El Polin Spring to Presidio

Three months after Ayala, the Anza party began an epochal trek across the Sonora desert, arriving at Mission San Gabriel in early January. By March their trek was completed as they camped at Mountain Lake Anza then explored the entire Bay Area. They left the first permanent settlers at the sheltered location south and east of the Golden Gate bluffs, which grew later that year into the Presidio. And it was the El Polin spring behind what is now the Officer’s Club, which determined the location. For it was this water that would first bring life to the scrub wastelands as well as keep the soldiers alive.

El Polin Spring San Francisco Creeks Lobos Creek Terrain Foliage

Many decades later when San Francisco exploded in size with the Gold Rush, it would be the water of Mountain Lake and the Presidio’s southwest boundary of Lobos Creek that would supplement El Polin and meet San Francisco water needs via a tunnel and flume along the marshy swamps and around Black Point to a pumping station in what is now Aquatic Park. But it was El Polin that kept the first Spanish post alive. And it continued to support the ups and downs of the Presidio as the Spanish turned attention from coastal to overland defense and by 1835 the Mexicans abandoned the Presidio for Sonoma to again focus on the threat of overland immigration to California.

Presidio Base 1790 Presidio Vista North 1800

Cub Scouts provided my introduction to the importance of El Polin as I planned annual Presidio history outings around searches to understand its past. But that was many years after using the Presidio as a tennis club with Bill and Tom, who could provide access. I expect never to see a more beautiful tennis setting than Fort Scott with its bowl among palms and lush foliage and grew to know Presidio parade grounds through infantry terrace and main post tennis courts.


Presidio Officer Club Fort Scott Golden Gate Bridge to Marin

Bricks of San Francisco’s oldest building were encased in the Officer’s Club, which I recall from the 50 th Golden Gate Bridge anniversary dinner. It seems that Joseph Strauss who built the bridge was University of Cincinnati alum as was I. I recall returning to Officer’s Club for other SF history and scout dinners and will look forward to seeing it in its grand newly renovated décor this fall. Hope the old bricks in the wall are still there as a tie to the past.

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