Once called the "Pride of the Pacific" and "Gibraltar of the West Coast," Fort Point is a brick and granite coastal defense fortification built by the U.S. Army between 1853 and 1861. It was part of a seacoast defense system created to keep enemy warships out of San Francisco Bay. It never engaged in battle but served as a deterant through the Gold Rush period. During the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), the fort's 102 cannon defended Union interests from attacks by local Southern sympathizers. Over 300 men lived at Fort Point during the Civil War, many from immigrant backgrounds.
After the war, numbers dwindled until the fort stood vacant in the early 1900s. During World War II, soldiers' voices again echoed at Fort Point. Stationed at searchlights and rapid-fire cannon around the clock, the men protected San Francisco harbor's anti-submarine net.
In 1793, the Spanish built Castillo de San Joaquin to defend the Golden Gate from the top of a cliff where Fort Point stands today. The U.S. Army removed the earlier fort and cliff to defend the gate with newer military technology.
Fort Point narrowly escaped destruction to make way for the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933. But when the bridge's chief engineer saw its magnificent masonry, he saved it.
"While the old fort has no military value now, it
remains nevertheless a fine example of the mason's art...In the writer's view it should be preserved and restored as a national monument..."
—Joseph P. Strauss, 1932
Chief Engineer, Golden Gate Bridge