Monday, July 27, 2009

California Collision: San Francisco and the military

Perhaps more than any large city, San Francisco's ties to the military are deep. The Spanish realized the strategic importance of the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay, so they established the Presidio on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula. When California became part of the United States, the Presidio became a US fort, and remained so until 1994, when the National Park Service took possession of the land. To the east of the Presidio was Fort Baker. In the bay, Alcatraz became a military reservation in 1850, and Camp Reynolds and Fort McDowell were established on Angel Island later in the century.

More on those two islands in later posts.

On our first full day, the Marathon Pundit family took a doubledecker bus tour that brought us over the Golden Gate bridge. We decided to depart and wait for the next bus, and the three of us took a mile or so walk up a hill where we got a great look at the city and the bridge--that is, when there wasn't any fog. Usually there is, but we caught a few moments when the fog wasn't much of a factor.

It was there we found Battery Spencer, which protected the bay and San Francisco from 1897 until 1943 with three rifled guns possessing 12 inch diameter barrels.

The guns are long gone, but the battery remains. Like the other San Francisco Bay defense installations, the guns on Battery Spencer were never fired at an attacker.

San Francisco doesn't respect its military heritage. As Jack Cashill wrote in "What's the Matter with California?: Cultural Rumbles from the Golden State and Why the Rest of Us Should Be Shaking," the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to rename Army Street after Cesar Chavez. A referendum almost overturned that decision.

Of all the streets in the city, they just had to choose Army Street.

Next: The Painted Ladies

Earlier posts:

Mission San Francisco de Asís
San Francisco's sea lions
San Francisco's blues mural
San Francisco: Cable cars

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1 comment:

Dale Danley said...

San Francisco does respect its military heritage, which means so much more than street names. The Presidio, Fort Mason, Fort Baker, and Fort Funston are all great places to visit in our city limits and learn more about it. We are still trying to work through the legacy of Hunters Point shipyard. Just like everywhere else, though, a lot of people here seem to lack much knowledge and understanding.