Shadows of the Past
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All Euro-American powers who occupied San Diego recognized the strategic importance of Point Loma for seacoast defense against hostile naval forces. Spanish and Mexican armies assigned garrisons to Fort Guijarros through the 18th and 19th centuries. Invading American forces seized Point Loma during the Mexican War of 1846 to lay siege to San Diego. From the 1852 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to present, American military planners used Point Loma as a natural fortification. As naval weapons evolved in the American Civil War, Army Corps of Engineers designed increasingly complex defense schemes in the hills, canyons, and ridge tops. Today, Point Loma remains as one of the most important military installations of the American armed services on the Pacific Coast.

Historic Architecture as Historical and Archeological Resources

Point Loma is a geographical feature integral to obscuring important military structures and buildings by embedding them into the natural terrain. Above ground features are linked by underground constructions, timber-lined or sandbagged trenches and bunkers, and brick or concrete lined utility lines which can be considered as technological resources studied through archeological methods. Layers of fill cover earlier historic deposits — now archeological resources — left by 18th, 19th and early 20th century Spanish, Mexican, and American armies, governmental agencies, a Chinese fishing community, Euro-American whaling and maritime interests, and federal Lighthouse Service and Army Corps of Engineers occupants. This is quite a remarkable sequence of land users, each leaving physical evidence!

The historic archaeological deposits associated with this sequence of buildings and structures are increasingly important because little research has been conducted in the Pacific Coast region regarding pre-20th century military post archeological resources. Comparisons are available, however, from recent research at San Diego, Monterey and San Francisco presidios and Fort Mason in San Francisco. Remote military outposts such as Fort Rosecrans or earlier Fort Guijarros provide opportunities to study consumer behaviors of officers, enlisted personnel and their dependent families. While artifactual studies of some 'frontier forts' are available, almost nothing is known of these behaviors from World Wars I and II, when American troops were assigned to isolated posts for long periods of time. Operating on limited incomes, their dependent families acquired materials and decorated homes following ethnic and economic patterns learned from sources outside military life. Discarded materials associated with residential areas of military posts yield unique historic archaeological data as recently recovered from the Presidio and Crissy Field projects in San Francisco.

Architecture and Infrastructure as Industrial Archeology

This overview of Department of War buildings and structures on Point Loma analyzes the industrial archaeology values to the network of artillery batteries, base end sighting stations, communication systems, searchlight and utility networks, pioneering naval radar, fuel and armament supply, weapons magazines and delivery facilities. Supporting infrastructure of quarters, barracks, medical facilities, shops, recreational features, and water diversion systems are also included. All these military features represent periods of evolution of military engineering, architecture, and construction now obsolete.

The internal technology of these features has industrial archaeology values as well as external architectural values. Archeological information developed from these historic architectural and infrastructure resources is rarely recorded on engineering design plans. For example, when excavation results are compared with the 1898 plans for Battery Wilkeson at Ballast Point, undocumented machinery, doorways, and signs were revealed. Archeological research can provide information on evolving technologies associated with important historical periods that can not be obtained by archival research alone.

Vertical Sequential Layering of Historic and Architectural Features

Many locations on Point Loma represent vertical layering of historic and industrial archaeology. An example would be CA-SDi-12,000 on Ballast Point. The lowest and oldest component is the 1796-1835 Spanish and Mexican artillery battery, which extends west of the battery walls as trash deposits, barracks ruins and a kitchen, and to the northeast as more refuse deposits and architectural rubble. These ruins formed the platform for 1858-1886 European American whalers and Chinese fishermen to build a blacksmith shop, residential shanties, boat yards, and deposit trash. The Army Corps of Engineers covered the entire area with soil in 1873 to level the area for emplacement of a large artillery battery with masonry drain features embedded into the older mariners' camp. The Corps returned in 1898 to construct a cast concrete battery for disappearing guns, install roads, and elevate the beach. The Army Coast Artillery Corps assumed control from the Corps of Engineers and added tons of additional fill, trash deposits, and underground utility lines. Overall, as much as three meters of depth or vertical archaeological deposit covers the earliest historic surface.

