Presidio of San Francisco
A map of the Presidio
A map of the Presidio
Presidio of San Francisco is located in San Francisco
Presidio of San Francisco
Presidio of San Francisco
Location in San Francisco
Coordinates: 37°47′53″N 122°27′57″W / 37.79806°N 122.46583°W / 37.79806; -122.46583
Country United States
State California
City-countySan Francisco
FortifiedSeptember 17, 1776
 • TypeBoard of Supervisors
 • Total2.4 sq mi (6 km2)
 • Total4,226
 • Density1,800/sq mi (680/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area codes415/628
Presidio of San Francisco
Area1,480 acres (6.0 km2)[3]
ArchitectSpanish/Mexico/United States Army
Architectural styleSpanish Colonial, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival
WebsitePresidio of San Francisco Presidio Trust
NRHP reference No.66000232[2]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated NHLJune 13, 1962[5]
Designated CHISL1933[4]

The Presidio of San Francisco (originally, El Presidio Real de San Francisco or The Royal Fortress of Saint Francis) is a park and former U.S. Army post on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula in San Francisco, California, and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

It had been a fortified location since September 17, 1776, when New Spain established the presidio to gain a foothold in Alta California and the San Francisco Bay. It passed to Mexico in 1820, which in turn passed it to the United States in 1848.[6] As part of a military reduction program under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process from 1988, Congress voted to end the Presidio's status as an active military installation of the U.S. Army.[7] On October 1, 1994, it was transferred to the National Park Service, ending 219 years of military use and beginning its next phase of mixed commercial and public use.[8]

In 1996, the United States Congress created the Presidio Trust to oversee and manage the interior 80% of the park's lands, with the National Park Service managing the coastal 20%.[9] In a first-of-its-kind structure, Congress mandated that the Presidio Trust make the Presidio financially self-sufficient by 2013. The Presidio achieved the goal in 2005, eight years ahead of the deadline.[10]

The park has many wooded areas, hills, and scenic vistas overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. It was recognized as a California Historical Landmark in 1933 and as a National Historic Landmark in 1962.[5][4]


Military use

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The Presidio was originally a Spanish fort sited by Juan Bautista de Anza on March 28, 1776, built by a party led by José Joaquín Moraga later that year. The limestone used to build the presidio was mined by Ohlones at the Rockaway Quarry.[11] In 1783, the Presidio's garrison numbered only 33 men. Upon Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, it was briefly operated as a Mexican fortification.

The Presidio in 1817

The Presidio was seized by the U.S. military at the start of the Mexican–American War in 1846. It was officially re-opened by the Americans in 1848 and became home to several army headquarters and units, the last being the United States 6th Army. Several famous U.S. generals, such as William Sherman, George Henry Thomas, and John Pershing, made their homes here.

During its long history, the Presidio was involved in most of America's military engagements in the Pacific Rim. Importantly, it was the assembly point for army forces that invaded the Philippines during the Spanish–American War, America's first significant military engagement in the region.

Beginning in the 1890s, the Presidio was home to the Letterman Army Medical Center (LAMC), named in 1911 for Jonathan Letterman, the medical director of the Civil War-era Army of the Potomac. LAMC provided thousands of war-wounded with high-quality medical care during every US foreign conflict of the 20th century.

One of the last two remaining cemeteries within the city's limits is the San Francisco National Cemetery. Among the military personnel interred there are General Frederick Funston, hero of the Spanish–American War, Philippine–American War, and commanding officer of the Presidio at the time of the 1906 earthquake; and General Irvin McDowell, a Union Army commander who lost the First Battle of Bull Run.

The Marine Hospital operated a cemetery for merchant seamen approximately 100–250 yards (91–229 m) from the hospital property. Based on city municipal records, historians estimate that the cemetery was used from 1885 to 1912.[12] As part of the "Trails Forever" initiative, the Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the Presidio Trust partnered to build a walking trail along the south side of the site featuring interpretive signage about its history.[13]

Street map of 1937 of the Army Base

The Presidio was the home of the Western Defense Command headquarters during World War II. It was here that Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt signed 108 Civilian Exclusion Orders and directives for the internment of Japanese Americans under the authority of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.[14]

The Presidio sent its few remaining units to war for the last time in 1991 for Desert Storm, the First Gulf War. The role of the Sixth Army was the management of training and coordinating deployment of Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve units in the Western U.S. for Operation Desert Storm.


After a hard-fought battle, the Presidio averted being sold at auction and came under the management of the Presidio Trust, a U.S. government corporation established by an act of Congress in 1996.[10][15][failed verification]

The Presidio Trust now manages most of the park in partnership with the National Park Service. The trust has jurisdiction over the interior of 80 percent of the Presidio, including nearly all its historic structures. The National Park Service manages coastal areas. Primary law enforcement throughout the Presidio is the jurisdiction of the United States Park Police.

