San Francisco’s Presidio, steeped in American history, was named a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The military complex, housing more than 700 buildings, 433 of which are designated historic, closed in 1989 and, in 1994, the National Park Service took over its operation.
While the American founding fathers were preparing and declaring their independence from Great Britain in 1776, the Spanish empire was building the Presidio to protect the San Francisco Bay from British and Russian invaders. In 1821, it was Mexico’s turn to declare their independence, from Spain, and the Presidio was under Mexican rule until 1847. Held by the New York Volunteer Regiment for a year following the Mexican-American War, the complex came under the control of the United States Regular Army in 1848.
Over the next century and a half, the Presidio evolved from a series of crumbling adobes to a strategic coastal defense system with state-of-the-art missiles and five distinct posts: the Main Post, Fort Point, Fort Winfield Scott, Letterman General Hospital and Air Coast Defense Station at Crissy Field. The nearly 1,500-acre site also included a U.S. Health Service Hospital and a Coast Guard lifesaving station.
Troops from the Presidio were instrumental in helping citizens of San Francisco recover from the 1906 catastrophic earthquake and fires and were dispatched to Mexico in pursuit of revolutionary Pancho Villa. They dug foxholes along the northern California coast following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Letterman General Hospital served more than 73,000 patients in one year during World War II.
We could take you on an all-day tour of the Presidio and you still wouldn’t see everything. Or perhaps you would like to spend a half day or only an hour or two there and move on to other popular or not-so-popular sights but the kind that put a smile on your face. We can do that, too. But if you care anything about history, you won’t find many areas in the U.S. that boast more than 400 historic buildings within walking distance of each other. Don’t miss the Presidio on your visit to San Francisco.