Another example of 'buried' archaeology is 500 feet northwest of CA-SDi-12,000. A prehistoric shell midden recorded as CA-SDi-48 once covered as much as five acres of terraces and canyons north of Ballast Point. Chinese fishing camps, boat yards, net repair work areas and an Euroamerican whaling company barracks, kitchens, boat sheds, and other structures lay on top of the shell midden. Photographic records show these buildings directly on top of a meter thick shell midden in this area. The Army graded upper hills to deposit up to two meters of soil on top of portions of CA-SDi-12,000 to create building pads, streets, walkways, and install subterranean utility lines for coal sheds, shops, warehouses, barracks, medical facilities, a fire house and quartermaster housing. Recent construction and renovation of five of these buildings between 1992 and 1998 exposed portions of historic and prehistoric archaeology layers at site CA-SDi-48.

Internal Historical Archeology in Architectural Properties

The buildings themselves contain significant internal technology, personal and cultural features for archaeological documentation. For example, the basement of the 1904 Army Post Hospital still has the porcelain tile surgery room floors directly under the 1940 heating boilers and pipes. Behind the 1940 basement office walls are cut stone masonry blocks set into the earth during the 1904 foundation construction.

Perhaps the most intriguing historic archaeological features are deliberate masonry cavities built into the barracks fireplaces to secrete worn-out soldier's boots, a Welsh spiritual practice for keeping out evil ghosts that dates back a thousand years (May 2000). Behind the walls and under floorboards, personal letters and items left by Army soldiers may be recorded and documented to preserve glimpses into early 20th century social history. On the boards inside the walls are inscriptions, dates and information marked by the builders and restorers between 1904 and 1940. All these archaeological features and items were recorded at Buildings 138 and 139, that are located on top of site CA-SDi-48 in the Fort Rosecrans Historic District.

Industrial Archeological Cycles of Change

Many of the World War I artillery batteries, base end sighting stations and command posts were reused by the Army in World War II. These features provide industrial archaeology values by showing cycles of expansion and reduction, modifications, reinforcement of concrete armor, addition of landscape camouflage, erection of new features and excavation of new or additional sandbagged communication trenches and wiring of security lines. The remnants of those technological changes can be archaeologically exposed, documented and studied for a better understanding of the offensive and defensive functions in the greater Military Reservation context.

In many instances, the urgency of war and needs for construction resulted in buildings and structures to be created with few engineering or architectural records. Some records and plans were lost or destroyed during the transfer of Army Fort Rosecrans to the General Services Administration and subsequent land holders. These landholders include Veterans' Administration, Navy, National Park Service, City of San Diego and Coast Guard. In one notable instance, Navy Public Works Center supervisor Fred Buchanan found a five-foot high mound of hundreds of engineering plans and saved them from destruction. Those valuable records were microfilmed at Naval Station North Island and originals sent to the National Archives. For many underground trenches, bunkers, utility systems and other features, there is no known record. These unrecorded features have industrial archaeology values that can be recaptured by future field research. Surviving old plans and drawings for modified structures have industrial archaeology values for identifying furnishings, obsolete equipment, wall markings and other information.

Of particular interest are numerous underground cast concrete structures that were simply locked up after World War II and not revisited during the Cold War. Several such structures were visited by Flower, Ike and Roth in 1982 and found to have original tables, chairs, bookshelves, old papers, drafting equipment, lighting, and graffiti on the walls. Recent examination of Battery White (Building 100, Naval Base Point Loma) on the former Naval Submarine Base revealed chalked dates and initials on the shot room walls that span 1942 to 1944. Just south of Battery White, Building 554 has no known records and has recently been examined to reveal original chemical warfare equipment, electrical equipment and doors from the same period. These old technologies are poorly known but possess industrial archaeology significance.

Point Loma Military Reservation

This overview presents a synthesis of salient facts about Point Loma Military Reservation that documents an entire evolutionary development sequence of 20th century American military defense strategies up to the present. Given the relatively intact nature of this complex of Army and Navy sites, the Cabrillo National Monument Historic District should be considered a contributing sub-element to a potential Point Loma Military Reservation District. Only within this broad historic context can the full importance of the military structures achieve meaning.

The secretive nature of American military society has prevented the public from enjoying this important historical resource. However, as the National Park Service has learned regarding other military lands, Point Loma may one day be declared obsolete. At that time, property surplus would be disposed by the General Services Administration. In the late 1950s, Fort Rosecrans was decommissioned and subdivided into numerous Navy, Army, and Air Force commands and National Park Service ownership.

