time this location had been used to protect San Francisco Bay. Prior to the Americans, the area was used by the Mexicans, and prior to that, the Spanish. In fact, the first defenses in the area were built by the Spanish to protect themselves from the Russians and British. Their settlement included a mission and presidio, still there today!

The Presidio at Golden Gate Park

This area has been inhabited for decades and was used as a military base for the Spanish, Mexican, and then the United States armies. In fact, “presido” is a spanish term meaning “fortified settlement”.

Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, you can walk along “officers row” and visit the parade grounds, now a favorite location for people to play fetch with their dogs. The Presidio area of Golden Gate includes Fort Point, Crissy Field and Baker Beach. It’s a great place to wander, not only to soak up the military history of the area, but also to look out over the bay and enjoy the views.  

Palace of Fine Arts

We spent several days exploring the Golden Gate area (we’ll talk about that in another blog), but one of the coolest things we stumbled upon when walking around the presidio was the Palace of Fine Arts. We should probably have known it was there – it’s been in movies and tv shows – but we hadn’t planned to see it. We just happened to wander by and we are so glad we did.

It is a crazy structure, built originally for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and designed to look like an ancient Roman ruin. A huge rotunda looks out over a lagoon, supported by huge columns topped with stone sculptures. It really looks like it was transported from Greece.

No, it has nothing to do with Fort Point or the presidio, but it is worth a detour!

Need Help Planning Your Visits?

If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.

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