Fort Mason

Its west was still fields of sand in my early San Francisco years and stayed that way until year before we were married there. Along with Funsten, Marina and Presidio, they would have been ten city refugee camps in 1906. But Fort Mason’s dark trees and shrubs rising from Marina marshes gave rise to Black Point name even before the US evicted squatters to fortify it before Civil War. Included in expropriation were John Fremont’s lands and his Porter’s Cottage home on bluff above battery of our wedding reception spot. Fremont had relocated to New York by then, but his ancestors contested the land grab through courts until end of century without much success.

VanNess and Vallejo NW 1880's Fort Mason in 1900's John Fremont Home

Even more than Marina bike rides, Fort Mason runs were part of how PJ and I grew together from our early days on Lombard and provided continuity to Octavia home through same running destination for different beginning and end points. All our San Francisco and other far flung friends joined us for wedding reception overlooking Bay on crystal but breezy May Saturday after our night before wedding at home to sunset’s glow and cottage party after. As years passed we added to memories with Officer Club dinners with entertainment of Tristan and Kevin playing on grounds outside.

Civil War Battery White Lace and Promises...We've Only Just Begun Aquatic AlpenGlow and MoonRise

Perhaps all my fine memories of Fort Mason, including our wedding reception, are better due to recollection of times before PJ when Fort Mason runs and dashes off cliff and down to Green were more than good exercise. Often they were a release in times when I wondered why San Francisco could be so great and yet I feel so sad. And how would I know while gazing at sky above one day that soon PJ and I would see each other again?

Fort Mason Piers

It was fresh water that first circumvented the rock cliffs of Fort Mason to complement the rough salt water below, as the flume brought Mountain Lake water to meet post Gold Rush needs in 1858. As 1800’s ended with US expansion into Pacific, three great piers were built on fill below cliffs. The culmination of their importance would be a hive of logistics and loading for embarkation of 1,750,000 troops and endless supplies as America rolled back Japan’s naked aggression after Pearl Harbor.

Piers and Ships 1933 Fort Mason Center Today Piers and Ships 1942

For many of our troops who spent a few days in San Francisco before being shipped abroad or returning home, the allure of San Francisco captured their hearts. With jet transport a few years later making us closer to back East, many settled her and led to boom in Bay Area after World War II. For others, San Francisco allure was tempered by return via Letterman, 72,000 in 1945 alone, or not ever returning.

Despite recollection of broken field dashes from Fort Mason bluffs down to piers, I will always think first of this place in association with apprehension, fear and loss. Those World War II days where times for all who sailed out under Golden Gate of danger in unknown lands and fears of never returning. Perhaps it’s the ultimate swords to plowshare messages to see these same great spaces as center for museums, theaters, library book sales, Christmas trees and other assorted non profits. Just wish the Jeremiah O’ Brien Liberty Ship were still in residence to provide a link to the past rather than now a few piers East or that Tristan’s Eagle Scout project plane made its way to Crissy to return heritage there.

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