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Plan of San Francisco National Cemetery, 1886. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Collection

Plan of San Francisco National Cemetery, 1886. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Collection

VIEW OF SAN FRANCISCO NATIONAL CEMETERY’S ORIGINAL MAIN GAT

VIEW OF SAN FRANCISCO NATIONAL CEMETERY’S ORIGINAL MAIN GATE looking southwest, ca. 1910. In the 1930s, this gate was relocated to the cemetery’s northwest entrance, and a new gate was constructed at the cemetery’s main entrance. The gate pictured here is being restored during the construction of Presidio Parkway. Courtesy of the Presidio Photo Studio of Nita Palla and J.D. Givens

Detail of gate deterioration documented by ICF International staff, January, 2010

Detail of gate deterioration documented by ICF International staff, January, 2010

IN 1885, THE WAR DEPARTMENT ISSUED GENERAL ORDERS NO. 133 designating 9.5 acres west of the Main Post as San Francisco National Cemetery. This site was not the first burial ground at the Presidio. Others existed well before the U.S. Army established a permanent post there in 1847. A Spanish burial ground was situated near present-day Building 105. It appears possible that as early as 1854, Army personnel began burying their deceased in the area that was to become San Francisco National Cemetery.

SIX MORE ACRES WERE ADDED to the west side of the National Cemetery in 1896, just two years before the Spanish American War dramatically increased both military activity at the Presidio and the number of burials at the cemetery. A total of 4,563 burials had taken place by 1904, when the War Department raised San Francisco National Cemetery from fourth- to first-class status. The cemetery’s concrete rostrum was built in 1915, and in 1921 the Quartermaster constructed the cemetery’s first Mission Revival building, the mortuary chapel (Building 150). By 1928 two monuments, the Pacic Garrison Memorial of the Regular Army and Navy Union, and the George H. Thomas Post, Grand Army of the Republic monument to Civil War veterans, had been established. Land additions at the south side of the grounds increased the cemetery’s size to 28.3 acres by 1932.

THE NATIONAL CEMETERY ACQUIRED MUCH OF ITS CURRENT APPEARANCE during the years 1929-1934. Although the iron fencing and portions of the rubble walls along the cemetery’s boundaries are older, the current arrangement of these features dates to this period. In 1929 the Quartermaster remodeled the cemetery lodge (Building 151), originally constructed in 1885, and constructed a “comfort station” and maintenance garage (Buildings 152 and 154), all in the Mission Revival architectural style. An additional, similarly styled garage (Building 153) was constructed in 1934. Two more monuments were established in 1934: the San Francisco American War Mothers monument and the Unknown Soldier monument commemorating 517 unknown solders interred on the grounds by that time.

IN 1947 THE ARMY OPENED GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL CEMETERY at San Bruno and announced that San Francisco National Cemetery, which had by then received 22,000 interments, was closed to further burials due to lack of plots. Later, small parcel additions did allow for a limited number of subsequent burials. Signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973, the National Cemeteries Act transferred 82 of the United States’ 84 national cemeteries—including San Francisco National Cemetery—from the U.S. Army to the Veterans Administration. San Francisco National Cemetery is presently maintained by the National Cemetery Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

THE NEW PRESIDIO PARKWAY’S SOUTHBOUND BATTERY TUNNEL will be constructed adjacent to the National Cemetery’s northern boundary. During construction, the entire iron fence and gate, as well as a six-foot section of the masonry wall at the cemetery’s northwest corner, will be dismantled and safely stored to assure their protection. The deteriorating iron fence and gate will be restored during this time. The work will be performed by contractors specializing in the restoration of historic iron and masonry features. The wall segment, fence, and gate will be reinstalled after the tunnel construction is completed. The cemetery’s main gate will remain in place. San Francisco National Cemetery will remain open throughout the construction of Presidio Parkway. No construction will occur on Memorial Day or on the Saturday before Memorial Day.

The iron fence and gate will be restored.

 

 
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