President’s Report, January 2019

Presidio Historical Association President’s Report
Submitted by Lucia Bogatay, President of PHA
January 2019

Amazing, a whole new year!   We had a fine holiday party at my house with lots of delicious salmon, bubbly and fruit punch.  And always Carol Brownson’s wonderful gougeres. One guest was Rob Thomson, Federal Preservation Officer for the Trust.  He is going to take interested members on a tour of the Gorgas Warehouses which are currently under renovation. It will be a hard-hat tour.  Rob is providing the hats and we will give him a count. This will be on January 31 at 4:00 PM. It should be a fascinating tour.

We were delighted to learn that our former staff, Steven Krefting, has made a complete recovery!   We imagine him singing away through the holiday season with his wonderful baritone.

We are looking forward to our table at the History Weekend at the Mint.  We look forward to the event which we are at the beginning stages of planning.  Volunteers will be needed to man the tables. The organizing committee includes Sharon Gadberry, Bob Cherney, and Jason Wright.  I will also be helping.

People for the Parks and Presidio met on the 18th of January, and due to the Government shut down, there were no representatives of the National Park Service.  Since the Trust is self-financing, Patrick Hannon, Chief Communications Officer, was able to give a thorough report on Trust activities.  Downed trees are being recycled. In particular, a very large one is being turned into nearly 100 outdoor benches for the Tunnel Tops and Rob Hill campground.  Staff has been pruning vegetation which might cause fires in high winds, which work is paying off. Caltrans has delivered almost all of its agreed-upon payment, in lieu of contractual work on the Tunnel Tops that the Trust prefers to carry out themselves.  The Trust staff is helping out the Park Service by removing trash in Area A, and the park police are working “on a promise” of pay. The Fort Winfield Scott proposals are due February 12. Look for them on Valentine’s day on the Trust’s Fort Scott website. Comments are due before April 24 when the Trust will make a selection.  NEPA/NHPA process will be complete by June 29. Work on reducing the grassed areas to save water is proceeding. Tree planting now includes more redwoods, and replacement of heavily topped and dying cypresses is proceeding with shorter varieties. Clearly these are both issues which might affect the cultural landscape.

Clara Wallace discussed the Academy in the Presidio which teaches the technical side of Presidio operations.  This is a course which might be of interest to our members!

Amy Meyer commented on the damage the shut down is doing to poorly supervised but open parks such as Joshua Tree.  Also, of concern is the fact that there is no permanent director of N.P.S., just a series of temporary directors. The Land and Water Courses Fund has been allowed to atrophy, so that NPS can no longer buy out pockets of private land within the park system.

Bob Siegel discussed a group which is proceeding to develop a cross-town trail of 16 miles.  Blessed by NPS, his group is planning to inaugurate this trail with pop-up ceremonies on June 2.  They are looking for sponsors. Contact him at pnmnsiegel@gmail.com.  The route is described in a proposal (link).  Paul Wermer suggested developing material to identify historic places and events along the route as a way to help animate the experience.  This is possible project for PHA!

President’s Report October 2018

Presidio Historical Association President’s Report
Submitted by Lucia Bogatay, President of PHA
October 2018

We continue to comment on the scope of the Fort Winfield Scott proposals. The need for a large investment to make the buildings and site usable makes inevitable a bias towards well healed organizations with an elitist tendency. Nevertheless, the issues they propose to work on are so important that there is still the hope that Fort Scott development will produce solutions rather than just contemplating the problems. We hope that the need to get income from the 300,000 square feet of historic structures doesn’t take precedence over the importance of this special place to the National Historic Landmark District. Our comments so far included suggestions for additional selection criteria and requirements which will provide for more access, and perhaps interpretation, and periodic review of tenants to determine that the “mission” of the successful proposer continues to be honored. The proposals are due January 14 and will be the subject of a Trust Board Meeting on January 24, after which more comments will be solicited.

We have organized and enjoyed several field trips during the beautiful Fall weather. A visit to the Nike Site was postponed to December, but we had a fantastic tour of the coastal batteries north of Fort Scott given by John Martini, historian and specialist in military ordinance. We had a splendid ferry boat trip to and tour of Vallejo, organized by PHA member Merle Easton. Our guide was Brendan Riley, author of a book on the famous red-light district, near the river across from Mare Island. The tour required our imaginations because the actual district was destroyed by Redevelopment, in an effort to control the underworld activities that no other measures had succeeded in doing. Brendan is hopeful that the group of ugly 1960’s buildings, mostly empty, will be removed and some semblance of the original town fabric will replace it. A future tour of Mare Island is contemplated in the Spring. Founded in 1854 as a naval yard, Mare Island, along with its many historic structures, is now in the hands of private developers.