One of the main objectives of the Presidio Trust's program was achieving financial self-sufficiency by fiscal year 2013, which was reached in 2006. Immediately after its inception, the trust began preparing rehabilitation plans for the park. Many areas had to be decontaminated before being prepared for public use.

The Presidio Trust Act calls for the "preservation of the cultural and historic integrity of the Presidio for public use." The Act also requires that the Presidio Trust be financially self-sufficient by 2013. These imperatives have resulted in numerous conflicts between the need to maximize income by leasing historic buildings and permitting public use despite most structures being rented privately. Further differences have arisen from the divergent needs to preserve the integrity of the National Historic Landmark District in the face of new construction, competing pressures for natural habitat restoration, and requirements for commercial purposes that impede public access.

Crissy Field, a former airfield, has undergone extensive restoration and is now a popular recreational area. It borders on the San Francisco Marina in the east and on the Golden Gate Bridge in the west.

The Old Coast Guard Station and Golden Gate Bridge

The park has a large inventory of approximately 800 buildings, many of them historical. By 2004, about 50% of the buildings on park grounds had been restored and partially remodeled. The Presidio Trust has contracted commercial real estate management companies to help attract and retain residential and commercial tenants. The total capacity is estimated at 5,000 residents when all buildings have been rehabilitated. Among the Presidio's residents is The Bay School of San Francisco, a private, coeducational college preparatory school located in the central Main Post area. Others include The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Tides Foundation, the Arion Press, Sports Basement Presidio, and The Walt Disney Family Museum, a museum in the memory of Walt Disney.[16] Many various commercial enterprises also lease buildings on the Presidio.

The Thoreau Center for Sustainability preserved sections of the Letterman Army Hospital .[17]

The Presidio of San Francisco is the only site in a national recreation area with an extensive residential leasing program.

The Presidio has four creeks that park stewards and volunteers are restoring to expand their riparian habitats' former extents. The creeks are Lobos and Dragonfly creeks, El Polin Spring, and Coyote Gulch.

1990s – present

Presidio Parkway construction seen from Storey Avenue in October 2013

The Trust entered a significant agreement with Lucasfilm to build a new facility called the Letterman Digital Arts Center (LDAC), which is now Lucasfilm's corporate headquarters. The site replaced portions of what was the Letterman Hospital. George Lucas won the development rights for 15 acres (6.1 ha) of the Presidio, in June 1999, after beating out several rival plans, including a leading proposal by the Shorenstein Company. LDAC replaced the former Lucasfilm headquarters in San Rafael. The $300 million development includes nearly 900,000 square feet (84,000 m2) of office space and a 150,000-square-foot (14,000 m2) underground parking garage with a capacity of 2,500 employees. Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic, Lucas Licensing, and Lucas Online divisions reside at the site. George Lucas's proposal included plans for a high-tech Presidio museum and a 7-acre (2.8 ha) "Great Lawn" that is now open to the public.

In 2007, Donald Fisher, founder of the Gap clothing stores and former board member of the Presidio Trust, announced a plan to build a 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) museum tentatively named the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio, to house his art collection. Due to opposition,[18] Fisher withdrew his plans to build the museum in the Presidio and instead donated the art to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art before he died in 2009.[19][20]

An aerial view of the Presidio

As the Doyle Drive viaduct was deemed seismically unsafe and obsolete, construction started on the demolition of Doyle Drive in 2008 to replace the structure with a flat, broad-lane highway with a tunnel through the bluffs above Crissy Field, called the Presidio Parkway. The project cost $1 billion and was scheduled to be completed by 2016.[21][22]

The Trust plans to create a promenade that will link the Lombard Gate and the new Lucasfilm campus to the Main Post and, ultimately, to the Golden Gate Bridge. The promenade is part of a trail expansion plan that will add 24 miles (39 km) of new pathways and eight scenic overlooks throughout the park.

In October 2008, artist Andy Goldsworthy constructed the first of a series of sculptures in the Presidio, the Spire. It is 100 feet (30 m) tall and located near the Arguello Gate. It represents the tree replanting effort that has been underway at the Presidio.[23] Spire was followed by Wood Line in 2011,[24] Tree Fall in 2013,[25] and Earth Wall in 2014.[26]

In 2010, a trampoline park called House of Air was built using an old aircraft hangar.[27]

As of 2023, it is estimated that there may be at least four coyote families living in the park.[28]

Presidio visitor centers

Welcome sign
Battery Chamberlin

The visitor centers are operated by the National Park Service:

Crissy Field Center

Crissy Field Center (former Air Service/Air Corps/Army Air Forces airfield) is an urban environmental education center with programs for schools, public workshops, after-school programs, summer camps, and more. The center is operated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and overlooks a restored tidal marsh. The facilities include interactive environmental exhibits, a media lab, a resource library, an art workshop, a science lab, a gathering room, a teaching kitchen, a café, and a bookstore.[31] The landscape of Crissy Field was designed by George Hargreaves. The project restored a naturally functioning and sustaining tidal wetland as a habitat for flora and fauna, previously not in the site's evidence. It also restored a historic grass airfield that became a culturally significant military airfield between 1919 and 1936. The park at Crissy Field expanded and widened the recreational opportunities of the existing 1+12-mile (2.4 km) San Francisco shore to a broader number of Presidio residents and visitors.

