San Francisco Presidio in 1887

This image of the presidio in 1887 comes from the public library’s historical photographs collection. Of interest are the small trees (today a large grove or forest) that punctuate the landscape. It is easy from this photo to picture how spare the sandy Pacific reaches of the city once were. The photograph is attributed to the U.S.Army Signal Corps; on the back is written the following:

PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO, 1887. This photograph was taken facing west and shows the Presidio Boulevard approach to the Post. The trees, planted in 1882 when Major General Irwin McDowell was Commander of the Western Department, today cover the hillsides.

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  1. Hey FV-

    You might be interested in the official US Army History of the Presidio published in 1990. They go into detail about the various waves of tree planting in the Presidio. McDowell, the US Army commander of California who ordered the planting of those trees in the Presidio photo, became a commissoner of Golden Gate Park after his retirement from the military.

    I have some of the relevant tree quotes on my site, and here’s the full text of the official history.

    “In order to make the contrast from the city seem as great as possible, and indirectly accentuate the idea of the power of the Government, I have surrounded the entrances with dense masses of wood.”

    On Arbor Day in 1886, “4,000 children arrived at the Presidio. Adolph Sutro had donated 3,000 young slips and the Army had dug 5,000 holes in the hard ground. Along with the slips many a child planted “a home treasure … so as to identify the expected tree of years yet to come.”

    “Between 1888 and 1897 the Army had planted nearly 100,000 trees on the Presidio at a cost of $58,000…” (That would be over a million dollars today.)

  2. Hey johnnyo, damn straight I’m interested. Thanks for the info!