Past Events



Celebration of Portola’s Discovery in concert with the San Mateo Historical Society

Historical hike of Sweeney Ridge, led by San Mateo County Historical Association president Mitch Postel. This 2.5 mile hike (round trip) offers immersive historical context of this important trail and the Ohlone-Portolá sighting.

The Palo Alto Campground



The Coit Tower Murals:  Visual Feast, Political Controversy, Decades of Neglect, and a Spectacular Restoration, a lecture with Professor Emeritus Robert Cherny
Thursday, October 3, 2019 at 6:30PM
Presidio Interfaith Chapel
130 Fisher Loop
San Francisco, CA 94129
The murals at Coit Tower were completed 85 years ago, in the early summer of 1934.  They were, at the time, the largest art project funded by the New Deal, and they influenced other New Deal art across the country.  On Thursday, October 3 Robert Cherny will give us a virtual tour of the murals, tell us about the controversy at the time they were completed (spoiler:  it involved a hammer and sickle), and describe the decades of neglect and vandalism that followed as well as the most recent restoration of the murals.  Coit Tower is currently being considered as a National Historic Landmark because of the significance of the murals.
Robert Cherny is professor emeritus of history at San Francisco State University.  He is the author of Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art (2017), “The Controversy at Coit Tower in 1934,” The Argonaut (Summer 2017), and “San Francisco’s New-Deal Murals in Long-term Perspective:  Controversy, Neglect, and Restoration,” forthcoming in California History (February 2020).  He is also co-author of the recent nomination of Coit Tower as a National Historic Landmark.
The Interfaith Center at the Presidio, originally the Protestant Chapel, is the site of a spectacular mural of its own, by Victor Arnautoff, who was technical coordinator at Coit Tower.  Arnautoff’s assistants at the Presidio Chapel included several of the Coit Tower artists.  Come a few minutes early to admire that mural, which depicts the history and contemporary (1934-35) activities of the Presidio.  Following the formal presentation, Cherny will be happy to take questions and comments about Coit Tower, the Presidio Chapel mural, or the current controversy over the murals at George Washington High School.



Mare Island Naval Shipyard Tour With Brendan Riley
Saturday, September 28, 2019
Anticipated Itinerary:
9:40AM  |  Meet at Ferry Building Peet’s
10:ooAM |  Onboard for Ferry Departure
3:45PM   |  Return via Mare Island Ferry (there is also a 2:15PM Ferry for anyone who cannot stay longer.)
(if driving meet at Mare Island Ferry Building at 11:15AM)

Last fall PHA hosted a fantastic tour of historical Vallejo guided by Brendan Riley, journalist and author of Lower Georgia Street. This September we are thrilled to invite PHA members on a tour of Mare Island Naval Shipyard rich with history and details of the island’s restoration.

Christened by General Mariano Vallejo in 1836 and established as the first United States Naval installation on the west coast by Commander Farragut in 1852, Mare Island Naval Shipyard has had a long and vibrant history extending through its closure in 1996. One of the busiest shipyards in the world and the second largest Navy Yard in the U.S, 513 vessels were built and another 1,227 repaired or overhauled over the Shipyard’s vast lifetime, including warships, nuclear submarines, and the Navy’s first aircraft landing decks. The island is also home to St. Peter’s Chapel, the Navy’s oldest chapel in the Pacific, storied for its exquisite Tiffany Studio stained glass windows.

Mare Island Museum will be part of this tour, including access to USS LCS 102, one of the last remaining 130 Landing Craft Support vessels built for the U.S. Navy.

May 2019

Wednesday, May 15 Tour of Alcatraz Gardens

Gardens on Alcatraz? Historically significant gardens? I was surprised to discover that’s exactly the case. The Presidio Historical Association, with help from the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy, is pleased to organize a tour of these gardens, which played a significant role in the history of the prison. Join us to discover why there were gardens, how plants were selected, how the restoration was done, and more. After the garden tour, you can continue with an audio tour of the prison. Total time for the garden tour is about 2 1/2 hours, including the ferry to and from Alcatraz. If you wish to do the audio tour, plan on 3 – 3 1/2 hours.

