Fort Mason, Building 201
San Francisco, California 94123
GPS: 37.81085, -122.47711
View Larger Map
From its vantage point overlooking
the spectacular Golden Gate, Fort Point protected San Francisco
harbor from Confederate & foreign attack during & after the
U.S. Civil War. Its beautifully arched casemates display the art of
the master brick mason from the Civil War period.
Fort Point has stood guard at the
narrows of the Golden Gate for nearly 150 years. It 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.
Fort Point was built between 1853 and
1861 by the U.S. Army Engineers as part of a defense system of forts
planned for the protection of San Francisco Bay. Designed at the
height of the Gold Rush, the fort and its companion fortifications
would protect the Bay's important commercial and military
installations against foreign attack.
The fort was built in the
traditional "Third System" style of military architecture (a
standard adopted in the 1820s), and would be the only fortification
of this impressive design constructed west of the Mississippi River.
This fact bears testimony to the importance the military gave San
Francisco and the gold fields during the 1850s.
Although Fort Point never saw battle,
the building has tremendous significance due to its military
history, its architecture, and its association with maritime
In the years after the Civil War,
Fort Point became underutilized and was used intermittently as an
army barracks. The pre-Civil War cannons, so valuable when they were
originally installed, became obsolete and were eventually removed.
During World War II, the Army remodeled Fort Point for use as a
detention barracks, though the building was never ultimately used
for that purpose. During the 1920s, the property was used by the
Presidio for housing unmarried officers and different military trade
In the late 1930s, plans for the
construction of the Golden Gate Bridge also involved plans for the
demolition of Fort Point. Fortunately, Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss
recognized the architectural value of the Fort and created a special
engineer arch which allowed the construction of the bridge to occur
safely over the Fort. During World War II, Fort Point was once again
used as temporary housing for soldiers.
After World War II, the movement to
preserve Fort Point for its historic and architectural value began
to grow. Over the next 20 years, support for the preservation
movement waxed and waned. In 1959, a group of retired military
officers and civilian engineers created the Fort Point Museum
Association and lobbied for its creation as a National Historic
Site. On October 16, 1970, Fort Point became a National Historic
Did You Know?
The Golden Gate Bridge's 4,200 foot long main suspension span was a
world record that stood for 27 years. The bridge's two towers rise
746 feet making them 191 feet taller than the Washington Monument?