The Secretary of War and Congress learned from the War of 1812 that America must develop a seacoast defense of all her shorelines to effectively protect against foreign naval invasion. One of the strategic military goals of the Mexican War was to secure the Pacific Coast and protect America's back door. Armed with libraries of plans and brigades of professionally trained officers, the Army Corps of Engineers arrived in San Francisco in 1847 with the clear goal of making California's ports secure. Defense schemes for the Pacific Coast throughout the 20th century can be likened to technological pulses through time. In a context of artillery evolution, development of shore defenses responded to ordnance improvements accelerated by the Spanish American War of 1898, World War I, and World War II. All underground concrete bunkers, artillery batteries, electrical and water utility lines, communication, and lighting facilities on the Army's Fort Rosecrans directly relate to one or more of those technological pulses. Equally important are the Navy facilities, which are often forgotten when discussing the importance of Fort Rosecrans.

As a result of rapid evolution of artillery technology following the American Civil War, Congress funded one of the largest military undertakings in American history in the late 19th century. The Army Corps of Engineers had built masonry fortifications around San Francisco Bay in the 1850s, which ultimately proved vulnerable to naval artillery during the American Civil War. Similar fortification design of the 1870s also fell to evolving artillery in European wars. This changing technology caused Congress and the Secretary of War to terminate work on Fort San Diego at Ballast Point in 1874.

President Theodore Roosevelt is directly responsible for the historical importance of the Point Loma Military Reservation. In the late 1890s, he directed the Secretary of War to implement the earlier Endicott Board recommendations to the Army Coast Artillery Corps to take full advantage of evolving electrical and communication systems to operate a complex of artillery batteries capable of sinking offshore battleships and cruisers. In 1898, the Army Corps of Engineers designed and erected Battery Wilkeson, an immense disappearing rifle artillery battery, as well as several smaller batteries at the entrance to San Diego Bay. While the Army erected artillery batteries, the Navy built a coal yard capable of fueling a fleet of ships to patrol the Pacific Coast.

War in Europe triggered the second technological pulse. All of the Point Loma Military Reservation became involved in complex plan to detect hostile offshore naval intrusion and triangulate artillery in a far greater arc of trajectory than ever before. To accomplish this, the Army Corps of Engineers installed mortar batteries and sighting stations at strategic locations all over Point Loma. During the relatively quiet period following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, the Navy developed the Naval Radio Station, Naval Fuel Depot, and expanded naval patrol facilities on the bayside. This silently evolving defense scheme kicked into full swing during World War II.

The third technological pulse followed the beginning of war in Europe during 1939. Congress funded the Army Corps of Engineers to build a complex of small and large artillery batteries capable of sinking entire naval fleets, but protected with massive concrete and steel overheads from aerial bombing. All of Point Loma, including private land in the civilian community of Azure Vista, became tightly linked to an interconnected web of artillery base end stations, command stations, anti-aircraft artillery batteries, Naval radar stations, patrol boats, and offshore sonar buoys. This complicated interconnected web became the focal point of the Point Loma Military Reservation.

Following World War II, the Army closed Fort Rosecrans and the Point Loma Military Reservation evolved again to include an Air Force Nike Missile research facility and Navy research center. Nearly eighty percent of the Point Loma Military Reservation lands evolved into the Naval Electronic Laboratory, then Naval Ocean Systems Center, and most recently, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. The entire web of former Army Fort Rosecrans artillery properties had evolved into this new American defense scheme.

The Point Loma Military Reservation represents the ongoing flow of military technological pulses and political contexts that spanned the entire 20th century. With the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, abandoned artillery bunkers, Navy facilities, and national park interpretive facilities, each of these locations serve to vividly remind us why the Cabrillo National Monument Historic District fits squarely into this broad historic context.

Cabrillo National Monument Historic District

The Cabrillo National Monument Historic District includes sixteen historic features that are sub-elements of the greater Point Loma Military Reservation. This overview includes eligible National Register properties outside Cabrillo National Monument that are linked to the Military Reservation. Congress created this reservation in 1852, following the Mexican War conquest of California (Gerould 1966; Calaghan 1980 Flower, Ike and Roth 1982; Floyd 1995). From 1899 to 1957, most of Point Loma fell within the Point Loma Military Reservation (Gerould 1966; Calaghan 1980; May 1985, 1995; Joyce 1996). This included Army, Navy, Air Force and various "black operations" government units (May 1999a). The latter primarily operated on Point Loma during World War II and departed or were disbanded between 1946 and 1949. This overview provides a detailed description of the setting for the Cabrillo National Monument Historic District.

