Centuries of Defense - Early United States (1850-1884)
The Gold Rush turned San Francisco into a booming city, and its riches attracted the attention of the world. The United States Army focused attention on developing coastal defenses around San Francisco Bay, in response to interest in San Francisco's excellent location and new wealth.
Battery Chamberlin firingFort Point shortly after its construction, looking north across Golden Gate Strait.
Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Fort Point Photograph Collection, GOGA 35339.038
- 1850 - Bay Area military reservations declared
President Fillmore reserves the Presidio of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, and Angel Island for military use
- 1853 - Fort Point begins construction
Only multi-level masonry fortification built on the west coast, designed for 141 cannon, but never fully armed. Although intended to protect San Francisco Bay during the Civil War, Fort Point guns are never fired in anger. Masonry forts proved inadequate against cannon fire and the fort becomes obsolete by the early 1870s.
Pete Clark and Tom Gunerson, Members of Fort Point Life Saving Crew.
Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Fort Point Photograph Collection, GOGA 35339.480
- 1854 - First lighthouse on western United State coast
U.S. Lighthouse Board, predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard erects the first of six lights on the Pacific Coast on Alcatraz Island. Other lights follow at fort Point, Point Reyes, Point Bonita, Point Montara and Point Año Nuevo.
- 1857 - Presidio of San Francisco named Army Headquarters
During the continual reorganization, headquarters switched between the Presidio of Monterey, Presidio of San Francisco and the Benicia Barracks before setting on the Presidio of San Francisco
- 1861 - Alcatraz is designated a U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, or military prison.
Camp Reynolds, Angel Island
Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, PAM Negative Collection, GOGA 35256.0557
- 1863 - Island defenses constructed
New coastal defense batteries constructed on Alcatraz and Angel Islands in response to the Civil War. Angel Island gund mounted in 1864 are rendered useless by 1865; Alcatraz guns are considered obsolete by 1874.
- 1864 - Earthwork batteries replace masonry fortifications.
Defensive construction and protection methods evolved as new coastal batteries were shielded by eath barriers presenting low ground positions. Some examples include Battery Cavallo in Fort Baker and Battery East in the Presidio.
Battery East, Fort Point
Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Fort Point Photograph Collection, GOGA 35339
- 1866 - Army purchases land for Lime Point reservation
U.S. Army established a presence north of the "Golden Gate," now Fort Baker.
- 1883 - Fog Signal Station built a Lime Point
Station remains located below northern tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- 1884 - National Cemetery established
War Department designates the Presidio's former post cemetery and surrounding land as the first National Cemetery on the west coast.