Battery Townsley Preservation
Battery Townsley, circa 1942
The Power of Battery Townsley
Battery Townsley, located in Fort Cronkhite, in the Marin Headlands, was a casemated battery that mounted two 16-inch caliber guns, each capable of shooting a 2,100 pound, armor-piercing projectile 25 miles out to sea. This powerful gun was constructed between 1937 and 1940 and was one of the army’s most powerful coastal fortifications during during World War II. After the war, the battery was dismantled, the ammunition removed and the building was sealed shut for security. Over the years, the battery has experienced neglect and vandalism.
Volunteers removing non-historic plywood from historic corridor.
Since 2005, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and many volunteer groups have been working hard to preserve Battery Townsley. Preservation efforts at Battery Townsley have included cleaning vegetation and garbage left by vandals out of the interior rooms, corridors and magazine rooms. The presence of lead paint required cleaning by a professional abatement crew. The electrical light fixtures and conduits were restored in their original locations. Since the original electrical service lines to the battery were long-gone, a portable generator was set-up to provide current for the low-wattage bulbs installed in the light fixtures. New security doors were also installed.
Volunteers priming the walls of the generator room.
Once the professionals were done with their electrical work and toxic abatement, the hardworking volunteers continued the clean-up work and began repainting the interior. In an effort to remove or cover up the interior graffiti, the park's architects and architectural historian developed a standard operating procedure whereby we would repaint any wall surfaces that was originally painted during the historic period, using accurate colors for the era. Minimally-intrusive cleaning methods were used on bare concrete to try to remove as much of the spray paint and marker pen messages as possible. In the course of repainting, volunteers used approximately 115 gallons of latex primer/sealer and top coat paints.
During the 2007 summer, a solar powered battery system was installed to power the interior lights in place of the generator system. The Park Service’s goal is to be able to run the electrical lights for up to 5 hours at a stretch using solar power during public visitation hours and to restrict use of the noisy generator to non-public hours when more heavy-duty electrical service may be needed for powering tools, washers, etc.
During World War II, 150 "Prison type" bunk beds like these were installed in the corridors and galleries of Battery Townsley. A goal is to replace some of the bunks and reinstall them in the battery.
The National Park Service has many goals for the continued preservation of Battery Townsley. In the future, we would like to fabricate several 16-inch projectiles to furnish one of the ammunition magazines as well as acquire a 2-ton capacity chain hoist for the same magazine. Another preservation goal is to re-open the long-closed interior room used by soldiers as a mess hall during World War II and to replicate several of the folding bunks used by the soldiers living in the battery while on alert.
To learn more about other Golden Gate National Recreation Area preservation projects, please visit the park's Historic Preservation page.
Battery Townsley is now open to the public the first Sunday of the month, from 12 noon to 4 PM. Battery Townsley is located one ½ mile up from the Fort Cronkhite parking lot, following the Coastal Trail; the walk up to the battery is strenuous so please allow at least 45 minutes.
If you would like to request assistance to the site on open-to-the public days, or if you are interested in volunteering in the preservation efforts, or for general information on the site, please call the Marin Headlands Visitor Center at (415) 331-1540.