Fort Mason Historic District at Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Fort Mason is a green sward within the dense urban grid of San Francisco, perched on a point of land on the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula at the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Fort Mason’s 68.5 acres are but one small sub-unit of the immense Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The military structures on site date from the 1850s through the 1950s and illustrate the evolution of military landscape planning and architecture over a one hundred year period.

The reservation, today, is a show spot for the city; it is a sightseeing point...for numberless visitors, local and transient... In the course of time, the majority of officers of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps, pass through the Golden Gate Depot Commander A.W. Yates, 1923

Beginning in 1797 while California was a remote territory of Spain, Bateria Yerba Buena became one of two sites in the Bay Area armed to defend the harbor.


Large white building with a lawn served as the officer's quarters.
Officers' Quarters. Eight sets of duplex officer's quarters were constructed in 1931.


The Fort Mason cultural landscape is composed of Upper and Lower Fort Mason, totalling 68.5 acres. The area was first occupied by the Ohlone, then in the eighteenth century by the Spanish, and in the nineteenth century by the United States. Lower Fort Mason consists of the wharves and sheds built on filled land reclaimed from the bay in the early twentieth century. Beginning in 1911, these facilities at Lower Fort Mason became an important component of the Army's Port of Embarkation - expediting personnel and materiel into the Pacific.  

The Fort Mason Historic District is nationally significant for the years between 1855 and 1953. The district includes a wide range of designed and vernacular historic landscape resources that include vehicular and pedestrian circulation systems, buildings, batteries, and vegetation developed by the U.S. military during their one hundred year inhabitation of the site.

Community Garden
The community garden was not present during the historic period. This area of Fort Mason is labeled as the "Post Garden" on 1890 maps of the property, but a new hospital and steward’s quarters built in 1902 soon encroached upon the post garden.


The period of significance, 1855-1953, originates with the construction and civilian settlement of the area during California's Gold Rush and ends with the cease-fire ending the Korean Conflict. The extant above-ground cultural resources at Fort Mason are survivors of one-hundred years of United States military history. Fort Mason has evolved over a period inclusive of the American Civil War, the Indian Wars of the American West 1865-1890, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and finally the Korean Conflict.

Fort Mason retains integrity reflecting the entire period of significance, from 1855 to 1952. Fort Mason's setting has remained relatively consistent since the late 1920s to early 1930s, when the neighborhood surrounding the property became fully urbanized, and retains its quality as an enclave isolated from the surrounding city. The following landscape characteristics contribute to the significance of the historic district’s cultural landscape: Natural Systems, Spatial Organization, Topography, Circulation, Buildings and Structures, Vegetation, Small Scale Features, Views and Vistas, and Archeological Sites.

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Historic Site
  • National Register Significance Level: National
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A,C,D
  • National Historic Landmark
  • Period of Significance: 1855-1953

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Last updated: May 20, 2019