Past Perfect-The San Francisco Presidio
Wooden Window is a company that restores historic doors and windows, and we could hardly be in a better position than to be near the site of an 18th Century fortification since grown to a complex of more than 800 buildings, known as The San Francisco Presidio. Its history is, literally, the history of San Francisco.
For the whole story of The Presidio, click here.
The San Francisco Presidio has played its role in every time period and significant event in the country’s history. In the 1950’s, it served as the headquarters for the Nike missile defense around the golden gate and headquarters for the Sixth U.S. Army. In 1960, it was designated a national historic landmark. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was created in 1972, and the Presidio was turned over to the Park Service in 1994, on the condition that it be self-supporting In 1996, The Presidio Trust was founded to manage the landmark’s finances.
The current Presidio Visitor’s Center began its life as the camp’s guardhouse, built around 1900.
$5 million and 3 years have revived the building as the gateway to Presidio visitors.
“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 of 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.
During the year that a handful of dissidents gathered in Philadelphia to declare their independence from England, 200 haggard and exhausted settlers arrived at the San Francisco Bay. There they put in place a structure whose walls still stand watch over the City.
Through corsets and miniskirts, starched collars and Nehru jackets, The Presidio has stood impassive witness to the iconoclasts and adventurers that built the City of San Francisco.
Those walls have seen every war in American history and events glorious, cataclysmic and ignominious. They’ve watched 43 presidents come and go. They’ve been there as the original settlement transformed from a grubby den of vice and ambition into one of America’s great cities–with a world-renowned ballet and symphony, and great museums for both historic and modern art.
And they’ve looked on as, one-by-one, the buildings of the Presidio have been reborn for a new age to serve a new community. The City of San Francisco has a great treasure in the Presidio. If we use it wisely, and restore it carefully, respecting the character and architecture of its time, it will be here for generations to come. As it is, thanks to the efforts of those who work to preserve it, the Presidio witnesses still.
Brinklow, A. (2017). A tour of the Presidio’s historic jail turned visitor center. Curbed SF. Retrieved 5 May 2017, from https://sf.curbed.com/2017/2/24/14725938/presidio-visitor-center-jail-san-francisco
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|Riding the Rails|