Fort Point

14 Sep

When we walked over the Golden Gate Bridge, we looked down and saw Fort Point standing silently beneath the bridge.

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We decided that we had to go and visit it.

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On the day we visited, the wind had heralded in the fog and boy was it cold.

The fort was built just before the Civil War to defend the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay.

(No, not the bridge.  The Golden Gate is the strait between the two peninsulas that the bridge spans from)

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The fort was a rather sophisticated one in its day but it never saw any action.

Actually, it almost did.

A Confederate ship was sailing up the coast, only days away from attacking, oblivious to current news (no, Google or iphones back then), when a passing British ship informed them that the war had ended.  If not for that British ship, it could have been a different story.

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During the building of the fort, the cliff was blasted to provide a flat foundation that was as close to sea level as possible.  You see cannons wreck ships better when they can get down at eye level with them.

There is only one door in and out of the fort so that it could be heavily guarded.

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The entrance is called the Salle Port and consists of two solid wooden doors, covered with raised bumps to deflect axe blows, and a short narrow entry with gun holes on either side.

This cute little door was a way for the soldiers to retreat back quickly into the safety of the Salle Port, ready for a siege.

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As you can see Fort Point is nestled snugly under the Golden Gate Bridge.

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The Fort was supposed to be scrapped in the 1930s when the bridge was built, but the bridge engineer believed that the fort should be preserved.

So the bridge plans were altered to include a mini bridge arch within the bridge structure, to incorporate and protect the fort.

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Despite it’s fierce exterior, about the most that happened at this little fort was parades and drills.

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But it was designed to see a lot more action than that.

The fort would have had three tiers of guns and another on the roof as well.

Can you imagine seeing guns in each of these rooms?

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We of course took the guided tour through the fort.

Yep, once again we were the only ones in the group, but it was great.  The boys got to do all sorts of things like ‘loading’ the cannons

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and they couldn’t hide behind other children when it came time to answer questions.  🙂

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Apparently, working the cannons at the fort was a rather hazardous job.  It was deafening in these rooms during artillery practise and many men complained of bleeding from their nose and ears.

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But the most dangerous job was loading the powder kegs.

One spark here and…ka-boom!!

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The fort also housed the “San Martin”, a cannon that was used, in the area, at a much earlier fort from the Spanish mission period.  The cannon was made in Peru in 1684.

It was so much more intricate than the Fort Point cannons.  It was quite a beautiful piece of work considering its ugly purpose.

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Check out the almost completely self supporting spiral staircases and only a tiny bit of each step juts into the brickwork.

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Fort Point was not a pleasant place to live though.

It was damp and cold.

Our guide told us that the fog was known to creep into the rooms and the winds off the bay made it downright unpleasant.

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And if you were a lowly soldier, you slept in bunks, 24 men to a room.

Imagine sour straw beds, mixed with the smell of tobacco, unwashed wet wool uniforms and men that only washed once a week.

Oh but they did have to wash their feet twice a week…so that would improve things.

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The bathroom facilities were quite a treat.

I’m hoping there were partitions between each toilet but I couldn’t see any structural evidence of it.

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Standing on the roof, the fort is an impressive structure

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but then you look up and the fort is dwarfed by the bridge above.

Did you know that during the building of the bridge, prior to the fort’s status as a national historic site, the fort was used by the workers for various purposes, including a workers’ cafeteria?

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And yes we did indeed walk around ‘under’ the bridge.

But not for long as it was bitterly cold up there.  I wouldn’t want to be manning guns up there.

And remember this was summer!!

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So that was our tour around Fort Point.  Definitely worth the trip.

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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Family Events, Field Trips, Geography, US Holidays


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