Fort Rosecrans Historic District

Twelve buildings fronting on Sylvester Road, White Road, and Ashburn Road are listed as eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Properties (Widdel 1995; Triem 1995). The Navy has yet to forward the signed National Register Nomination form to the Naval Historic Preservation Officer or the Keeper of the Register (May 1996; Donaldson 1997). This action has been deferred by Navy/ Southwest Division officials to nominate the balance of Fort Rosecrans buildings, structures, and features on Point Loma as a more comprehensive district. This action could incorporate the Cabrillo National Monument Historic District.

The existing Fort Rosecrans Historic District is based on Criteria A and C, which focus on 1897-1940 military history and architectural style. These twelve buildings meet Criteria A for the historical role they played in the development of San Diego as a strategic and major center of military activity on the Pacific Coast. Fort Rosecrans marks the beginning of America's transformation to influencing the economic, social and physical character of this region. The buildings qualify under Criteria C because they embody distinctive characteristics of the 1903-1908 Colonial Revival architecture selected by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps to mark the national and patriotic strength of America. Additionally, a 1919 Craftsman-style social hall, a 1911 hospital morgue, and several rock construction features are contributing elements to the existing district.

San Buenaventura Research Associates nominated the twelve buildings as an historic district with the knowledge that other contributing elements and potential historic districts could be added later (Triem 1995). At that time, Navy/Southwest Division contracted with Hardlines Design (Durst and Chang 1996), Keniston Engineering (Keniston 1998), and KEA (Apple, Van Wormer and Cleland 1995; Apple and Van Wormer 1995) to conduct surveys and National Register eligibility assessments. These studies developed additional historic contexts and themes for expanding the Fort Rosecrans Historic District, adding new districts and individual properties to the inventory.

Colonial Revival Post Buildings Period, 1902-1904

Architectural elements which define the Colonial Revival style are symmetrically balanced windows and doors, porch columns in 'classic' form, fanlight windows, gabled dormers and roof ends, corbeled chimneys, pressed 'tin' ceilings, inset cupboards and ornate staircases. Contracted craftsmen installed stock quatrefoil window elements, interior door trim, and casement windows.

The existing Fort Rosecrans Historic District is focused on the Colonial Revival architectural buildings constructed between 1902 and 1904 (Triem 1995). The United States Department of War responded to national sentiments following the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition and 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. They adopted military architectural styles that evoked a sense of patriotism and tradition to the soldiers and surrounding communities. From 1885 through the early 20th century, the Army Quartermaster Corps directed their architects to incorporate classic design elements in military barracks, officer's quarters, hospitals, and support structures.

The Quartermaster Corps selected Colonial Revival style as a marked change from the earlier Queen Anne style because they wanted to make a statement about America's role as a rising world power. They created standard designs for contracting architects to select to ensure military standardization. The Quartermaster Corps selected Design 142 for the Senior Officer's Quarters and Designs 120A, 120E for the Officer's Quarters. Other designs were selected for the Non-commissioned Officer's Quarters, Post Hospital, Bakery, and Quartermaster Corps buildings and structures. Support structures and infrastructure were custom designed as needed.

Today very few of those American military Colonial Revival buildings exist. Known surviving examples on the West Coast are in Fort Stevens, Oregon and Fort Lawson, Washington. The declining numbers of these buildings and districts are factored into the National Register status. Additionally, the State of California listed all of Fort Rosecrans as California Historic Landmark #62, on December 6, 1932 (Flower, Ike and Roth 1982). At that time, Colonel Douglas MacArhur accepted the status on behalf of his command.

The Fort Rosecrans Historic District buildings are significant for their variety. These buildings were constructed with heart redwood to ensure long-term survival against wood rot, insects, and fire (May 1999a). Craftsmen working for Charles Engebretson and Solon Bryan shaped the redwood to create four officer's duplexes, two enlisted barracks, one post hospital, one bakery, one quartermaster's storehouse and commissary, four non commissioned officer's houses, one administration building, and one commanding officer's house. Four years later, the Post Exchange was constructed in brick (May 199a).

When completed in 1905, all the original buildings were pained olive drab with dark green trim (May 1999a). This color scheme changed in 1918 to khaki tan with white trim. However, the 1919 YMCA Service Club was olive drab with white trim and warehouses were not painted at all. Khaki remained the primary color throughout World War II.

