The Lodge at the Presidio

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Discover The Lodge at the Presidio, a beautiful boutique hotel built in 1895 which once functioned as a U.S. Army barracks.

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The Lodge at the Presidio, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2018, dates back to the 1894.


History of the Presidio (Part 1)

Discover some 400 years of history that surrounds The Lodge at the Presidio. A former military barracks, it was once part the most important U.S. Army base in the western United States. See Part 2 and Part 3 here.


A U.S. National Historic Landmark, The Lodge at the Presidio is part of a much larger complex known as the “Presidio of San Francisco.” Now a national park, this incredible facility was once an active military base operated by the Spanish, Mexican, and American governments over the course of three centuries. The lodge itself used to be a series of barracks that first came into being in the mid-1890s. By this point, the Presidio of San Francisco was already the main military installation in the western United States, operating specifically as the headquarters for the War Department’s Department of California. The organization had grown considerably throughout the latter-half of the 19th century, as the U.S. Army began concentrating its soldiers at strategic installations across the western half of the country. To accommodate the influx, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles—then the commander of the Presidio—commissioned the creation of numerous barracks upon the grounds. Most of the soldiers at the Presidio welcomed this development, for they were stuck living in crowded, wooden barracks constructed during the American Civil War. Work on the new barracks began in earnest in 1895 in front of the base’s Main Parade Grounds, which resided along a portion of a thoroughfare called Montgomery Street. Referred to as the “Montgomery Street Barracks,” they helped transform the Presidio into one of the five largest Army bases in the country by the turn of the 20th century.

The first actual unit to inhabit the Montgomery Street Barracks was Battery F of the Third Artillery Regiment, as well as two companies of infantry and a troop of cavalry. Designed with Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture, the soldiers immediately saw the new barracks as a vast improvement over their older ones. One news report from San Francisco even stated that: “The accommodations for the men will be equal to those of a first-class hotel and contain all the modern improvements for health and comfort." The observations were well justified, for the soldiers had access to an amazing array of luxurious amenities, including reading rooms, barber shops, and a tailor. The Barracks also sported their own mess halls and kitchen, too. Yet, Battery F did not remain in the barracks for long, as they were called into service when the country declared war on Spain in 1898. Other units soon occupied the space, including the 16th and 24th Infantry Regiments. But their time at the Montgomery Street Barracks proved brief, as well, staying for just a few months before getting redeployed elsewhere. Eventually, the facility came to house the men of the 30th Infantry Regiment in the years between World War I and II. Locals soon took to referring to the company as “San Francisco’s Own,” due to the length of time that it remained stationed in the area. The unit finally left the barracks shortly before America’s entry into the Second World War, traveling to the East Coast in November 1941.

As the country fully immersed itself into fighting World War II, the Presidio of San Francisco became the U.S. Army’s primary point of embarkation for servicemen leaving for the Pacific Theater. The Western Defense Command and the U.S. Fourth Army both established their headquarters at the Presidio, too, coordinating the national defense of the entire West Coast. The Montgomery Barracks themselves continued to garrison soldiers, specifically those a part of the Army Signal Corps’ 234th Signal Operations Company. Those soldiers held the primary responsibility of maintaining that the lines of communication between the Presidio and its subordinate units scattered across the western United States. The 234th Signal Operations Company also had the added pressures of keeping the facility in contact with guerilla units resisting the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines. Additional units moved into the barracks after the war ended, including the 602nd Air Support Unit. But the Army decided to largely close the barracks in 1971, determining that dormitory-style housing was ineffective toward caring for new recruits. Manned by just a couple dozen soldiers for the remainder of the decade, the War Department shut down the barracks entirely in 1980. It was then occupied by a local branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which operated its headquarters from the barracks for the next twenty years.

