San Francisco has always been prized for it's magnificent bay and surrounding, supporting lands. Even before the gold, the trend was obvious: San Francisco would be a a major connecter for the emerging United States with the Pacific World beyond.
Fort Point, above, was built on the most narrow point of the Golden Gate. The Spanish first fortified the site in 1794 with 13 cannon housed in an adobe structure. When California became the 31st state in 1850, the U.S. Army and Navy officials recommended a series of fortifications with the primary being Fort Point, an architectural masterwork built between 1853 and 1861. By the end of the Civil War it was apparent that the new rifled cannons could penetrate brick fortifications with ease, effectively making the fort a large, vulnurable target.
In this photo, taken on the morning of 8-19-11, the Russian tall ship Pallada unexpectedly (by me) sailed through the Gate past Fort Point on a goodwill mission. It seemed surreal somehow.
The connective links created with the great maritime routes of the Pacific held great promise but also opened the harbor to great risk from enemy attack. The young nation took serious, periodic steps to harden it's Bay Area defences with a series of gun emplacements and minefields.
Battery Crosby is located on the serpentine cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate from the north shore. It was built in 1900 to protect underwater mine fields and housed two 6" guns with a range of eight miles. The battery was officially closed in 1943 when it was considered obsolete.
The potential enemies at various times have been Spain, England (yes England!), the Confederacy, Japan, and Russia. The peak threats came with World War 2 and the Japanese battleships, subs, and aircraftcarriers; and the Cold War with nuclear weapons, aircraft and missiles. Megawars like WW1 and WW2 seem almost outdated now, but our recent past has seen otherwise. Until World War 2 the big guns marked the spot where we drew a line in the sand and took our stand as U.S citizens on the edge of the Pacific Rim. I feel my own identity entangled in this fact, and am drawn into contemplation of our political faultlines. Even the great continental plates hidden underneath create dynamic tension as they grind away at each other with periodic spasms.
The author at Battery Yates, Fort Baker, Marin Headlands. Battery Yates was constructed in 1903 and armed with six M1902 3 inch rifles mounted on M1902 pedastal mounts. As is the case with most of the coastal batteries, it occupies a highly strategic and aesthetically exciting location.