April 2019

Tuesday, April 16 PHA Annual Meeting & Luncheon

Presidio Golf & Concordia Club

Speaker: Dr. Barbara Sokolov, Presidio Trust Historian

March 2019

History Days At The Mint

The Weekend of March 2 & 3rd

PHA presented a wonderful exhibit on the Manila Galleons, a passion of the late Edward Von Der Porten.

January 2019

Tour of the Gorgas Rail Warehouse Project

Thurs, January 30 – 4 P.M.

Interested in learning more about how the Presidio Trust rehabilitates historic buildings, repurposing them for current uses while maintaining the historic character??  Here’s your chance for a bespoke tour of the Gorgas Rail Warehouse project.  The Presidio is in the process of rehabilitating four of the buildings in the historic Gorgas Rail Warehouse Complex for commercial occupancy. 

These6 warehouses (built 1919) and administrative building (built 1940) originally supported rail-based shipping and warehousing functions for the military, and later served a variety of purposes, including as a library.

Rob Thomson, the Trust’s Federal Preservation Officer, will lead us on a tour of the project site, helping us understand the history of the buildings, and what the Trust is doing to respect and preserve the historic character of these buildings.  This is a chance to see a rehabilitation in the construction phase, which provides insight into how the buildings are put together.


December 2018

Tues, Dec 11 – Presidio Historical Association Annual Holiday Party

This years annual holiday gathering for all memberships will be held at the home of President Lucia Bogatay. Join us to celebrate a great 2018 for PHA and hear about what is in store for 2019. We look forward to seeing you.

RSVP by emailing

Saturday, December 1: Visit Mike site SF- 88L in the Marin Headlands 

The Presidio Historical Society recommends visiting the Headland’s restored Nike Missile Site on the first Saturday of the month. Why? That’s when the NPS hosts the Nike Veteran’s Open House, and veterans who served at Nike Sites provide a first-hand account of their experience at Nike Missile Sites across the United States.

Nike Missiles were the Cold War’s response to the threat of the Soviet Union’s nuclear-armed bombers, a key part of the US defense strategy operating from 1953 to  – 1979.  The Marin Headlands site SF-88L is the only restored Nike site, making it a convenient place for PHA members to explore an important aspect of Bay Area military history.

October 2018

Sunday, September 30  – Batteries To The Bluffs Walking Tour of Fort Scott Artillery Batteries With John Martini

On this easy walk we’ll explore the new Bay Trail and Coastal Trail that skirt the bluff tops of Fort Winfield Scott. We’ll enjoy gorgeous views and see the army fortifications that guarded the bay from the 1860s through World War II. Highlights include vistas of the Golden Gate straits, coastal gun emplacements, a stroll beneath the girders of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a peek at the expansive soon-to-be-renovated parade ground and barracks at Fort Winfield Scott. 2 hours.

Meet at the Battery East parking lot on Lincoln Blvd (directly across from Pilots’ Row Housing) at 9:00 AM. [Map]

Please let us know you are joining PHA on this tour here

October 2018

Saturday, October 13 Tour Of Historical Vallejo

We will meet at the San Francisco Ferry Building at 9:30 AM to set off on the 10AM ferry to Vallejo, where we will begin a short walking tour of Old Downtown, including the Lower Georgia district, frequented by Navy sailors and once known for its drinking, gambling and bordello houses. From there we will tour the Vallejo Naval and Historic Museum. Our tour will be guided by Brendan Riley, author of Lower Georgia Street. Before returning to San Francico, we will have lunch at the Mare Island Brewery Taproom at the Vallejo Ferry Building.

If you are joining us from the East Bay, Marin, or other location that it is easier to drive to Vallejo from, please let us know and meet us at the Vallejo Ferry Terminal at our estimated docking time, 11AM. [Map]

9:30AM Meet at SF Ferry Building Peets.
10:00AM Depart on Ferry to Vallejo
1:15 PM Lunch at Mare Island Brewery Taproom
Mid-Afternoon Return from Vallejo.

No Charge. Guests responsible for Ferry Ticket and Lunch purchases.

May 2018

May 10 – Redmond Kernan History Award

Redmond Kernan (1932-2009) was a champion of Presidio history. He celebrated its buildings, landscapes, and especially its people and their stories. For ten years prior to establishing this award (2006-2016), the Redmond Kernan Presidio History lecture series was presented jointly by the Presidio Trust and the Presidio Historical Association.