During the 1990s, the United States Congress formally closed Presidio of San Francisco as part of its post-Cold War military reduction program. It then transformed the installation into a massive public park governed jointly by the National Park Service and the Presidio Trust. Even though the Presidio of San Francisco was designated as a National Park, Congress charged the Presidio Trust to directly manage nearly all of its interior spaces. It also charged the agency with becoming financially self-sufficient. As such, the Presidio Trust has supervised the redevelopment of the Presidio’s surviving historical structures, transforming them into cultural attractions that would enhance their appeal among all kinds of tourists. One of the projects that it oversaw was the refurbishment of the Montgomery Street Barracks into a wonderful holiday destination that known as “The Lodge at the Presidio.” Yet, the Presidio Trust has also ensured that its work thoroughly preserved the historic character of the every building it renovated, guaranteeing that their history would endure for future generations to appreciate. Thus, The Lodge at the Presidio is among the most historically authentic structures left standing in the whole United States! Few places offer such an historically immersive experience than this amazing retreat.

  • About the Location +

    A part of the much larger Golden Gate Recreational Area, the Presidio was once a sprawling military base located toward the western end of the San Francisco Peninsula. The region covers a landmass of some 2.3 square miles and has been recognized as a national park since 1996. The Presidio of San Francisco has received several historical designations throughout its history, becoming a California Historical Landmark in 1993 and a National Historical Landmark in 1962. It connects directly to the historic Golden Gate Bridge, which specifically passes by its northernmost installation—Fort Point National Historic Site. Most of the surviving historic structures reside within a section of the Presidio known as the “Main Post.” The Main Parade Ground resides just to the east of the Main Post, while Fort Winfield Scott resides to the west. Other locations that define the eastern side of the Presidio include the former grounds of Letterman Army Hospital and the San Francisco National Cemetery. The historic structures affiliated with the once active Crissy Field lie next to Fort Winfield Scott. A ring of enclosed concreate field guns line the Presidio’s coastline, including Battery Chamberlin, Battery East, and Battery Marcus Miller. Yet, the Presidio of San Francisco doubles today as a massive nature preserve, filled with dozens of hiking trails and scenic overlooks. Perhaps its most famous outdoor attraction is the majestic Marshall’s Beach. Thousands of recently planted trees also call the Presidio home, with such species like eucalyptus, pine, and cypress filling the southern end of the park in large numbers. But other, privately owned cultural attractions have populated the Presidio of San Francisco in recent years, such as The Walt Disney Family Museum.

    The history of the Presidio is immense, far too great to cover in great detail here. Nonetheless, it was formally founded in 1776, when Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza—a Spanish colonial subject—ordered a cross erected on the Punta del Cantil Blanco just above the mouth of San Francisco Bay. By raising the cross, de Anza had followed conventional Spanish protocol to set aside land for official military development. He had hoped that the heights would be sufficient to guard against any encroachments by rival European powers that wanted to inhabit the region. Juan Bautista de Anza soon dispatched his second-in-command, Jose Moraga, to led an expedition from present-day Arizona to the site for its settlement. The installation that Moraga’s men created was nothing more than a small adobe building surrounded by a few quaint agricultural structures that they christened as “El Presidio Real de San Francisco.” Constructed alongside the Mission San Francisco de Asis, the military installation functioned more as an outpost for the distant Viceroyalty of New Spain (now modern-day Mexico). Life was often difficult for the soldiers of the garrison, as they received little government support. As a result, they engaged in activities like farming and hunting just as much as their normal military duties. Their situation became a bit better in the 1790s, though, when the garrison developed an imposing coastal battery called the “Castillo de San Joaquin.” Manned by half-a-dozen cannons, it greatly enhanced the soldiers’ ability to deter the British and the Russians from invading the bay.