Some of us attended the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Presidio 27 Mutiny. While it did focus on the experience of the soldiers who were protesting conditions in the stockade, following the shooting on a mentally disturbed inmate on a work detail. It grew into a Viet Nam protest within the military. The video guide included some comments on the position of Post Commander Larson. Half a dozen original detainees were present, as was their attorney, and one of the original stockade guards. The cell phone guide presentation was a 24 hour experiment done by the Trust interpretive staff. It worked well and may be posted on the website.

As for the operations of the PHA, Paul Wermer continues to be our mainstay, making contacts, running the office, doing the books and generally supporting the organization with his vision and enthusiasm. Samantha Davis is our wonderful administrative assistant, managing our membership, sending announcements, and doing research on whatever comes up. Both our events and Samantha’s efforts have garnered many renewals and a few new members, and we continue with our goal to rebuild our membership. My thanks to both Paul and Samantha, and to all you who renewed. We value our members and hope to hear from you about what else you think we might do in the months ahead. We need new board members and will be talking to those of you who might be interested in getting more involved in the new year. Don’t hesitate to call if interested.

Up-coming events will include a Holiday party on December 11, details to be announced, and preparations for the History Weekend for which we plan something on the Manilla Galleons, in honor of Ed Von der Portan. This happens in March. We will look forward to having many of you volunteer to attend our table in the Old Mint.

President’s Report August 2018

President’s Report, August 2018
Submitted by Lucia Bogatay, President

Dear Members of PHA,

We are currently in the throes of preparing comments on the nine concept proposals received by the Presidio Trust for Fort Scott in July. There is much to read and much to consider. We are glad that the Trust has delayed the choosing of finalists for the next round, a Request for Proposals, until its September meeting. This gives us more time to collect our thoughts. Our focus will be on the importance of interpretation of the history, and the need to allow more access for the public. This is the last major district that remains to be re-purposed. Once again, the conflict between the Presidio Act and its role as a National Park has become painfully obvious.

We are still feeling the loss of two important members of the Board. Ed Von der Porten died in May. Ed was a maritime historian and archaeologist, and a gifted exhibition designer. His depth of experience and knowledge was always available to share, and his skill at building ship models of the period he studied was astonishing. He was responsible for confirming a location on Point Reyes for Sir Francis Drake’s landing. The spot is now acknowledged by the Park Service. At the time of his death, Ed was excavating a Manila Galleon in Mexico, and writing a book about it. His grandson, Peter Von der Porten, also a marine archaeologist, will take over the task of completing both the book and the excavation. Michael Painter our stalwart Landscape Architect died in June. A fellow-critic of projects in the Presidio, over the years he generously contributed his ideas, time, and expertise to them, and gently encouraged improvements like the tunnels for Doyle Drive creating new open space and less highway in the views from the Main Post and the National Cemetery.

We received a donation of photographs of World War II in the Presidio from the daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel Albert H. Moffitt, Jr., who was Executive Officer of the Civil Affairs Division of the Ninth Service Command (the forward echelon). This organization carried out the Japanese exclusion act, and was part of General Witt’s command until 1943 when he was transferred to Washington, D.C. We will copy it digitally and find an appropriate Archive to conserve such an object. Bill Yenne will help us identify the few unidentified officers.

One of our most important goals this year must be to grow our membership. We value all our members and want their help in increasing our numbers. Let us know what activities and events would interest you. Please write things for our newsletter. Tell your history-loving friends about the organization. Encourage them to join.

Amy Meyer, member of PHA and former member of the Trust Board called a meeting to discuss ideas for an airfield-related display for Crissy Field. We continue to think of ways to make sure the public understands the important history of this 1919 air field. The repair of the Earthquake shacks is proceeding, and will begin with repair of the door, and stabilization of the windows. Gary Widman and is perusing the creation of an History Center at USF’s building on Crissy Field. It would be in cooperation with various local universities. He has contacted someone at USF to work out a proposal.

We are planning a couple of field trips this Fall, to the Nike site on the Marin Headlands in the near future, and to Vallejo to tour Mare Island and its red-light district. We hope you will all want to attend.

Lucia Bogatay

President of PHA