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Visiting The Fort Underneath The Golden Gate Bridge

Visiting The Fort Underneath The Golden Gate Bridge

Old Mar 9th, 2022, 11:28 AM
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Visiting The Fort Underneath The Golden Gate Bridge

THE FORT UNDER THE BRIDGE: On a recent trip to San Francisco, Tracy and I took advantage of a spectacular Bay Area day to visit a fortress located directly underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point was constructed in the mid-19th century to serve as a deterrent to anyone who wanted to attack San Francisco. It never saw any action, but it was utilized in a number of ways throughout the decades. It was almost demolished when the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed in the 1930s, but as you’ll see, the chief engineer of the bridge project would have nothing to do with that. (Story with photos ... link below) Story without photos below photos
https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/for...san-francisco/










You say you didn’t know there was a fort constructed in the mid-19th century to help defend San Francisco? Well, neither did we until our recent getaway to The City by the Bay and a visit to Fort Point National Historic Site, situated virtually underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

Referred to as “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America,” Fort Point was built by more than 200 men between 1853 and 1861. At the time, more than 30 forts had been constructed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to provide coastal defense system, but Fort Point would be the only one constructed in that era on the west coast and “would be the only fortification of this impressive design constructed west of the Mississippi River.” It was also the last of these forts to be built.

On one of the most picturesque (and windy) days I’ve ever seen in San Francisco, Tracy and I drove to scope out Fort Point. It’s a short walk from the parking area (limited spots) to the fort, which affords also fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. There would be more of those photo ops to come throughout our tour.

We entered the courtyard (or parade ground) at Fort Point and gazed up at its four tiers. The structure is 1,500 foot-long structure is said to be comprised of eight million bricks that were made in a nearby brickyard.

Trying to escape the icy cold wind, we scurried across the courtyard to join the group of people listening to a ranger give an informative talk on the history of the structure and its uses during its various stages of existence. During the Civil War, more than 500 soldiers were garrisoned here.
Walking around we noticed a few of the cannons. At one point during the Civil War, Fort Point had more than 100 guns mounted. No military action ever took place here.

There were also rifle slits to ward off any would-be attackers.

It was now time to climb the granite spiral stairs toward the top. Suddenly, I had a flashback to the Alfred Hitchcock movie where a famed scene filmed here included Kim Novak’s character leaping into San Francisco Bay at a spot near the fort. “I hope I don’t get Vertigo,” I said to Tracy. She responded, “Some of your jokes are for The Birds.”

On the second tier, we made our way into the officers quarters and barracks that show what life was like back then. There was a long corridor leading from room to room detailing life at the fort.

Exhibits told a myriad of stories, including those of the Buffalo soldiers.

There were some interesting tidbits about life in an 1860s kitchen. Its “Kitchen Philosophy” stated, “Remember that beans, badly boiled, kill more than bullet; and fat is more fatal than powder.” Obviously, they knew the cook at my San Diego State dormitory.
Other rooms detailed aspects of hospital barracks …

… and what it entailed to be a lighthouse keeper.

Why a lighthouse keeper? Walking the ramparts one could see “Fort Point Light,” the decommissioned lighthouse that sits atop Fort Point. It was the third lighthouse at this site, and for 70 years, until 1934, it helped guide mariners into San Francisco Bay.

Once the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed, and the foundation blocked most of the light that once shined out on the narrows, Fort Point Light was obsolete. At one time, Point Light “was one of 13 beacons serving San Francisco Bay.”

Oh yes, that bridge. When the Golden Gate Bridge was first proposed, demolition of Fort Point was definitely one of the choices being considered. We learned, however, that the chief engineer of the bridge project (Joseph Strauss) was so enamored with its architectural history, he changed his plans to build the bridge over the fort so it would retain that architectural integrity. Strauss preserved the historic fort by spanning an arch bridge over it.

There are numerous vantage points to take photos of this unique mesh of this historic edifice and momentous bridge It’s quite a a visual experience, especially on a gorgeous day.

We navigated the circular stairway to the top (fourth) level, and the views were once again spectacular. Whether looking out on the city …

… the bridge …

… or Alcatraz, each view was more dazzling than the last, although we had to make sure not to get blown away. (that mask keeps you warmer)

On the fourth level (or barbette tier), there were once 21 cannons stationed here, all aimed out to sea to prevent San Francisco from attack. A sign stated that back in 1863, “a Fort Point cannon could sink any wooden ship that came within two miles.”

Even during World War II, Fort Point was utilized by military personnel. Soldiers were stationed here in case there might be a submarine attack.

By 1970, public support landed Fort Point the honor of being named a National Historic Site, which led to its preservation status.

It was such a spectacular day that we made tow quick stops at The Presido, where we saw the Golden Gate from a different angle …

… and the always stunning Palace of Fine Arts.

With its historic significance, not to mention its million dollar views, Fort Point is a great one-hour stop when you visit San Francisco. One can witness first hand why it’s been called “The Pride of the Pacific” and the “Gibraltar of the West Coast.” On some days, you could even say that you were “blown away” by it all.

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Old Mar 11th, 2022, 08:44 PM
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Perhaps 8-12 times a year, we head into The City from San Mateo to visit "points north" across the GG Bridge (Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, etc), or to just hang out in SF. We "time" out trip to hit Marina Submarine Deli on Union St about 11am, pick up a sub (fabulous), and then go to Fort Point to eat the sub & watch the surfers (if the waves are good), and admire the A+ views.

No better experience, (IMO).

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 12th, 2022, 01:58 PM
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Thanks for this report and photos, maitai. In 1974-5 I worked on the Balclutha, then at Pier 39, just up the bay. I never got tired of looking at the bridge, and this brought back some great memories of adventures at the Presidio.
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Old Mar 14th, 2022, 10:55 AM
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"Balclutha"

I never knew about this ship. Nelson, can you still visit the Balclutha? It looks like its still shut down due to Covid.
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Old Mar 14th, 2022, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by maitaitom View Post
"Balclutha"

I never knew about this ship. Nelson, can you still visit the Balclutha? It looks like its still shut down due to Covid.
It's accessible from Hyde St Pier, free admission with National Parks card.
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Old Mar 15th, 2022, 07:07 AM
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Tom, I wouldn’t have known the answer re Covid, but it looks like Dayenu provided it.

If you are ever up that way again I’d love to read one of your reports about touring the ship. I worked there for two years, we refurbished a lot of the rigging, fascinating job.
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Old Mar 17th, 2022, 02:29 PM
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"read one of your reports about touring the ship."

Nelson, It's now definitely on my list.
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 10:49 AM
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C'mon, by now there is a "fort" beneath every urban bridge in America.

(you can probably even visit them - although it is not advised in most cases)
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