    For the next two decades, the citadel protected the entrance into San Francisco Bay on behalf of the Spanish Empire, until Mexico achieved its independence in 1821. Despite news of the event taking a full years to reach the outpost, the soldiers declared its loyalty to the new Mexican government. Yet, the Presidio became even more remote, as its garrison gradually left for bases further to the south. The largest exodus occurred under the Mariano Vallejo, who led all but a squad of soldiers to nearby Sonoma in 1835. But the decision to relocate the garrison several hundred miles away proved costly, as American forces easily captured the structure at the onset of the Mexican-American War. Originally inhabited by a unit of cavalry, a few companies of the 1st New York Volunteer Regiment moved into the crumbling Presidio in 1847. From the base, they served as an occupational unit that coordinated the defense of the entire bay region, thus beginning the Presidio’s role in presiding over the protection of the western United States. This responsibility was further augmented when thousands of Americans flooded the region at the start of the California Gold Rush in 1849. The U.S. Army—which had formally assumed control over the base around the same time—began an arduous reconstruction project that saw the Presidio slowly transform into a more sound military installation. The old Castillo de San Joaquin was replaced with Fort Point, while the heavily forested region immediately to the south was cleared to make way for new administrative buildings. The Presidio quickly became the nerve center for the defenses ringing San Francisco, directing orders to such faraway places like the Marin Headlands and Fort Funston.

    After the American Civil War, the Presidio of San Francisco underwent a series of several massive expansions that saw its size increase tenfold over the next fifty years. The War Department approved of plans to erect a new series of coastal defense batteries with Fort Point at its center. It also commissioned the creation of the many buildings that constituted the Presidio’s Main Post, including around a dozen barracks built along its iconic Main Parade Ground. Further developments occurred around the start of the 20th century, including the creation of the Letterman Army Hospital (1898) and Fort Winfield Scott (1912). Among the last greatest additions to the Presidio was Crissy Field in 1921, which was a pioneering military aviation center operated by the legendary Henry “Hap” Arnold. By this point, the Presidio had become one of the five largest military bases in the entire country. Letterman Army Hospital alone was the U.S. Army’s biggest facility, capable of several thousand patients at once. It also served as the most important Army base along the West Coast, functioning as the primary training, supply, and embarkation post for soldiers destined to serve overseas in the Pacific. This trend began in earnest in 1898, when the War Department sent thousands of servicemen to the Philippines via the Presidio during the Spanish-American War. The Army continued to rely on the Presidio in such a way throughout the 20th century, using it to funnel units to Asia in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It even briefly served as the headquarters for both the Fourth and Sixth U.S. Armies, which presided over the entire national defense apparatus of the western United States at various points in time.

    When the Cold War finally wound down in the 1980s, Congress started drafting plans that looked toward demobilizing much of America’s standing military. Those plans included the deactivation of the country’s military bases, save for the most critical. Congress outlined the particular aspects of its strategy within its Base Realignment and Closure program, which ultimately decommissioned some 350 military installations throughout the United States. The Presidio of San Francisco was among the first to be shuttered, though, considered to be non-essential in 1989. Congress formally voted to close the facility some five years later, ending the Presidio’s three-century-long career as military base. It then turned over the Presidio to the National Park Service to operate as one of its parks. But, in 1996, Congress decided to create the Presidio Trust to help oversee much of the Presidio’s management. As such, the Presidio Trust was left in charge of most the site, while the National Park Service retained direct control over the shoreline. Congress also mandated that the Presidio Trust become fully self-sufficient, which it achieved completely in 2005. Now one of San Francisco’s most iconic destinations, the Presidio of San Francisco has a history that few other places in the United States can claim to possess.

  • About the Architecture +

    At the height of the Gilded Age, the Presidio of San Francisco was undergoing a rapid transformation that saw its size increase tenfold. By the early 1900s, the base had become one of the five largest military installations in the United States. To accommodate the rising number of troops arriving at the Presidio around this time, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles—the commanding officer of the base—ordered the construction of five new barracks along Montgomery Street near the Main Parade Grounds. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior:

    • “Highly intact and standing in a strictly uniform line, these barracks for one of the Presidio’s most focal and impressive architectural groupings. They are singularly significant as they mark the first major introduction of brick, with stone trim, into the architecture of the Presidio, which to this time had been dominated by all-wood construction.”

