• View of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Marin Headlands, looking across the bay back towards San Francisco, seen in the distance.

    Golden Gate

    National Recreation Area California

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Fort Barry

image of soldier walking along Fort Barry road
PARC, NPS
 

An Endicott-Period Army Post

Fort Barry, constructed in 1908 in the Marin Headlands, is one of the park’s best examples of an “Endicott Period” army post. The Endicott Period, named for Secretary of War William C. Endicott, refers to the era when the War Department expressed growing concerns about the dilapidated condition of the country’s seacoast fortifications. As a response, the army made sweeping recommendations in the 1890s to modernize and re-arm all the U.S. seacoast forts. In 1902, the army constructed new seacoast fortifications at Fort Baker, just inside the Golden Gate strait. By 1908, the army recognized the need for additional defenses, outside the Golden Gate strait, and constructed Fort Barry and its batteries for this purpose.

 
Fort Barry soldiers on barracks front porch
Fort Barry solders, on the front porch of their barracks, showing off their Model 1903  Springfield rifles (photo circa 1908).
PARC, GGNRA
 

Army Life

Like most army posts, Fort Barry functioned as a small, self-sufficient town that supported the needs of the soldiers. The post contained the commander’s residence and headquarters, elegant officers’ residences and soldiers’ barracks; it also provided its own hospital, gymnasium, post exchange (for daily supplies), a guardhouse (which jailed the occasional disorderly soldier) and even its own bakery. A soldier’s life in Fort Barry was very isolated. The only method of travelling to neighboring Sausalito, where the soldiers could visit saloons or take the ferry to San Francisco, was via a long and treacherous coastal road. In 1918, after too many near-fatal road accidents, the army constructed the Baker-Barry tunnel, thus improving military communication and travel between the two posts.

 
early aerial of Fort Barry
This photo shows Fort Barry nestled within the Marin Headlands. The army intentionally constructed the buildings around the main parade ground and planted trees around the post to provide necessary breaks from the wind. (photo circa 1928).
PARC, GGNRA
 

The Batteries at Fort Barry

By 1905, the army constructed five powerful batteries at Fort Barry that represented the new Endicott-period upgrades: Battery Mendell, Battery Alexander, Battery Smith-Guthrie, Battery Samuel Rathbone and Battery Patrick O’Rorke. Battery Mendell, the first constructed, was outfitted with the army’s modern innovation: a pair of 12-inch guns on a “disappearing carriage”. When the guns were ready to fire, they would pop-up into position, fire a single shot, and then recoil down and out of sight for reloading; hence the “disappearing carriage” designation. In their loading position, both the firing guns and the soldiers were hidden from enemy view behind the huge concrete parapet, camouflaged with vegetation. During World War II, Fort Barry was part of the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco, which was responsible for defending the area from enemy attack. Fort Barry’s batteries were upgraded and anti-aircraft guns were installed along the coastline.

 
 
Battery Mendell's disappearing carriage
Battery Mendell’s 12” gun, installed on the state-of-the-art “disappearing carriage”, capable of firing a 1,100 pound artillery shell at enemy ships up to eight miles away (photo circa 1910).
PARC, GGNRA
 
Fort Barry soldiers in target plotting room
A complex underground system of communication cables connected all the batteries so that the men stationed throughout the fort could communicate with one another. In this photo, the soldiers with the headphones are getting word about successful target practices from the men out in the field and then recording this information on the plotting table. (photo circa 1944).
PARC, GGNRA
 
Army children at Bonita Cove
The officers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established an engineering construction camp at the Point Bonita Reservation to manage the construction of the new Fort Barry batteries. They were allowed to bring their wives and children; by 1915, there were so many children living at Point Bonita that the army agreed to provide a school buildings for the families.  (photo circa 1915).
PARC, GGNRA
 
soldiers training at Fort Barry

To learn more about Fort Barry history, download the Fort Barry History Tour: An Army Post Standing Guard over the Marin Headlands (PDF file, 1.4 MB)

 
Historic photo of Fort Baker

Learn more about Fort Baker, another Endicott-period army base located in the Marin Headlands.

Did You Know?

Alcatraz Island with the cellhouse located to the right of the watertower.

Alcatraz Island is one of the designated National Historic Landmark Districts and has over 1.4 million visitors, each year, from all over the world.