The Presidio in San Francisco has a long and varied past. Once a military post and now a national park that’s home to businesses and residences, six iron and bronze cannons are still scattered around the area today.
Before Europeans arrived, the native Ohlone tribe ruled the land. Then, in 1776, Spain’s Captain Juan Bautista arrived with 193 soldiers, women and children after journeying from Arizona. They built a simple garrison made of adobe, brush and wood at the Presidio in order to claim it as New Spain’s northernmost outpost in western North America. Soldiers farmed and hunted, while also supporting Mission Dolores, a religious settlement. They had very limited communication with Spanish authorities in Mexico, and after Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821, they received even less guidance.
Fast forward to 1846, and American settlers in the US Army had successfully overturned Mexico’s control of the Bay Area by staging the Bear Flag Revolt in Sonoma. As part of the revolt, they captured the Presidio and occupied it as a US military base until 1989.
In 1853, construction began on Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as on other important military barracks that became extremely useful during the Civil War. While it was active, the Presidio was instrumental during most military Pacific engagements. The infamous World War II order to detain all Japanese Americans in internment camps was signed at the Presidio.
Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr
Photo: Daniel Ramirez/Flickr
Just over two decades ago, the Presidio was transformed into a national park. Historic military barracks are now leased to businesses as a way to keep the park financially self sufficient — for instance, you can find the Walt Disney Family Museum at the site, as well as the San Francisco Film Society and the headquarters of Lucasfilm.
About 3,000 lucky people also live in the Presidio today, making their homes in restored military buildings. While the area is a little too remote for some, those drawn in by the location’s history and proximity to the water have made it an increasingly in-demand location.
Want to visit? Even though the Presidio is home to businesses and people, it’s open to tourists year round. We think it boasts arguably the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the North Bay and the Palace of Fine Arts.