"One night the whole guard, including the corporal, went off," he wrote in his memoirs. An officer was sent in pursuit, overtaking the guard 15 miles away, "shot a couple, but brought back only one wounded soldier, as all his escort joined the deserters." (Hart, 2017)
Keye's remained commandant for the next 10 years with virtually no one to command.
By the late 1840's, the new "city" of San Francisco had a population of around 700 people and was rapidly becoming a west coast mining capital. By the turn of the century, the population had risen to 400,000, making San Francisco the 9th largest city in the country. In the 1850's the army undertook a major rebuilding of the Presidio. It was further enlarged during the Civil War, and the first concrete reinforced batteries were installed in 1905. Residents in the 1880's saw an ambitious beautification campaign of the area when most of the trees and other flora we're familiar with today were first imported, virtually terraforming what had been a windswept plain of sand and low scrub.
San Francisco in the 1880's was a place you'd dream to be, or desperately want to avoid, depending on your temperament and moral fortitude. Army General Busling described his visit:
"Here in narrow, noisome alleys are congregated the wretched Chinese women, that are imported by the ship-load, mainly for infamous purposes," he wrote in Across America. "They are not more immodest, than those of our own race, who ply the same vocation in Philadelphia and New York . . . San Francisco owes it to herself-to obliterate, to stamp out this plague spot." (Hart, 2017)
The San Francisco Call was even more florid:
"That sunk of moral pollution, whose reefs are strewn with human wrecks, and into whose vortex are constantly drifting barks of moral life, while swiftly down the whirlpool of death go the sinking hulks of the murderer and suicide . . . The coast where no gentle breezes blow but where rages the sirocco of sin" (Hart, 2017)
And the rest of the country thought it was disgraceful in the nineteen-sixties.
With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, The Presidio became the country's most prominent western military camp as thousands of troops shipped out to the Philippines and thousands more wounded returned the U.S. Army Hospital built in 1899 (renamed The Letterman Hospital in 1911).
Of all the dates in San Francisco's history, few city residents are unfamiliar with the year 1906-the year of the first great Northern California earthquake in modern times. At 8.3 on the Richter Scale, the initial shock and subsequent fires destroyed 500 blocks of the city. The Presidio offered food, clothing, and shelter to the city residents and worked to re-establish law and order during the chaos that followed. Mayor Eugene Schmitz issued a shoot-to-kill order for looters as refugee camps appeared throughout the city.
San Francisco was divided into military districts patrolled by soldiers, and The Presidio refugee camp was managed with army precision as an organized grid complete with street numbers.
The Presidio was, however, no more prepared for the carnage than the rest of the city. Its own fire department wasn't established until 1916 when General John Pershing's family perished in a house fire while he was away in Mexico pursuing Pancho Villa. Pershing would later go on to command the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during WWI.
The order mandated the removal and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans on the west coast, 2/3 of whom were American citizens. Headquarters for the operation was in Presidio Bldg 35, command center for the Western Defense Command under General John L. DeWitt. DeWitt issued orders that forced the evacuation of "all persons of Japanese ancestry, including aliens and non-aliens" from "Military Area No. 1" covering Washington, California, and half of Arizona ("Presidio of San Francisco--World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary", 2017).
The relocation was compulsory. Subject peoples were given less than a week to prepare for evacuation and resisters were subject to arrest. Evacuees were packed into 10 inland "relocation centers"--essentially concentration camps--leaving behind homes, businesses, land, and possessions--there to remain for the next 2 1/2 years under severe living conditions.
Ironically, the Presidio, center for relocation efforts, also housed one of the central Japanese-American contributions to the war effort--The Military Intelligence Service Language School, located in Presidio Bldg 640.
The Letterman Hospital, constructed in 1899, and whose brick foundations and pine and hemlock girders were once shipped around the Horn, provided medical care for thousands of servicemen and women over its 100-year operating history.
Today it houses The Letterman Digital Arts Center and headquarters of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic and LucasArts. The facility, a $300 million development, includes 900,000 square feet of office space, a 150,000 square-foot underground parking garage, and the capacity for 2,500 employees.
"It used to be a jail, and we were converting it into a use as opposite that as you can fundamentally get,” architect David Andreini (of the San Francisco firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson) tells Curbed SF. (Brinklow, 2017)"
The Presidio Visitors Center is one of the several buildings at the Presidio for which Wooden Window has provided restoration and replacement for historic windows and doors.
Removed doors and windows from the original structure undergo a variety of restoration techniques--from simple steam stripping and sanding to spot replacements of portions of the original (called "dutchmen") to the reconstruction of small sections with epoxy.
"From the get-go, we saw it was a building with great potential and a lot of integrity, a real gem. We wanted to restore some of that integrity," says Andreini. "It was very symmetrical, and we wanted to preserve how it worked spatially." (Brinklow, 2017)
When necessary, original windows are duplicated and replaced--often taking advantage of upgrades for insulation, sound and UV light control.
But sometimes, buildings are reluctant to let go of their heritage. Renovation challenges included dealing with a 5-inch slope in the building's concrete floor.
“Once a week they used to hose out the drunk tank here, and they wanted it to drain easily,” says [park ranger Michael] Faw. (Brinklow, 2017)
The old hoosegow now houses an enormous 3D scale map of the park, historical exhibits, and a bookstore.
The Presidio was involved in every American war from the Spanish-American War through Viet Nam, but in 218 years as a military post, and in spite of several generations of gun emplacements, no shot was ever fired in anger from the fort.
It has nearly 1,500 acres, extensive army-planted forests, miles of beaches and hiking trails. The Presidio encompasses 768 historic buildings that form a panorama of architectural styles and fashions throughout the years. There are buildings in the Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, Mediterranean and Italian Renaissance styles.
Since 1998, the Presidio has been managed by the National Park Service and The Presidio Trust, tasked with making the facility financially self-sufficient by 2013. Restoration work has been ongoing since the 19th century. The Presidio Officer's Club, believed by many to be the oldest standing structure in San Francisco (the front walls of the club are original to the 1776 commandant's quarters), was remodeled in 1850, 1900, 1912 and 1934.
Three of Presidio's barracks buildings, erected between 1895 and 1909, now house the Walt Disney Family Museum, created by Page and Turnbull Architects.
Bldg 35, from which General John L. DeWitt issued military proclamations and which served as the headquarters of the Western Defense Command, now houses The Bay School of San Francisco, an independent science, technology, ethics and world religions high school.