Fort Point National Historic Site, San Francisco Bay CA

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Views of Fort Point National Historic Site
Photos courtesy of National Trust for Historic Preservation and NPS Digital Archives

With three tiers of vaulted brick casemates housing cannons, a barbette tier with additional guns and a sod roof to absorb the impact of enemy cannon fire, Fort Point is the antiquated architectural masterpiece of coastal fortifications in the Bay Area. Fort Point was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1853 and 1861 to prevent entrance of a hostile fleet into San Francisco Bay.

The fort was designed to mount 126 massive cannon. Rushed to completion at the beginning of the Civil War, Fort Point was first garrisoned in February of 1861 by Company I, 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment. The fort was occupied throughout the Civil War, but the advent of faster, more powerful rifled cannon made brick forts such as Fort Point obsolete. In 1886 the troops were withdrawn, and the last cannon were removed about 1900. The fort was then used for storage and training purposes for many years.

[photo]Soldier on “guard duty” at Fort Point’s sallyport during World War II [n.d.]
Photo courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Although the sod roof eroded over time, Fort Point remained in service during World War II until 1943. More than 100 soldiers of the 6th U.S. Coast Artillery Regiment were stationed at searchlights and rapid-fire cannons mounted at the fort. The soldiers stood guard over the Golden Gate and the 7,000-ton, seven-mile metal submarine net (manufactured at the Tiburon Net Depot) stretching from Sausalito to San Francisco.

Fort Point is the only third system brick fort on the west coast of the United States. It was designated by Congress as a National Historic Site on October 16th, 1970. Directly under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and flanked by the Presidio’s Crissy Field and a rocky coastline, visitors can easily make an afternoon of exploring Fort Point and the surrounding area.

Fort Point National Historic Site, part of the Presidio of San Francisco, is administered by the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is located at Long Ave. and Marine Dr., accessible from Lincoln Blvd. The Fort Point Museum is open 10:00am to 5:00pm daily. For further information, visit Fort Point’s website or call 415-556-1693. Fort Point has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.