Long Avenue & Marine Drive
San Francisco, CA 94123
Fort Point has guarded the narrows of the Golden Gate Bridge for nearly 150 years. It has been called "the pride of the Pacific, " "the Gibraltar of the West Coast, " and "one of the most perfect models of masonry in America." When construction began during the height of the California Gold Rush, Fort Point was planned as the most formidable deterrence America could offer to a naval attack on California. Although its guns never fired a shot in anger, the "Fort at Fort Point" as it was originally named, has witnessed the Civil War, obsolescence, earthquakes, bridge construction, reuse for World War II, and preservation as a National Historic Site. Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a defense system of forts planned for the protection of San Francisco Bay. Designed at the height of the Gold Rush, the fort and its planned companion fortifications would protect the Bay's important commercial and military installations against foreign attack. The fort was built in the Army's traditional "Third System" style of military architecture (a standard adopted in the 1820s), and would be the only fortification of this impressive design constructed west of the Mississippi River. This fact bears testimony to the importance the military gave San Francisco and the gold fields during the 1850s. Although Fort Point never saw battle, the building has tremendous significance due to its military history, its architecture, and its association with maritime history. In the years after the Civil War, Fort Point became obsolete due to new rifled cannons that could destroy brick forts. The fort was used intermittently as an army barracks. The pre-Civil War cannons, so valuable when they were originally installed, became obsolete and were eventually removed. During the 1920s, the property was used by the Presidio for housing unmarried officers and different military trade schools. Initially, Fort Point was slated to be destroyed to make way for the Golden Gate Bridge, but instead it was saved and used as construction headquarters while the Golden Gate Bridge was built overhead. During World War II, the Army mounted machine guns on top of Fort Point to protect the bridge, and the fort interior was to use as a detention barracks in 1913-1914, though the building was never used for that purpose. In 1970, Fort Point became a National Historic Site and is now preserved in perpetuity.