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Fort Funston shoot (photos added!)

Fort Funston, Battery Richmond P. Davis

Fort Funston defended the San Francisco Bay Area for a long time. We paid a short visit to the fort a few years ago – just long enough to see some of the fortifications and to learn that Nike Ajax missiles had once been stored under the site of the current parking lot. Today I decided to test nature photographer John Shaw’s assertion that bad weather is GOOD weather for photography, and to shoot Fort Funston during a period of scattered showers, after the major rains of the weekend had moved on.

Around 1890. army engineers who were planning new defenses of San Francisco Bay proposed the construction of two mortar batteries between Laguna de la Merced (Lake of Mercy, Lake Merced) and the Pacific Ocean. A “friendly” condemnation suit resulted in the purchase by the Federal Government, in December 1900, of about 45 acres of land at $900/acre, from the Spring Valley Water Company. The land became the Lake Merced Military Reservation. No construction occurred until World War I, when in February 1917,  a temporary battery for four 12-inch mortars (Battery Howe) and another for two 5-inch rapid fire guns (Battery Bruff) were constructed. On June 26, 1917, Lake Merced Military reservation was renamed Fort Funston for Major General Frederick Funston, who had died in February.

Today, two of the most dramatic features of Fort Funston are the remnants of Battery Richmond P. Davis (San Francisco Defense Area Site SF-61R). Two (1, 2) 16-inch guns comprised the battery, which was the first of such 16-inch batteries in the Bay Area and the first casemated heavy caliber battery in the United States. The shells fired by the 16-inch guns weighed 2100 pounds each. Each of the two barrels weighed 146 tons. Construction of Battery Richmond P. Davis began in October 1936. The tubes for the guns were ones that had been manufactured for the 35,000 ton battle cruiser U.S.S. Saratoga, the construction of which had been stopped by the Treaty of Washington. The ship was converted into an aircraft carrier, instead. The guns had a range of more than 26 miles, an effective range of 44,000 yards, and a field of fire of 145 degrees (1). Each gun was attended by 35 soldiers. By 1948, the guns were obsolete as the result of air power and nuclear weapons. The guns were cut up and sold as scrap.

The Nike Ajax (Western Electric SAM-A-7/M1/MIM-3 Nike Ajax) launch area SF59-L was located between the Administration Area and the former Battery Richmond P. Davis area. The Launcher Area is now part of the parking lot (1, 2). The Launcher Area consisted of 12 launchers and three magazines (underground storage bunkers) that held a total of 30 MIM-3 Nike Ajax multi-stage surface-to-air missiles. The Administration (1) and Launcher Areas of San Francisco Defense Area site SF-59 were turned over to the National Park Service on October 27, 1972 and are now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Today, however, it seemed that all of Fort Funston was occupied by the dogs of San Francisco, and their owners (1). I started out by photographing the southern view from the park (1, 2, 3), described by this article (note the caveat). I then shot portions of the Nike Ajax Launcher Area and some views of San Francisco neighborhoods to the northeast (1, 2). I shot one of the Battery Davis 16-inch gun emplacements (1), and a dog ran up and barked at me from immediately behind, while I was looking through the viewfinder! I yelled at him and threatened to bite him (I’ve had my shots)! :-) I then made my way to the other gun emplacement (1). The path through both gun emplacements was flooded (1) by the heavy rains of yesterday, so I traveled back the way I came (1), along the sandy bluff (1, 2). I met several dogs and owners along the way. I finished the shoot with photographs of hang gliders on the ground (1, 2), World War II observation posts (“end stations” 1, 2, 3) surrounded by a modern observation deck, and folks flying radio-controlled gliders from the bluffs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). (Web cam and wind conditions are here.)

I will add photographs to this entry when they have been processed (done), and make them accessible from other areas of the site. The clouds, fog streaming UP the bluffs (1), and all of the people (1)and dogs (1) made the day quite remarkable and enjoyable!

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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