With the coming of the Second World War, there was a common fear that San Francisco would eventually become the target of an enemy attack. Up and down the coast of the Bay Area, military installations and bunkers were built, all with the purpose of protecting the San Francisco Bay and ultimately the city next to it. Today many of those installations are abandoned and crumbling. On the Southern border of San Francisco County along Skyline Blvd, one can find and visit one of these old installations in the form of Fort Funston.
Built in the early 1900’s, Fort Funston was named in 1917 after the legendary Major General Frederick Funston who had passed away suddenly on February 19, 1917. A distinguished officer, Funston had first earned famed during the Philippine Insurrection as Colonel in command of the 20th Kansas Infantry. Years later, he became a hero in San Francisco on April 18, 1906 when the city was struck by a massive earthquake. Funston led the army into the city to help fight the massive fires and provide aid to the survivors. For those interested, Maj. Gen. Funston is buried in the city he helped save at the San Francisco National Cemetery in Section OS, Row 3, Grave 68.
Right off of the parking lot and marked by the clump of trees is your first glimpse of the old post. Located here are the remains of two of the many base end stations that once were located throughout the region. These small bunkers once had the important job of watching the Pacific Ocean for enemy ships.
Today the stations have taken a beating from the weather and are filled with trash courtesy of inconsiderate visitors, but looking at them, you can’t help but wonder what it was like for the men who were posted here waiting and watching for an attack that never came.
Following the Sunset Trail from the west side of the parking lot, you will soon come across a large mound covered by overgrowth. These are the remains of Battery Richmond P. Davis. Built in 1938, Battery Davis was armed with two big 16 inch guns (the prototypes for all later 16 inch guns in the country) whose only job was to protect the Southern end of the San Francisco Bay from enemy ships. Serving throughout the Second World War, the battery would never have to fire a shot in anger. While the guns were scrapped in 1948, the old bunker still stands, locked up but still intact.
Another interesting part of the fort’s military history just happens to be the parking lot itself. In the 1950s, Fort Funston became one of the Bay Area locations chosen to serve as NIKE missile site. It would continue to serve as such until 1963.
The area has also earned the distinction as being a great place for locals to walk their dogs. In fact, there is seldom a day where you won’t see dogs running about without leashes. Do remember, however, when walking along the cliff side paths to keep an eye on your dog(s) as some have fallen from the cliffs in the past as well.
For those who are more interested in extreme sports, the area around the base end station has become best known today as a great hang gliding place. On the day that I visited, unfortunately, there was only one, but on other days dozens of hang gliders can be seen floating in the sky. A word of warning, however. As a sign posted at the location points, crashes have occurred here in the past. Whether you’re here to hang glide or just visiting the old fort, try to be careful.
Overall, Fort Funston has a wide variety of things to see and do. As a result, just about everyone can find something that will interest them while visiting.