- Fort Point, San Francisco
Infobox_protected_area | name = Fort Point National Historic Site
iucn_category = V
locator_x = 6
locator_y = 78
San Francisco, California, USA
San Francisco, California
lat_degrees = 37
lat_minutes = 48
lat_seconds = 38
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 122
long_minutes = 28
long_seconds = 38
long_direction = W
area = 29 acres (0.12 km²)
October 16, 1970
visitation_num = 1,682,041
visitation_year = 2005
National Park Service
Fort Point is located at the southern side of the
Golden Gateat the entrance to San Francisco Bay. This fort was completed just before the American Civil War, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. The fort is now protected as Fort Point National Historic Site, a United StatesNational Historic Site administered by the National Park Serviceas a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
In 1769 Spain occupied the San Francisco area and by 1776 had established the area's first European settlement, with a mission and a presidio. To protect against encroachment by the British and Russians, Spain fortified the high white cliff at the narrowest part of the bay's entrance, where Fort Point now stands. The [http://www.militarymuseum.org/CastilloSanJoaquin.html Castillo de San Joaquin] , built in 1794, was an
adobestructure housing nine to thirteen cannon.
Mexico won independence from
Spainin 1821, gaining control of the region and the fort, but in 1835 the Mexican armymoved to Sonomaleaving the castillo's adobe walls to crumble in the wind and rain. On July 1, 1846, after the Mexican-American Warbroke out between Mexico and the United States, U.S. forces, including Captain John Charles Fremont, Kit Carsonand a band of 10 followers, captured the empty castillo and spiked the cannons.
United States' victory in 1848, Californiawas annexed by the U.S. and became a state in 1850. The gold rush of 1849 had caused rapid settlement of the area, which was recognized as commercially and strategically valuable to the US. Military officials soon recommended a series of fortifications to secure San Francisco Bay. Coastal defenses were built at Alcatraz Island, Fort Mason, and Fort Point.
Army Corps of Engineersbegan work on Fort Point in 1853. Plans specified that the lowest tier of artillery be as close as possible to water level so cannonballs could ricochet across the water's surface to hit enemy ships at the water-line. Workers blasted the convert|90|ft|m|sing=on cliff down to convert|15|ft|m above sea level. The structure featured seven-foot-thick walls and multi-tiered casemated construction typical of Third System forts. It was sited to defend the maximum amount of harbor area. While there were more than 30 such forts on the East Coast, Fort Point was the only one on the West Coast. In 1854 Inspector General Joseph K. Mansfielddeclared "this point as the key to the whole Pacific Coast...and it should receive untiring exertions".
A crew of 200, many unemployed miners, labored for eight years on the fort. In 1861, with war looming, the Army mounted the fort's first cannon. Col.
Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of the Department of the Pacific, prepared Bay Area defenses and ordered in the first troops to the fort. Kentucky-born Johnston then resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army; he was killed at the Battle of Shilohin 1862.
Fort Point and the Civil War
Throughout the Civil War, artillerymen at Fort Point stood guard for an enemy that never came. The Confederate raider
CSS Shenandoahplanned to attack San Francisco, but on the way to the harbor the captain learned that the war was over; it was August 1865.
Severe damage to similar forts on the Atlantic Coast during the war -
Fort Sumterin South Carolinaand Fort Pulaskiin Georgia - challenged the effectiveness of masonry walls against rifled artillery. Troops soon moved out of Fort Point, and it was never again continuously occupied by the Army. The fort was nonetheless important enough to receive protection from the elements. In 1869 a granite seawall was completed. The following year, some of the fort's cannon were moved to Battery East on the bluffs nearby, where they were more protected. In 1882 Fort Point was officially named Fort Winfield Scottafter the famous hero from the war against Mexico. The name never caught on and was later applied to an artillery post at the Presidio.
Into a New Century
In 1892 the Army began constructing the new Endicott System concrete fortifications armed with steel, breech-loading rifled guns. Within eight years, all 102 of the smooth-bore cannons at Fort Point had been dismounted and sold for scrap. The fort, moderately damaged in the
1906 earthquake, was used over the next four decades for barracks, training, and storage, however, in 1913, part of the interior wall was removed by the Army in their short lived attempt to make the fort the Army detention barracks using Soldier/Prisoner laborFact|date=May 2008. The detention barracks were later built on Alcatraz Island and was used until becoming a Federal Prison. Soldiers from the 6th U.S. Coast Artillerywere stationed there during World War IIto guard minefields and the anti-submarine net that spanned the Golden Gate. On December 16, 1962, Alcatraz inmate John Paul Scottbecame the only inmate to prove conclusively that it was possible to reach the San Francisco shoreline from Alcatraz by swimming.
Preserving Fort Point
In 1926 the
American Institute of Architectsproposed preserving the fort for its outstanding military architecture. Funds were unavailable, and the ideas languished. Plans for the Golden Gate Bridgein the 1930s called for the fort's removal, but Chief Engineer Joseph Straussredesigned the bridge to save the fort. "While the old fort has no military value now," Strauss said, "it remains nevertheless a fine example of the mason's art.... It should be preserved and restored as a national monument." The fort is situated directly below the southern approach to the bridge, underneath an arch that supports the roadway.
Preservation efforts were revived after
World War II. On October 16, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed a bill creating Fort Point National Historic Site.
Fort Point has been used as a location in numerous movies and television shows. Noteable examples included the 1950 film noir "
The Man Who Cheated Himself" starring Lee J. Cobb and Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller "Vertigo". It's where Kim Novak's character Madeleine jumps into the San Francisco Bay in a seeming suicide attempt.
Director and actor
Mel Brooksalso used the fort for several scenes in his 1977 comedy movie " High Anxiety".
More recently Fort Point has featured in the computer game in 2004. It was called, Pleasure Domes, a strip club.
49-Mile Scenic Drive
Presidio of San Francisco
* [http://www.jeffsbeaches.com/fortpoint.html Photos, Maps and Description of Fort Point]
* [http://www.nps.gov/fopo/ Fort Point National Historic Site]
* [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/ca/ Early History of the California Coast, a National Park Service "Discover Our Shared Heritage" Travel Itinerary]
* [http://terraserver-usa.com/image.aspx?T=4&S=8&Z=10&X=10920&Y=83698&W=2 Close-up overhead view of Fort Point]
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