Page background image
Architectural Styles of the Presidio
The Presidio was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1962. Its historic buildings represent a spectrum of architectural styles.
Italianate (1860 - 1880)
Greek Revival (1840 - 1860)
Building 87 Graham Street, a white building with front porch spanning the entire length with columns that support a second story
Main Post Buildings 86 and 87 (shown here), constructed in 1862, are examples of the earliest wood-frame buildings still in existance at the Presidio. They represent a simplified version of the Italianate and the Greek Revival styles, which were both popular at the time of the Civil War. The Italianate style was predominantly used in residential architecture, where the design and shapes were based on the classical villas of Northern Italy. Features of the style include low roofs, long overhanging eaves, decorative brackets, cupolas and arcade porches. The Greek Revival style was based on the forms of the Greek temple. Pediments, columns, bold moldings, and heavy cornices were applied to all types of buildings, sometimes indiscriminately. The simplest elements of these two styles were combined in the Quartermaster's building patterns for wood-frame structures.
Queen Anne (1880 - 1890)
A photo of two Queen Anne style houses on Funston Avenue that are three stories, painted white with red roofs and porches.
The Queen Anne style, imported from England during the mid-nineteenth century, was based on historic models of decorative medieval forms. Similar to buildings commonly known as "Victorians," these buildings were often asymmetrical with wrap-around porches, turrets, angled roof brackets, and different combinations of exterior building materials. The large officers' quarters (shown here) located at the intersection of Funston and Presidio Boulevards on the Main Post represent the Presidio's version of the Queen Anne style with a cleaner, less ornate building than the colorful, civilian counterparts found throughout San Francisco.
Colonial Revival (1880 - 1940)
A photo of one of the red brick Mongomery Street barracks, a three story building with long front porch and tall windows.
In the 1890s, the U.S. Army began to favor the Colonial Revival style that was popular throughout the nation. Colonial Revival is an umbrella term for the revival of the eighteenth century East Coast colonial architecture, including the Georgian and Federal styles, which favored clean, simple, lines with a minimal use of applied decoration. The style was meant to inspire nostalgia for the early history of the United States when American democracy was in its infancy. This calculated revival in patriotism made the Colonial Revival style particularly appropriate to an evolving Army base. The style was often used to imbue a sense of civic pride. The Main Post Montgomery Street barracks (shown here) are good examples of the Presidio's Colonial Revival and are characterized by large, stocky symmetrical buildings which use prominent classical elements, such as pediments and columns.
Mission Revival (1910 - 1940)
A building at Fort Scott that is two stories with stairs leading to the front door and and ornamental window on the facade.
By the 1900s, the Mission Revival style was gaining in popularity throughout the country's West and Southwest. This style grew from the desire to create an architecture based on the Southwest's regional historic influences, namely the Spanish Colonial mission history, rather than adopting imported design influences from the East Coast. At the Presidio, the Army adopted the Mission Revival style for the Fort Winfield Scott barracks. The style (shown here) was characterized by silhouetted shapes that mimicked the old missions, with gable and hip roofs and large flat stucco surfaces that are often punctuated by deep windows and door openings. Typically, the exterior surface was devoid of ornament – its only decorative features being the shadows cast on the walls by overhanging roofs.
Mediterranean and Italian Renaissance Revival (1920 - 1940)
Building 39 on the Main Post, a three story white building with red tile roof and double door outlined by grey stone.
The Mediterranean Revival style evolved from a rekindled interest in Italian Renaissance palaces. By the turn of the century, prominent architects were designing buildings incorporating details of sixteenth-century buildings and utilizing newly developed construction technologies. Building 39 (shown here) is an excellent example of the Army Quartermasters' interpretation of the Mediterranean Revival, with a large, boxy shape that could accommodate many different building uses, a simple stuccoed exterior, flat roof, and decorative horizontal frieze.
World War II Era (1940-1945)
Building 41 on the Main Post, a World War II barrack is two stories with a red roof and awning above the first floor.
World War II buildings at the Presidio, as at other Army bases, were constructed from standard plans designed for quick, cheap construction that could be sited anywhere. The basic building pattern, as displayed in the Main Post's Building 40 (shown here), called for very simple rectangular wood-frame buildings, with exterior stairs at each end, horizontal wood siding and asphalt-shingled roofs. This design was applied to all building types indiscriminately, so that barracks, mess halls, administrative buildings, post exchanges, chapels, and various other service buildings had similar appearances.
Post-War Era/Modern (1945 to the present)
Building 924 at Crissy Field, a long two-story building with windows covering the wall and garage style entrances.
The modern buildings constructed at the Presidio, including the Main Post Gym and the Crissy Field warehouses, were designed as simple, functional buildings. These buildings often incorporated new advances in building technology. Building 924 (shown here), once a Crissy Field motor pool building, employed an innovative engineering design with an open floor plan and glass curtain walls.
Utilitarian Style (1860 to the present)
Two hangars on Crissy Field, large white buildings with two tiered slanted roofs, large windows, and garage size entrances.
Simple utilitarian buildings were usually constructed with inexpensive materials and limited applied detail. The function of the building usually dictated its design. Wood-frame warehouses were long and rectangular with open plans to accommodate storage. Crissy Field hangars, like the one shown here, were tall and wide to accommodate airplane maintenance. Despite their simple functions, some Presidio utilitarian structures contained special architectural details, such as arched window frames or brick water tables. These details demonstrated the builder's interest in incorporating decorative elements, often reflective of the period style.
Eclectic Anomalies
The Log Cabin at Fort Scott, a two story building made of rustic logs with a stone chimney and clay tile roof.
Some unique buildings stand alone as the only representatives of their type at the Presidio. The United States Coast Guard Life Saving Station, built and managed by the Coast Guard, was designed in the Coast Guard's traditional Dutch Colonial style and is the only example of its kind at the Presidio. The Protestant Main Post Chapel is the only building designed in the thickly decorated Spanish-Colonial Revival style. There are also buildings that defy definition, like Fort Winfield Scott's log cabin (shown here), with its playful use of building materials, or the small Funston Avenue cottage topped with a large mansard roof. These buildings were probably a result of the whimsical mixing and matching of standard building plans with local styles.
Bookmark and Share

 Related Topics