The Officers’ Club is the social center of the post at the crossroads of the Orient, Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, Panama, and Alaska.
~ noted at the rededication of the club in 1934
The 235 year old Officers’ Club, one of only two adobe buildings in San Francisco (Mission Dolores is the other), is often described as a “layer cake” of Presidio history, its stucco walls concealing bits of the park’s colonial past and its original adobe fabric obscured over the centuries by layer upon layer of newer material.
“It’s a wonderful building with a rich and complex history,” says Christina Wallace, the Presidio Trust architectural conservator managing the preservation of the building. “One of the things that makes it so fascinating is the way you can trace its history and evolution through changes in building technology—from adobe to wood-frame to more modern construction—and what that reveals about the Presidio’s past.”
The first building on the site that is now the Officers’ Club was constructed by Spanish colonists in 1776. That building was believed to have been destroyed during a devastating storm in 1779. It was rebuilt, only to suffer major damage during a series of earthquakes in the summer of 1808 and then again in the great quake of 1812.
It was here, in 1834, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, that General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo convened a meeting that would establish the civil government of Yerba Buena, which would later become the city of San Francisco. The U.S. Army took command of the Presidio in 1847 and continued to use the building as a post headquarters.
Even as the Presidio was undergoing shifts in sovereignty from Spain to Mexico and finally to the United States, the building itself was remarkably unchanged from 1815 to the 1880’s when the adobe was covered with wood. A 1934 remodel gave the building the familiar mission revival character it possesses today. All told the Officers’ Club has undergone 16 major changes in its history, the largest and last of which was a two-story addition built in 1972.
Over 165 years and through ten wars, the Officers’ Club came to hold a special place in the hearts of the thousands of servicemen and officers who passed through the post. Within its walls, reminisced one, “nearly every general officer of the Army from the Civil War days, and unsung thousands who never reached star rank have enjoyed the comradeship of their fellows.”
In the years since the closure of the post in 1994, the building has continued to serve as the cultural and social hub of the Presidio, attracting thousands of park visitors each year.