03 November 2016

Gun Battery Dynamite, Nike Missile launching site SF-89L, and Gun Battery Chamberlin are located within the Presidio of San Francisco: 3 & 5 November 2016


Battery Chamberlin

This gun battery became operational in 1904; it originally had four 6-inch disappearing guns. The weapon got the name ‘disappearing’ from its innovative design; the gun is mounted on a carriage that lowers while it’s being loaded to protect it from attackers. Each gun could shoot two rounds a minute up to a range of nine miles; it took about 25 soldiers to man each gun. Battery Chamberlin was the last coastal fortification to be constructed at Fort Winfield Scott, and it was one of 15 Endicott gun batteries sited at the Presidio. 

The U.S. entry into World War I resulted in a widespread removal of large caliber United States coastal defense guns for service in Europe. In 1917, the four guns of Battery Chamberlin were sent to Europe for use in France. The four guns were returned to the United States in 1919. Three guns were ordered scrapped, and the fourth gun was sent to Benicia Arsenal, California. In 1920, after being unarmed for three years, Battery Chamberlin received two six-inch non-disappearing guns. These two guns were manned through World War II. Both six-inch guns were removed in 1948 when the Coast Artillery Corps was called out of service.

Battery Chamberlin today has a single 6-inch disappearing gun on display. The display gun was originally emplaced in Brooklyn, New York, at Battery Livingston in Fort Hamilton. The gun was removed from Fort Hamilton and remounted in Battery Schofield at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The gun was later given to the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian eventually donated the gun in 1977 to the Golden Gate Recreation Area
The gun was placed at Battery Chamberlin for public viewing. The gun is very similar to the original guns at Battery Chamberlin. This is the only remaining disappearing gun on the West Coast. There is a small museum located in one of Battery Chamberlin's ammunition magazines. The disappearing 6-inch gun at Battery Chamberlin is demonstrated to the public on the first full weekend every month from 11 am to 3 pm. Admission is free.

Click on an image to view the full-size photograph
 NOW This 6-inch disappearing gun is usually covered with tarpaulins to protect it from the weather. This is the first Saturday of the month, and a docent has just removed the tarpaulins to display the gun to the public.

THEN This picture was taken in 1915. It shows a test firing of one of the four original 6-inch disappearing guns installed at Battery Chamberlin


This Google Earth map shows the route I took through the Presidio on 3 November when I visited Battery Chamberlin and Battery Dynamite. 


Battery Chamberlin's disappearing 6-inch gun as seen on a foggy Saturday morning. 


Battery Chamberlin's disappearing 6-inch gun with a view of the gun's carriage. 


This is the muzzle of the six-inch gun. The following information is located on the muzzle: This 6-inch gun is serial #9. The gun weighs 20,845 pounds. It is a 1905 model, and the gun was manufactured in 1908 at Watervliet Arsenal, New York. 


The western portion of Battery Chamberlin. The mouth of San Francisco Bay is visible in the distance. The view is looking west. 


The eastern section of Battery Chamberlin. The Marin Headlands are visible in the distance. The view is looking north. 


A view from Baker Beach looking north. 


THEN. Two six-inch, non-disappearing guns were installed at Battery Chamberlin in 1920. The guns were operational through 1946. This picture was taken circa 1945. 


NOW. This is a view of the same gun emplacement. 


Another view from Baker Beach. The ocean water in the Bay Area is cold year-round because the currents are coming from the frigid arctic region. 


This is the 'Sand Ladder' trail. It ascends a sand dune from Baker Beach to Lincoln Boulevard. 

Battery Dynamite

This is an unusual gun battery. Against U.S. Army advice, the U.S. Congress authorized its construction. It was built by the Pneumatic Dynamite Company as an experimental Endicott Period coastal gun battery. It consisted of three 15-inch pneumatic powered dynamite guns. Work on the gun battery began on 6 March 1889. The construction consisted of three exposed 50’ circular concrete pads for mounting the guns and a separate powerhouse to provide compressed air to power the guns.

The compressed air rapidly forced the explosive shells out of the gun tubes. The explosive used in the shells was dynamite. Dynamite shells could not be used in standard guns because the impact of the propellant firing would trigger the dynamite, and the shells would explode while still in the gun tube. Compressed air pushed the shells out of the gun tube at a lower velocity and with less impact.

With the advent of the Spanish-American War, U.S. military authorities were concerned about the vulnerability of the exposed state of the experimental dynamite gun battery. The battery's three gun emplacements were in plain view of the ocean. Also exposed was the powerhouse built behind the gun emplacements. Therefore, it was recommended that high earthen walls be built around the three guns to make each emplacement position a gun pit. It was also recommended to create a high earthen wall around the powerhouse. The work was approved, and construction began in August 1898. By March 1900, the work was completed, and on 8 June 1900, Battery Dynamite was transferred to the Coast Artillery.

The guns were declared obsolete in 1901, despite the various improvements made to the battery. The three guns were ordered salvaged In 1904. Once disarmed, the large complex at Battery Dynamite underwent many different uses over the course of many decades. The powerhouse continued to produce electricity until it was destroyed in the 1906 earthquakeA new powerhouse was later built in 1910 on the same site, and it provided electric power for the newly designated Fort Winfield Scott army post. By 1919, the artillery fire control switchboard and the Fort Winfield Scott telephone switchboard were also installed in the powerhouse.

