Presidio of San Francisco (December 12, 2008) -- They are among the oldest buildings in the Presidio, dating to the Civil War. Now, a half-dozen historic former officers' homes along Funston Avenue have been given new life.
"They are Presidio landmarks and their rehabilitation is an important part of our mission to preserve and protect the park's historic buildings," says Frank Kenney, project superintendent with the Presidio Trust. "And the best way to preserve a building is to make it useable."
The wood frame buildings were constructed in a simple, Victorian style during the 1860s to house officers' and their families. Over the years, the Army added bay windows, gables, and dormers, and enhanced the streetscape, often referred to as "Officers' Row," with street lamps, white picket fences, and gardens.
In 2007, the Presidio Trust began transforming six of the 19th century quarters to 21st century offices. Several other buildings in the neighborhood had previously undergone a similar upgrade and are now occupied by a variety of organizations, from a day care center to a psychotherapy office.
Special care was taken to protect the buildings' historic character, inside and out, while adding modern necessities. "We gave them a complete remodel, from the plumbing and electrical systems down to the wallpaper. We also integrated access for the disabled into the remodel," says Kenney.
Funston Avenue is San Francisco's oldest streetscape. Constructed less than 20 years after the U.S. Army took control of the Presidio, they sit atop remains of the original Spanish fort. Presidio archaeologists have been studying the remains of El Presidio since the post became a national park site more than a decade ago.
Repairing the homes while also protecting the artifacts buried beneath was a challenge. "We couldn't dig in a sensitive archaeological zone," explains Michael Lamb, historic landscape architect with the Presidio Trust. "So we had to find creative solutions." Since moisture is an enemy to artifacts, Lamb designed an irrigation system "kind of like a rooftop garden" that minimized the amount of water that dripped down to the soil.
Working from photographs of the neighborhood taken in the 1920s, Lamb has spent the better part of the last year recreating the gardens and landscapes of that era. "In a couple of years this area will look pretty similar to the way it did 80 or 90 years ago."
The finishing touches are now being completed on the buildings themselves, and several have already been leased. To learn how to locate on Funston Avenue, contact the Trust firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to manage the Presidio of San Francisco, a former Army post located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 1,500-acre site contains the infrastructure of a small community as well as expansive open space, a 300-acre historic forest, spectacular views, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. It comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to its status as a National Historic Landmark District, making it unlike any other national park."