Fort Point: Guarding the Golden Gate
Fort Point is located under the Southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge
The magnificent Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge has been referred to as “the pride of the Pacific,” “the Gibraltar of the West Coast,” and “one of America’s most stunning masonry models.” When construction started during the California Gold Rush, Fort Point was designed as the most formidable deterrent America could offer to a naval attack on California.
Although its cannons were never used to fire a shot in combat, the “Fort at Fort Point,” as it was originally known, went through the Civil War, obsolescence, an earthquake, bridge construction, reuse during World War II, and is now preserved as a National Historic Site.
Built for the Civil War
The United States Army Engineers began construction on Fort Point in 1853 and finished it in 1861 as part of a defensive system designed to protect San Francisco Bay. The Fort and its accompanying defenses were designed at the height of the Gold Rush to safeguard the Bay’s key economic and military installations against foreign invasion.
The Fort was built in the Army’s classic “Third System” style of military construction (a standard introduced in the 1820s) and would be the only fortress of this spectacular design built west of the Mississippi River. This data demonstrates how important San Francisco and the goldfields were to the military in the 1850s.
Even though there was never a battle fought at Fort Point, the structure still has a huge amount of value owing to its relationship with maritime history, architecture, and military past. Visit Fort Point, 1846-1876 to discover more about Fort Point’s history before, during, and after the Civil War.
Military usage of Fort Point during the 20th century
Following the Civil War, Fort Point fell into disuse and was sometimes used by the military as a barracks. The pre-Civil War cannons, which were considered to be of great value when they were first installed, ultimately got out of date and had to be removed. Although the Army rebuilt Fort Point during World War I in preparation for the structure to be utilized as a detention barracks, the building was never actually put to use for that function.
During the 1920s, the site was used by the Presidio to house several military trade schools as well as unmarried officers who served in the military. Fort Point saw new military action during World War II when it was once again put to service. The entrance to the Golden Gate was dutifully protected against any assault by submarines by military personnel who were stationed at Fort Point.
Did you know?
- Fort Point is built directly beneath the southern anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, a feat of engineering that allowed the bridge to be constructed without harming the fort.
- The fort was slated for demolition during the Golden Gate Bridge’s planning phase, but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss redesigned the bridge to preserve this historic structure.
- It has been featured in various films, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller “Vertigo.”
The Golden Gate Bridge and Preservation Plans
Plans for the building of the Golden Gate Bridge included plans to demolish Fort Point in the late 1930s. Fortunately, Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss understood the architectural significance of Fort Point and designed a unique arch that made it possible to build the bridge across Fort Point without a problem. Following World War II, there was a rise in the number of people advocating for the historic and architectural significance of Fort Point to be preserved.
Over the following twenty years, support for the preservation movement went through cycles of highs and lows. Then the Fort Point Museum Association was established in 1959 by a group of retired military officers and civilian engineers to lobby for the establishment of Fort Point as a National Historic Site. As a result, Fort Point was designated as a National Historic Site on October 16, 1970.
Fort Point can be found near the southern anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of Marine Drive in the Presidio of San Francisco.
Operating Hours & Seasons
- Open: Friday to Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm.
- Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- Note: The exterior of the Fort can be accessed 7 days a week.
Fort Point information provided by: National Park Service – Fort Point
Map: Fort Point
San Francisco Jeep Tours
San Francisco Jeep Tours depart from nearby in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood. The private group tours start in a mural-filled destination known as “Umbrella Alley”. The Alley is near Ghirardelli Square and across the street from the Maritime National Park.
The Open Top Jeep tours offer groups a choice of exploring the City of San Francisco’s landmarks OR going north over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Muir Woods National Park and wandering among the towering redwood trees.
These fun-filled private group tours for up to 6 guests per jeep depart daily and require advance reservations. If you want to take a guided jeep tour that includes Fort Point and see the top sights in San Francisco, book your San Francisco jeep tour by clicking here.