Fort Point – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

Fort Point

Beneath the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge is the “Gibraltar of the West Coast,” a fort built to protect the San Francisco Bay from naval attack. 

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The location has been a strategic point since Spanish settlers first built a fort here—the Castillo de San Juaquin—in 1794. A bronze cannon from that era is part of the artillery collection at the fort.

The current brick and granite fort was completed in 1861 to help defend the area from Confederate forces during the Civil War. Positions for 141 iron cannons and seven-foot-thick brick walls made the structure a formidable military installation. The fort was updated during World War II with rifled cannons that could launch 2,000-pound shells 25 miles to help defend against Japanese attacks.

In the 1930s, plans for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge originally included the demolition of the fort. But Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss recognized the historic value of the structure and created an arch that enabled the construction of the bridge over Fort Point. Strauss also used the building as the base of operations during the construction of the bridge.

The fort was decommissioned and in 1970, Fort Point became a National Historic Site. To experience the fort, visitors have the option of taking a ranger-led tour, a self-guided tour available on the NPS app, or just by roaming around. There’s no entrance fee.

The fort’s location at the narrow mouth of the San Francisco Bay not only made it of strategic importance, but it also affords visitors views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city not available elsewhere.

Know Before You Go

See the National Park Service website for current hours of operation.

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