Fort Mason is a former army base located in the Marina District of San Francisco. It was formerly known as the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and was an operational base for more than 100 years. The entire base is considered a National Historic Landmark District and houses a number of buildings of historic significance.
The first military installations that were constructed in the area date back to the Civil War, when concerns over a possible Confederate attack prompted the construction of coastal defense batteries inside the Golden Gate. one of the batteries was built on the current site of Fort Mason in 1864. The fort experienced extensive development when the Endicott Board, established in 1885 for the purpose of modernizing the nation's coastal defenses, recommended extensive improvements to 22 coastal defense facilities. The general size and shape of Fort Mason as it currently stands dates back to this period, with construction that began as early as 1912, and continued up through the first half of the twentieth century. However, between 1915 and 1920 Fort Mason made an important transition from a coastal defense facility to a shipping and logistics facility. Fort Mason quickly became essential to the increasing range of U.S. military activity in the Pacific.
During World War II Fort Mason became the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and was responsible for handling most of the materiel and troops that were sent to the Pacific Theater. According to one source, during World War II the port at Fort Mason shipped out 1,674,174 passengers to destinations in the Pacific Theater, and an astonishing 23,589,472 tons of equipment and supplies. These figures represent something like two-thirds of all the troops sent overseas to the Pacific Theater, and more than one half of all Army cargo that was moved through West Coast ports during the war.
The port at Fort Mason stayed active through the Korean War and up until 1965 was an important point of embarkation for army troops and supplies. However, in 1965 the army command as transferred to the Oakland Army Terminal and Fort Mason was closed. The National Park Service maintains the site as a Historical Landmark District and the lower part of the fort is now known as Fort Mason Center and houses a number of non-profit organizations and art galleries.
Getting There by Bike...
Since I'm horrible at bicycling directions in the city, and I tend to take the straightest line to where I want to go, my directions to Fort Mason may not be the greatest. When I was working at Fort Mason I would ride up Embarcadero and make a left onto Bay St. There is a really short, sharp climb to the top of Fort Mason, and then I would ride through the upper portion of the base, eventually descending down through the park that is above the piers.