The inaugural recipient of this award will be Author Gary Kamiya, whose weekly San Francisco column, “Portals of the Past” dramatizes and entertains, while at the same time adhering to historical methods of research and original sources. This award, given in his honor by his wife, Board Member and Board Secretary, Sharon Gadberry, is meant to encourage others to carry on those efforts.

5:30 PM – 8:00 PM, South Beach Yacht Club (40 Pier Ste 5, San Francisco, CA 94107

May 8 – Diane North: California at War:  The State and the People during World War I  

Diane North with speak on her book, California at War: The State and the People during World War I  (University of Kanas Press, forthcoming in June 2018).  She will focus on San Francisco, including the Presidio. This program is cosponsored by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and the Presidio Historical Association.

7:30 PM, Theodore Roosevelt Middle School (Arguello at Geary)

APRIL 2018

April 28 – Presidio Walk with WalkSF

A 3¾ mile walking introduction to the Presidio, we’ll get an overview of both past and present. The walk starts at the Presidio Transit Center, heading up through the Main Post by the Officers Club, then through the restored El Polin spring area, past the Goldsworthy Spire, through the Cemetery overlook and on to Ft Scott and the coastal batteries, ending at the GG Bridge Plaza. Jointly organized with Walk SF, this walk will give an overview introduction of the both the historic preservation and natural areas restoration activities in the Presidio.

1:00 PM. Start at Presidio Transit Center

April 24 – PHA Annual Meeting and Elections, with noted speaker Betty Goerke.

Betty Goerke is the author of five books, including Chief Marin: Leader, Rebel and Legend and Discovering Native People at Point Reyes. Her most recent publication, A Broken Propeller, is the story of America’s first transcontinental air race

In October 1919 fifty-nine pilots competed in a round trip race that began simultaneously on Long Island and in San Francisco with predetermined stops 150 miles apart at airfields across the United States. Newspapers gave it front-page press: who was ahead, who was missing, who made an unexpected emergency landing, who crashed, and who was felled by blinding snowstorms.

11:30 AM – 2:00 PM, Presidio Golf And Concordia Club (8 Presidio Terrace, San Francisco, CA 94118

MARCH 2018

March 3/4 – History Weekend at the Mint

Presenting an in depth history of the 1906 Earthquake Shacks.

History Week Trivia Correction: Q. What Presidio person had been in charge of the US WWII effort in Burma and China before coming to the Presidio to serve as the Sixth Army commander?

A. “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell.  General Joseph Stilwell earned his nickname by his caustic comments and disregard of traditional military pomp.   His role was a difficult one co-ordinating efforts  involving England, Indian soldiers, American troops and  the difficult resupply of Chiang Kai Shek in China.  During his tenure at the Presidio he was involved in putting down a prisoner rebellion with Marine troops that became known as the Battle of Alcatraz.  Casualties included deaths of three correctional officers and two prisoners.  Stilwell died of cancer in 1946.

January 2018

January 25 – PHA Board Meeting

January 22 – Presidio Archive Digital Library with Woody LaBounty

Newly digitized historical photographs of the Presidio, presented by Woody LaBounty and OpenSFHistory.
More information on WNP and OpenSFHistory at: and

December, 2017

Annual PHA Holiday Party

September, 2017

Fort Mason Tour Guided By Historian John Martini
Friday, September 22, 4-6 PM
An immersive tour guided by San Francisco Historian John Martini. Immerse yourself in the historic legacy of Fort Mason, from its construction during the Gold Rush era and the national landmark’s vital role in the abolitionist movement, home to Anti-Slavery “Free Soilers” before becoming a military headquarters for the Union Army during the Civil War. The Fort’s evolution into the epicenter of relief efforts during the 1906 earthquake, and logistical support command for the Pacific theater during WWII will also be explored, and much, much more.

April, 2017

Annual Meeting:  Luncheon and Lecture
Lecture  Carl Nolte:  The Cold War BY The Bay

March, 2017:

Reception and Lecture:  Bill Yenne,  “John Lesesne DeWitt: The General Who Panicked the Pacific Coast.”  – How General DeWitt exaggerated the risk to the west coast, creating the political climate that lead to the 1942 internment of Japanese-Americans.