"Fort Point"
San Francisco, CA

Note: Click on photos for larger images

I recently visited the old civil war Fort Point in San Francisco, CA. Work to build the fort was started in 1853 and finished at the beginning of the civil war in 1861, and it was intended to protect the entrance to San Francisco Harbor from any possible intrussion. The fort was built to mount 126 cannons and was originally garrisoned in February of 1861 by Company I, 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment. It was occupied during the civil war, but never saw action.

In 1866 the troops were withdrawn from the fort and cannons were removed around 1900. The fort was then used for storage for many years and later used for training. From 1933 to 1937 it was used as a base of operations during construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. During WWII, it housed approximately 100 soldiers who manned searchlights and rapid-fire cannon in protection of the bay.

As observed in the photo at left, the fort is located directly beneath the Golden Gate Bridge (south end). When the bridge was built, plans were to possibly demolish the old fort ... then it was decided not to demolish the fort, but that a huge pillar of the bridge would have to be placed into the fort. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and a huge arch for the bridge was built over the fort that would satisfy both the historical importance of the fort, and the construction requirements of the bridge.

At the entrance to the fort, we were greeted by Steve Johnson (photo right), a volunteer for the U.S. National Park Service. Steve was very congenial and extremely knowledgeable on Fort Point ... you could tell he loved his volunteer work at the fort ... he's a great asset to Fort Point and the NPS. Steve has offered Additional Information regarding Fort Point for your viewing.

Fort Point is a three story structure and views of the surrounding area are great from atop the fort. To the northeast out in the middle of the bay is Alcatraz Island and to the southeast is the city of San Francisco. The area right around the fort seems to be a popular place for surfers to practice their skills.

The Fort Point Lighthouse sits atop of the fort. The lighthouse was originally built in 1853 and stood for only three months when it was demolished to make way for the building of Fort Point. In 1855 a 2nd lighthouse was built on the narrow ledge between the fort and the water. Due to errosion from the strong currents, this lighthouse had to be removed to allow for construction of a granite block seawall. In 1864, the current lighthouse was built atop the fort. It became operational the same year and remained operational until it was taken out of service in 1934 due to the new Golden Gate Bridge blocking a major portion of the light from the site.

The Golden Gate Bridge is undergoing "retrofit" work to strengthen it for a possible earthquake. During this time, the fort is only open to visitors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The bookstore at the fort is open on the same days from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

To learn more about Fort Point, visit the Fort Point Website.

Color Photos Copyright © R.G. Blakeslee 2006