Cavallo Point’s Military Past

The Coastal Artillery Corps facility, built in 1905, now attracts resort visitors.
Looking Back Fort Baker
Courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room/Marin County Free Library. Dated 1907.

 

IT HAPPENED TOWARD the end of the “Endicott Period,” between the end of America’s Civil War and the start of the Spanish-American War. In those 30 years Secretary of War (his title now would be Secretary of Defense) William C. Endicott maintained that “in order to stem desertion, boost morale and attract a better class of recruits,” military barracks should have running water and indoor toilets.

One beneficiary was Fort Baker, an installation of the newly formed Coastal Artillery Corps that was being built on the southernmost tip of Marin County in Sausalito. The fort’s 335 acres would house soldiers in charge of heavy artillery at nearby concrete batteries named Yates, Spencer, Kirby and Hunter. Not only would the soldiers’ housing have indoor plumbing, but also such Colonial Revival elements as ornate columns, wraparound porches and decorative windows. And they would be clustered around a massive main parade ground.

Evidently, Endicott’s policy worked. Not only did Fort Baker thrive as a military post for nearly 100 years (National Park Service records state the last soldiers left Fort Baker in 2000), but most of its buildings are still standing, including the guardhouse and two-story structure in the above photograph. Of course, these buildings have since been completely renovated, restored and updated: today they’re Cavallo Point “the Lodge at the Golden Gate,” a world-class resort with gourmet restaurant, healing arts center and spa, cooking school and wedding venue, where guest room rates, including many in the former Colonial Revival barracks facing the manicured main parade ground, run from $400 to over $1,000 a night.

Categories: Looking Back, Marin Matters