Building 122:Army Quartermaster & Commissary Storehouse, 1904. Wood frame stucco, Colonial Revival. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the California State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Restored in 1998. The asphalt parking lot and Ashburn Road cover original landform that may contain portions of prehistoric archaeology site CA-SDi-48.

Building 123: Army Bakery, 1904. Wood frame, Colonial Revival. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. The lawn, asphalt parking lot and surrounding grounds may contain historic archaeology remains associated with this early industry.

Building 128, Hospital Morgue, 1911. Cast concrete. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the National Register. This structure has no known plans or records, other than base map identification. The concrete deck east of the structure could cover undocumented historic archaeology. The cobblestone and concrete culvert passing by the entrance has been determined eligible as a part of the Fort Rosecrans Historic District.

Building 137: Army Enlisted Barracks, 28th Company Coast Artillery, 1903. Wood frame. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Restored in 1989. The fireplace chimney reconstruction in 1988 revealed a masonry cavity with soldier's boots, which have important cultural value. Inside the walls, names of Army Quartermaster Corps workers are sealed behind modern drywall. The lawn, sidewalks and back alley cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeological resources.

Building 138: YMCA Service Club 1919. Wood frame. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Restored in 1994. Inscriptions in the walls identify Army Quartermaster Corps workers from 1919 and 1938-1940 Works Progress Administration laborers who restored the structure during the Great Depression. The lawns, walkways and back alley cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeological resources.

Building 139: Army Enlisted Barracks, 115th Company Coast Artillery, 1903-1904. Wood frame. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Restored in 1998, the interior walls were found to exhibit names of Army Quartermaster Corps workers. Renovation of the chimneys revealed a masonry cavity with a soldier's boot and a campaign hat that have cultural value. The lawns, walkways and alley behind cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48, historic archaeology associated with the 1904 Fire House and the 115th Company, Coast Artillery kitchen.

Building 140: Army Post Hospital, 1904. Wood frame. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the National Register of Historic Properties by the State Historic Preservation Office. Restored in 1992. Renovation in 1992 revealed the original hospital surgery in the 1940 heating boiler room in the basement. Fiber optic cable trenching in the back alley in 1998 revealed historic archaeology from the 1917-1919 hospital and portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48.

Building 140: Hospital Addition, 1940-1941. Wood frame. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District (May 1998; 1999b). Restored in 1992. The lawns and back alley contain portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48, the 1904 Fire House and historic hospital deposits.

Building 146: Army Officer's Duplex, Lieutenant's Quarters, 1904. Wood frame. Naval Base Point Loma. Colonial Revival. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Lawns and 'Anne's Alley' cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeological resources.

Building 149: Army Officer's Quarters, 1903. Wood frame, Plan #120E, dated May 1903. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the State Historic Preservation Office to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Lawns and 'Anne's Alley' cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeology.

Building 151: Army Officer's Quarters, 1903. Wood frame, Plan #120A, dated March 1898. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the State Historic Preservation Officer to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Lawns and 'Anne's Alley' cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeology.

Building 154: Army Executive Officer's Quarters 1903. Wood frame, Captain's Duplex, Plan #142 Revised, March 1901. Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the State Historic Preservation Officer to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Lawns and 'Anne's Alley' cover portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeology.

Building 158, Post Exchange and Gymnasium, 1908. Brick, Naval Base Point Loma. Certified by the SHPO to be a contributing element to the Fort Rosecrans Historic District. Renovation work in 1998 exposed inscriptions and graffiti documenting the 1989 explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on wall studs. Construction of Jones Hall in 1990 revealed numerous rock-packed fire hearth features, stratified layers of soil, Pseudochama and Astraea undosa marine shell, and Early Milling Archaic stone tools. Trenching in 1998 revealed three-meter deep portions of prehistoric site CA-SDi-48 and historic archaeology. A report by Dennis Gallegos and Carolyn Kyle date CA-SDi-48 to 5,000 radiocarbon years and the SHPO determined the site to be eligible for inclusion on the National Register (Gallegos and Kyle 1988).

During the year 2000, the Navy undertook a $3.2 million project to completely restore Army Buildings 146, 149, 151, and 154 which was completed in March 2001 (May 2000). This work reinforced the basement foundations to resist destructive forces of an underground landslide that cracked foundations. Renovations upstairs will include shear-wall reinforcement, restoration of defining architectural elements, and return of the quarters to military housing functions.

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Last Updated: 06-Apr-2005