    Construction began in earnest in 1895 and lasted for nearly two years. The project proved to be quite immense, as it cost the War Department nearly $55,000 to complete. Plans to create the barracks were provided by the Office of the Quartermaster General, which followed the conventional military aesthetics of the late 19th century. Symmetry best characterized the blueprints, as they conveyed an institutional sense of order and stability. Each floorplan consisted of a rough “U” shape, anchored by two, nearly identical wings. Every building stood at two-and-a-half stories, with a prominent basement-level serving as the foundation. Red brick defined the main walls of the barracks, while rock-faced ashlar proliferated in the basement. On the ground floor, engineers crafted single-story verandas filled with chamfered rectangular posts and ball-and-pipe railings. Hip roofs topped every veranda, as asphalt shingles and decorative overhanging eaves were used to create the main rooftops. Windows were double hung and every door was wood-paneled and partially glazed.

    The architectural form that best defined the Montgomery Street Barracks was Spanish Colonial Revival. Also known as “Spanish Eclectic,” this architectural form is a representation of themes typically seen in early Spanish colonial settlements. Original Spanish colonial architecture borrowed its design principles from Moorish, Renaissance, and Byzantine forms, which made it incredibly decorative and ornate. The general layout of those structures called for a central courtyard, as well as thick stucco walls that could endure Latin America’s diverse climate. Among the most recognizable features within those colonial buildings involved heavy carved doors, spiraled columns, and gabled red-tile roofs. Architect Bertram Goodhue was the first to widely popularize Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, spawning a movement to incorporate the style more broadly in American culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Goodhue received a platform for his designs at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, in which Spanish Colonial architecture was exposed to a national audience for the first time. His push to preserve the form led to a revivalist movement that saw widespread use of Spanish Colonial architecture throughout the country, specifically in California and Florida. Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture reached its zenith during the early 1930s, although a few American architects continued to embrace the form well into the late 20th century. 

  • Famous Historic Events +

    Spanish-American War (1898): One war in particular called upon the services of the Presidio more than most the others—the Spanish-American War of 1898. Since a significant portion of the conflict occurred in the Philippines, the base became a major staging ground for troops headed across the ocean. Dozens of temporary camps emerged throughout the Presidio, as such, in order to accommodate the swell of new soldiers into the base. Some of the camps were little more than just a massive city of tents, with Camp Merriam the largest! Named after Major General Henry Clay Merriam, the camp resided along the axis of Lombard Street. Among the units that called Camp Merriam its home were the 1st and 7th California Volunteer Infantry Regiments, as well as the 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the 1st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and the 1st South Dakota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Over time, additional overflow encampments appeared near the Main Parade Ground and the south end of Funston Avenue.

    World War I (1917 – 1918): Even though World War I formally began in Europe in August of 1914, America did not join until a full three years later. Congress specifically declared war on the Central Powers following Germany’s resumption of unrestricted warfare throughout the Atlantic. Most of the fighting remained in Europe and the Mediterranean, which placed the Presidio of San Francisco on the opposite side of the world. Nevertheless, the Presidio’s Letterman Army Hospital became a major triage center for casualties returning from the front. It also pioneered the use of women as Army nurses, and played a significant role in refining the practice of physical therapy to treat wounds. As such, the size of the Presidio increased greatly, as a number of medical buildings appeared to assist the hospital. Additional enhancements were made to the ring of coastal batteries that surrounded the main complex, as well. Several of the Presidio’s garrison units, such as the 30th Infantry Regiment, were shipped to the war’s Western Front and experienced great success in fighting the Germans. The regiment had specifically gained famed serving in the 3rd Infantry Division, which earned the moniker as the “Rock of the Marne” for its dogged defense of Paris in the spring of 1918.

