Few opportunities exist to uncover a broad sweep of American history in one place. The Presidio of San Francisco presents such an opportunity. Guarding the Golden Gate since 1776, the Presidio is the birthplace of San Francisco and one of the nation’s oldest and most important military posts. Today it is a National Historic Landmark District and a unique urban national park site.
The Main Post has been the heart of Presidio life since the post was founded and evolved in response to the changing needs of the military. Activity - whether the pageantry of military parades, training exercises for soldiers, or the everyday pursuits of community life - has always been essential to the Main Post. Buildings and landscapes provided the backdrop for this activity, and reflect a long and nuanced sequence of historical development, from Spanish colonialism through the Cold War.
The 2002 Presidio Trust Managemetn Plan: Land Use Policies for Area B of the Presidio fo San Francisco (PTMP) envisions the Main Post as “the heart of the park” and a “focal point for visitor orientation and a community center” (PTMP, p. 62). Since 2002, the Trust has been implementing projects and undertaking improvements at the Main Post primarily to preserve its historic fabric as well as to re-establish it as the heart of the Presidio.
In 2007, the Trust began a focused planning effort to bring about a number of projects and improvements intended to fulfill the vision of the Main Post. This effort has resulted in the Main Post Update (Update), which builds on the PTMP and the work the Trust has accomplished since the PTMP was adopted.
In the Update, the Trust outlines a number of projects designed to reveal and elevate the Presidio’s history, including a new Archaeology Center
, which will support an ongoing program of archaeological excavation and landscape commemoration of the original Spanish colonial fortification, El Presidio. Expanded site interpretation throughout the district will give a sense of the depth and range of Presidio history.
To better welcome the public, the Update provides for more building space dedicated to public uses than identified in the PTMP. Public spaces will include portions of the Montgomery Street Barracks and the Officers’ Club – among the post’s most remarkable historic buildings.
By calling for public uses in the Main Post’s historic buildings, the Update explicitly ties public use to the Trust’s preservation mission and invites the public to experience the post’s history in tangible ways. Rooted in history but with a future-oriented mission the Trust will continue to employ green practices in historic building and landscape rehabilitation efforts and in ongoing maintenance, integrating historic preservation with the environmental values that have long been expressed in national parks.
The Presidio Trust is building on two decades of community planning to fulfill the Main Post’s promise as the heart of the park. The Trust seeks to bring back the Main Post’s character and welcome the public; to preserve and animate its historic buildings; and to create new ways for visitors to experience history and culture.
If you have questions, please contact the Presidio Trust Public Affairs Office at (415) 561-5418.