The Presidio in San Francisco was established as a fortified base by the Spanish in 1776 as El Presidio Real de San Francisco or The Royal Fortress of Saint Francis.
It was the northernmost outpost of a Spanish empire in decline.
We were there recently with a friend, in the Presidio’s current life as a public-private project – part park, part residential area, part office campus for commercial and non-profit organizations. It’s changed a lot since I spent time there back in the 1980s, when it was a quiet place of dilapidated barracks and virtually abandoned administrative buildings.
The Presidio has always had a special place in the city – its existence as one of the choicest bases in the United States military (golf courses, views of San Francisco Bay, beaches) protected it from the intense urban development that took place elsewhere.
It remains a place of tall cypress trees, sweeping lawns, surrounded by the blue of the bay and the ocean, with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop.
The base was decommissioned by the military in 1995, and has since become part of the National Park Service. The area that President Harry Truman once proposed as the U.S. headquarters for the United Nations is now a (not entirely undisputed) public-private development that includes a campus for non profit organizations.
From The Presidio: From Army Post to National Park (Lisa Benton-Short):
“The Presidio is a community within a park within a larger community. We are reminded by such accidents of geography that each of us is placed in human life within the concentric circles of relationship to others and to the natural world.”
In a throwback to when neighboring farmers grazed their cattle on Presidio land, goats now keep the weeds in check.
Who would have thought that a military installation, established 240 years ago as a point from which to develop new settlements, would end up fortifying an entire swathe of territory as parkland for the future?
3 thoughts on “Keeping a City at Bay”
Love this and YOU!
I’m a big fan of Andrew Goldsworthy and always pleased to catch a glimpse of his work. Great post!
Thanks! He has a lovely piece at the entrance of the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park of a long, winding fault line that creeps right into the building. Wonderful (and a bit sobering).