    Crissy Field (1921): In July 1918, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 189, which sought to establish eight “air coast defense stations” across the United States. It specifically set aside $1.5 million to develop one exclusively for San Francisco. As the Army still controlled the Air Force at this time, it assigned Colonel Henry H. Arnold as its commanding officer and directed him to develop the site. He led a team of four fellow officers during the survey, ultimately selecting the former grounds of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that resided just beyond the current boundaries of the Presidio. Construction began in 1919, as engineers raised several hangars, as well as an airstrip upon the grounds of an abandoned racetrack. When the facility was ready to open as part of the Presidio in 1921, Arnold christened it as “Crissy Field.” The name was inspired by Major Dana H. Crissy, who had died while attempting to complete a transcontinental flight from California to New York.

    Under Arnold’s watch, aviators at Crissy Field pioneered countless aeronautical feats, including artillery fire coordination, aerial photography, and search and rescue missions. The airstrip also saw the first aerial forest fire patrol launched to great success. Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Crissy Field was that it sponsored the first successful flight to Hawaii. The attempt was originally led by Commander John Rogers, although his crew were forced to ditch in the Pacific before they reached the archipelago. But Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger managed to complete the trek two days later, flying non-stop on the Bird of Paradise. Eventually, Crissy Field was shut down and its personnel transferred to other bases shortly before America’s entry into World War II. One of its hangars was even used to house the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service Language School. Crissy Field is now a central attraction of the Presidio of San Francisco National Park. Most of its facilities have been brilliantly restored, preserving its close connection to America’s innovative history with the art of aviation.

    World War II (1941 – 1945): As soon as America entered World War II, the Presidio of San Francisco once again became a major deployment zone for the U.S. Army. Like the Spanish-American War, it specifically oversaw the training and embarkation of soldiers destined to serve in battle across the Pacific. The base subsequently underwent its greatest period of development, in which dozens of new buildings emerged with the sole purpose of serving the influx of new recruits. The Presidio also oversaw the entire defense of the western United States and the far coast of Alaska. Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt commanded the Western Desert Command from the Presidio, as well as the United States Fourth Army and the rings of costal defenses that guarded San Francisco Bay. Letterman Army Hospital resumed its status as one of the Army’s most important medical facilities, too, hosting thousands of wounded soldiers from units stationed throughout the Pacific Theater. At the height of the conflict, the hospital hosted some 72,000 patients.

    But the Presidio was involved in some of the more insidious parts of the American war effort, as General DeWitt used the base’s troops to round up Japanese Americans for internment. As directed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, he forced them to live inside makeshift camps scattered across the Presidio. Despite the treatment, many second-generation Japanese Americans volunteered for military service. Some were even among the first to be trained at the Presidio at the outbreak of the war. They were specifically assigned to a special military program called the Military Service Language School, in the hopes that their knowledge of Japanese culture would play a significant role in beating Japan. Launched in an abandoned hangar at Crissy Field, the school itself was the forerunner to the modern Defense Language Institute.

    Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (1951): Also known as “ANZUS,” the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty was a non-binding joint defense agreement that governs military operations between the three nations. It specifically coordinates the efforts between Australian and New Zealand, as well as Australia and the United States. The Treaty stipulated that if any foreign entity were to launch an attack against one of the three nations, the rest should mobilize their forces to meet the common threat. ANZUS itself was born out of the many global agreements that America formed with its allies in the aftermath of World War II, as a better way to confront the Soviet Union. In September of 1951, the delegates met inside an officer’s club at the Presidio to discuss the matter in private. Coming to an agreement, they later convened at the same spot to sign the treaty. The law is still in operation today, although New Zealand was expelled for a time due to its imposition of a nuclear weapons ban within its territorial waters in the late 1980s.

    Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (1951): Following the ratification of the Treaty of San Francisco, the United States and Japan sent delegates to discuss ways to further bolster their newfound friendship. Convening in September 1951 at the Presidio, the politicians devised strategies in which the two nations would respond to a variety of potential foreign threats in East Asia. In essence, their agreements called for the United States military to mobilize against any hostile country that attacked Japan within its territories and vice versa. Yet, the American delegates managed to force Japan to accept the role as a junior partnership, with the United States holding sway over Japanese interpretations of belligerency. Yet, the status between the two parties was later addressed in 1960, when Japan and the United States met in San Francisco once more to review the agreement. Japan managed to make the deal more equal, in which the United States was bound to inform Japan of any future mobilizations near its Home Islands. The revised treaty included additional language that encouraged further economic cooperation between the two, as well. The of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan is still in effect today, making it one of the most lasting international agreements in world history.

    Presidio Mutiny (1968): By the time the Vietnam War had reached its climax in 1968, the Presidio of San Francisco had already been shipping hundreds of American G.I.s to active combat zones in Southeast Asia. The Letterman Army Hospital was back to treating numerous soldiers that had been wounded while on their respective tours of duty. The war’s controversial nature was now fully reverberating throughout the nation, too, as people across America protested furiously either for or against it. This cultural tumult was even felt at the Presidio, where 27 inmates imprisoned inside the base’s stockade protested their living conditions on October 14. The men specifically locked arms while they say on the ground and sang “We Shall Overcome.” The leaders of the protest also presented a list of demands that requested the better treatment of prisoners, especially those who were black. The impetus for the soldiers’ demonstration evolved from an incident in which a guard had killed a prisoner only a few days prior. Massive protests swirled outside of the Presidio’s gates, inspiring the 27 prisoners to stage their own demonstration. The U.S. Army subsequently charged the prisoners with mutiny—one of the most serious criminal offenses in the military.

    Known to society as the “Presidio 27,” the inmates received lengthy prison sentences that ranged anywhere from six months to 16 years. Yet, the Presidio 27 were not violent criminals. Many, in fact, were working-class teenagers, who were drafted against their will into the service. All had become disillusioned with the Vietnam War and had deserted. Fleeing deep into San Francisco, the Presidio 27 were gradually arrested by the base’s military police and incarcerated in the stockade. As the population in the stockade swelled, the living conditions became practically unbearable. When those details surfaced following their sentencing, it caused mass outrage throughout the general public. Their tribulations made national headlines and further fueled the growing Anti-War Movement in the Bay Area. Nevertheless, the Presidio 27 suffered great personal hardship over the next several years, with a few even spending time in federal prison. Eventually, the Army overturned all of their convictions based on the revelation that the Presidio 27 had not actually attempted to overthrow the military hierarchy at the Presidio. Historians today consider the actions of the Presidio Mutiny to constitute the greatest example of G.I. civil disobedience to the Vietnam War in the nation’s history.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Erasmus D. Keyes, general best remembered for commanding the Union IV Corps during the American Civil War.

    Henry W. Halleck, general best remembered for serving as the “General-in-Chief” for all Union armies during the American Civil War, before getting replaced by Ulysses S. Grant.

    Irwin McDowell, general best remembered for leading Union forces at the First Battle of Bull Run during the American Civil War.

    George H. Thomas, general best remembered today as the “Rock of Chickamauga” for his exploits in the American Civil War.

    Emory Upton, Medal of Honor recipient best remembered for charging the Confederate breastworks at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse during the American Civil War.

    John J. Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I.

    Henry H. Arnold, General of the Army and General of the Air Force in the first half of the 20th century.

    Joseph Stilwell, United States Army general known for leading Merrill's Marauders during World War II.

    Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1908)

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)

    Vertigo (1957)

    Point Blank (1967)

    Petulia (1968)

    Mission: Impossible: Ultimatum (1972)

    The Streets of San Francisco: In the Midst of Strangers (1972)

    Mannix: Cry Danger (1973)

    High Anxiety (1977)

    Foul Play (1978)

    Emergency!: What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing…? (1979)

    Murder She Wrote: Birds of a Feather (1984)

    Torment (1986)

    Falcon Crest: Flash Point (1986)

    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

    The Presidio (1988)

    The Royal Road (2015)

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