Battery Chamberlin, located at the north end of the Baker Beach
parking lot, is a place where visitors can see history in action. A 50-ton, six-inch “disappearing gun” like the kind that defended San Francisco’s coastline in the early 1900s is still located here.
The National Park Service offers demonstrations of the big rifle on the first full weekend of each month, typically between 11 am and 3 pm. During these demonstrations, visitors can get a sense of what it was like as anxious soldiers prepared for an attack, and can also explore an underground cartridge room inside the battery. The room features photos and small exhibits on San Francisco's coastal defenses.
To confirm the date and time of the demonstrations, contact the Presidio Visitor Center at (415) 561-4323. The Visitor Center is open Thursdays to Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm.
History of Battery Chamberlin
During the Civil War years the U.S. Army defended the entrance to San Francisco Bay by constructing brick-and-mortar Fort Point, whose cannons stood sentinel for a generation. The expected foreign invasion never came. As time went on, the technology at Fort Point grew outdated.
In 1885, Secretary of War William Endicott led a commission that recommended reinforced-concrete gun batteries (known as Endicott batteries) be placed at America’s seaports. These batteries would contain rifles that fired large bullets, not cannonballs. Battery Marcus Miller, constructed in 1891, was the first of seventeen to be built at the Presidio. Two decades later, the Fort Winfield Scott
campus was established in the Presidio as the coast artillery post.
Battery Chamberlin came online in 1904. It was named for Civil War-era Captain Lowell A. Chamberlin. It included four six-inch guns mounted on “disappearing” carriages. The gun was said to be disappearing because it could be lowered behind a concrete shield while being reloaded.
These original guns were removed for use elsewhere during World War I, but were replaced with two other six-inch guns that remained in use through World War II. Battery Chamberlin was called out of service in 1948 as new Cold War-era missile technology came into use.
In 1977, the Smithsonian Institution gave the National Park Service a six-inch gun and carriage similar to the kind that was once used here. It is this gun that is demonstrated for the public each month.