Presidio Tunnel Tops

View of Presidio Tunnel Tops park with Alcatraz Island in the background
Aerial view with the newly opened Presidio Tunnel Tops (lower center)

A major component of the Presidio's park attractions is the Presidio Tunnel Tops, which has created a 14-acre park (5.7 ha) on top of the tunneled portions of Doyle Drive.[32][33] The park contains several meadows and walking trails, along with viewpoints for major landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge. Negotiations between Caltrans, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and the Presidio Trust to finalize the land transfer for the park lasted from 2015 to 2018.[32] The budget for the park is $100 million, funded with public funds from the Presidio Trust and private contributions. The park opened for public use on July 17, 2022.[33]


California Historical Landmark marker for the Presidio
The Presidio c. 1850
A refugee camp at the Presidio after the San Francisco earthquake

See also


  1. ^ a b "Census Tract 601, San Francisco, CA". Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  3. ^ "Presidio of San Francisco" (PDF). National Park Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  4. ^ a b "Presidio of San Francisco". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  5. ^ a b NHL Summary.
  6. ^ "Under Three Flags" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  7. ^ U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Headquarters (2008). USAMRMC: 50 Years of Dedication to the Warfighter : 1958-2008. p. 121.
  8. ^ "Presidio of San Francisco Post to Park transition". National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  9. ^ "The Presidio Trust". Archived from the original on February 14, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Levy, Dan (June 19, 2005). "A Green Belt in The Black". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  11. ^ "Historic Resource Study for Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Mateo County" (PDF). National Park Service. Department of Interior. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  12. ^ McCann, Jennifer (2006). "The Marine Hospital Cemetery, Presidio of San Francisco, California" (PDF). The Presidio Archaeology Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 9, 2012.
  13. ^ "The Marine Hospital Cemetery". The Presidio Trust. Archived from the original on September 16, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  14. ^ "Remembering Executive Order 9066 - Golden Gate National Recreation Area (U.S. National Park Service)". National Park Service. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Title unknown". The Wall Street Journal.
  16. ^ "The Walt Disney Family Museum". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  17. ^ "Thoreau Center for Sustainability San Francisco". Archived from the original on 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  18. ^ King, John (March 18, 2008). "Architect waxes poetic with Presidio museum". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  19. ^ King, John (July 2, 2009). "Fishers give up on plan for Presidio art museum". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  20. ^ Baker, Kenneth (October 2, 2009). "SFMOMA gets Fisher art collection". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  21. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (January 12, 2010). "Closure of Doyle Drive off-ramp goes smoothly". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  22. ^ "Presidio Parkway Construction Schedule". Archived from the original on July 20, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  23. ^ ""Spire" by Andy Goldsworthy". Presidio Trust web site. Archived from the original on May 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  24. ^ "Andy Goldsworthy's Wood Line". The Presidio Trust. 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Andy Goldsworthy's Tree Fall". The Presidio Trust. 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Andy Goldsworthy's Earth Wall". The Presidio Trust. 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Presidio House of Air brings flight to the flightless".
  28. ^ "Coyotes in the Presidio". Presidio. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  29. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (May 8, 2012). "Golden Gate Bridge's 1st visitor center to open". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
  30. ^ Krupa, Maya. "Hidden Presidio Outdoor Track". Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  31. ^ "Crissy Field Center". Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
  32. ^ a b Dineen, J.K. (2018-06-13). "Above the bay, Presidio Tunnel Tops includes meadows, picnic areas, overlooks, daily mobile food and beverage vendors, and a youth area that includes the Field Station, Crissy Field Center, and the Outpost - a nature play area. San Francisco". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  33. ^ a b Presido Trust. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  34. ^ "K. T. Khlĕbnikov: A Look at a Half-Century of My Life". Syn otechestva: 311–312. 1836.
  35. ^ "Camp Merriam". Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields.
  36. ^ "Presidio Garrison". Presidio of San Francisco. National Park Service. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Buffalo Soldiers: The First African American 'Park Rangers'". Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. February 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  38. ^ Walbridge, Mark R. (1997). "The Presidio Trust". Urban Ecosystems. 1 (3): 133. doi:10.1023/A:1018519410163. S2CID 9853002.(subscription required)
  39. ^ "San Francisco's Proud Presidio". The Milwaukee Journal. December 17, 1946. Archived from the original on 2016-01-23. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  40. ^ "New Presidio Visitor Center Debuts Saturday, February 25, 2017".
  41. ^ "New Presidio Visitor Center Debuts Saturday, February 25 - Golden Gate National Recreation Area (U.S. National Park Service".
  42. ^ "Presidio Visitor Center - Presidio of San Francisco (U.S. National Park)".