In 1911 a fire control station was constructed at the site of Battery Dynamite gun emplacement #1, and by 1940 the fire control station evolved into a Harbor Defense Command Post / Harbor Entrance Control Post for San Francisco Harbor. When the United States was at war in January 1942, it became apparent that the fire control station was too small and vulnerable to air attack. Thus, a new two-story Harbor Defense Command Post / Harbor Entrance Control Post was built during the war and accepted for service in January of 1944. The upper portion contained two concrete and steel pillbox observation stations, one for the Army and one for the Navy. This new command post was built to the left of the old fire control station and in front of Battery Dynamite gun emplacement #2. The underground segment of the command post had sixteen rooms in which to house both Army and Navy personnel.

The site of Battery Dynamite is off-limits to the public, for a good reason. It is a dangerous area to traverse. If unauthorized adults or children had access to the site, it is probable that some adults and children might fall 15 feet or more into the bottom of a concrete gun emplacement. I entered the Battery Dynamite site after I spoke with a National Park Service employee and mentioned that I wanted to take photographs of Gun Battery Dynamite and make the photos available for viewing on the Internet.
This illustration, drawn in 1895, shows a 15-inch pneumatic dynamite gun at Battery Dynamite. 




This is an aerial view of Battery Dynamite. The gun battery is located behind the enlisted men's barracks at the newly constructed Fort Winfield Scott. The view is looking east. Gun emplacement #1 is on the left. Visible are the earthen walls surrounding the three gun emplacements and the powerhouse, whose roof is visible behind the gun emplacements. This picture is circa 1930. 

This is a view looking north from the parade ground at Fort Winfield Scott. Visible are three of the ten enlisted men's barracks which were constructed between 1908 and 1912. The treed area straight ahead behind the barracks is the location of Battery Dynamite. Fort Winfield Scott was established specifically to provide personnel to fire and maintain the many Endicott Period gun batteries built at the Presidio between 1885 and 1912. Fort Winfield Scott was activated in 1912 and decommissioned in 1948. 

This is a photo of the Battery Dynamite powerhouse. It went into service in 1910, replacing the original powerhouse, which was damaged during the 1906 earthquake. Note the height and width of the concrete walls that protect the powerhouse from the potential of enemy fire. 


This is a view of the three Battery Dynamite gun emplacements. The picture was taken before the installation of the earthen traverses and concrete walls, which were built around each gun emplacement. This image is circa 1897. 


This is a photograph of a dynamite gun that was just test-fired. There is no smoke or flames visible because the round that was just fired was shot from the gun by pressurized air. You can see the explosive dynamite shell in the air if you look closely. This picture was taken in 1895. 


This is Battery Dynamite gun emplacement #1. In 1911 a fire control station was constructed in gun emplacement #1. The fire control station was placed on top of the large round concrete mounts, installed at the base of the gun emplacement. 


This is Battery Dynamite gun emplacement #2. The entire area of Battery Dynamite is significantly overgrown with plant ground cover. 


This is gun emplacement #3. Note the depth of the gun emplacement and the lack of protection for a person from falling into the concrete gun emplacement. 


Here is a view of the two pillboxes built atop the two-story Harbor Defense Command Post / Harbor Entrance Control Post. This fortification was built during World War II, and it was accepted for service on 8 January 1944. The upper story contains two concrete and steel pillbox observation stations, as seen above, one for use by the Army and one for use by the Navy. This new structure was constructed in front of Battery Dynamite gun emplacement #2. The lower underground portion of the command post has sixteen rooms used to house both Army and Navy post personnel.


This Google Earth map shows the route I took through the Presidio on 5 November, a foggy Saturday morning. I first visited Battery Chamberlin and then went to the location of Nike Missile Launching Site SF-89L. 


This photograph shows one of the three missile launching pads at SF-89L. The houses in the distance are located in the Richmond District of San Francisco. The mountain on the far left is Mount Sutro. Sited at the summit of Mount Sutro at an elevation of 911 feet (278 meters) is radar tracking site SF-89C. It was designed to guide the missiles towards incoming enemy aircraft. The picture is circa 1958-1960. 


This is one of the three SF-89L hydraulic lifts used to raise the missiles from their underground storage area. 


This is the second of the three hydraulic lifts used to raise missiles from an underground storage area. I could not locate the third hydraulic lift; it appears that the third underground missile storage area has been filled with sand and covered with dirt. 


This Google Earth map shows the location of the SF-89L launching site in the Presidio and also the location of the SF-89C radar tracking station on the summit of Mount Sutro. Every 300+ Nike Missile site built in the U.S. had a separate launching location and radar tracking location. The distance between the two locations, as seen above, is approximately 2.5 miles. 


To conclude this gallery of photographs, I have chosen this view of Nike Missile Launching Site SF-91L which is located on the southeast side of Angel Island. The photo shows all three launching platforms, each of which can fire four missiles simultaneously, if necessary. The Berkeley Hills are across San Francisco Bay in the background. The view is looking east. The picture was taken sometime between 1955 and 1961. 


"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange 

"Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important." Henri Carter-Bresson

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." Ansel Adams

"The important thing is not the camera but the eye." Alfred Eisenstaedt


My first San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that I posted between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view the 2002 to 2011 photo galleries.

Panasonic GX7 camera body mounted with either an Olympus 17mm lens or an Olympus 9mm lens was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com