Permanent Exhibits

This web page is a tribute to the Presidio Army Museum and the Fort Point and Army Museum Association. Numerous volunteers and staff contributed to the success of this Museum over the years. This site will tell the story of the Museum so that the work of the staff and volunteers can be remembered.

The Presidio Army Museum was founded in the summer of 1973. It was established in the old Station Hospital, also called the Wright Army Hospital building. The building was the second oldest building on the Presidio of San Francisco, being built in 1863. It was located on the corner of Lincoln and Funston Avenues, along the historic 49 Mile Drive.

The museum was established under the authority of the Department of the Army and the U.S. Army Center for Military History. The Presidio Museum came under the authority of the DPTSEC, the Department of Plans, Training and Security, under the Post Headquarters.

The Museum was designated to tell the history of the Presidio of San Francisco and the role of the Army on the Pacific coast and far West. At the time, the Presidio was the second oldest continuously active Army base in the United States. The Presidio was founded by the Spanish government in 1775, and had been continuously occupied by Mexico starting in 1822, and, after 1846, by the United States Army. The Presidio was transferred to the U.S. Park Service in 1996.

There had never been a shot fired in anger by the Presidio toward a foreign power in its then 200 year history. The Presidio was the headquarters for the Department of the Pacific and the Department of California in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Later, it was the headquarters of the Ninth Corps and the Sixth United States Army. Many historic events occurred within the Presidio and its headquarters designation.

The museum was created to tell that important history.

I had the honor of being hired as the Assistant Curator of the Museum in its founding year of 1973. There were three employees of the Museum at the time. My job was to be curator and supervise the renovation of the building and the installation of the permanent exhibits. My job also was supervising the acquisition and accessioning of military artifacts. A vast amount of material was donated to the Museum during my tenure at the Museum.

In 1978, I became the Director/Curator of the Museum. My job then was to continue the renovation of Building #2 and to design, build and install the permanent exhibits on the second and third floors of the Museum. In addition, we continued to accession important collections. Starting in 1982, we began an important renovation of the Museum’s collections storage facility. The Museum hired new staff to catalog its holdings and began digitizing the cataloging system.

I remained Director/Curator of the Museum until 1986. During this period, there was little or no staffing to do most of the restoration and installation of permanent exhibits. There was also very little funding by the Department of the Army and the Presidio specifically, so we had to make do with very limited resources.

I would like to especially mention three of my military supervisors who supported the Museum in its mission. Especially important are Lt. Col. Donald R. Sims, who was a highly decorated African American company commander in Vietnam, and Lt. Col. Billy Taylor, also Commander of the DPTSEC. Just after I became Director of the Museum, Col. F. Whitney Hall was appointed Commander of the Presidio. He was the most supportive of all of the Post Commanders with whom I worked in my years at the Museum. His tireless encouragement and support of Museum programs was gratifying to both the Museum staff and the Fort Point and Army Museum Association.

The Museum was supported by a nonprofit association, which was called the Fort Point and Army Museum Association. This Association was responsible for creating and opening Fort Point as a national historic site by the National Park Service. The Association expanded its mission in the early 1970s by encouraging the Presidio to open a Museum. The Fort Point Association had been collecting artifacts for a number of years and donated them to the Museum. The Fort Point Association generously supported the Museum until the Museum was closed. The Association funded many of the vital operations of the Museum, including the temporary exhibit programs. In addition, the Association renovated and updated the Museum’s research library and archives. Due to their efforts, the Museum’s library and archive holdings were made available to researchers. The Association also expanded the Museum’s docent programs. Most of this was done under the leadership of the Executive Director of the Association, Mr. Mitch Postel. Mitch was a colleague and a friend to the Museum for a number of years. The Association published a semi-annual newsletter called the Fort Point Salvo. The Salvo described many of the activities of both Fort Point and the Museum to its membership. I will be posting back issues of the Fort Point Salvo as part of this tribute website to the Fort Point Association and the Presidio Army Museum. To my knowledge, this is the only posting of the Fort Point newsletters on the Internet. I would like to publicly acknowledge Mr. Dean, co-founder of the Fort Point and Army Museum Association, and the editor of the Salvo, Mr. John Motheral.

Please click here to see a history of the special temporary exhibit programs at the Museum honoring the role of military minorities in the history of the U.S. Army.

Please check back, as I will be providing an acknowledgements page with many of the staff and volunteers who worked at the Museum.



This was written by John Motheral, editor of the Fort Point Salvo, the newsletter of the Fort Point and Army Museum Association. Volume 5, number 4, April, 1982.

To formulate and implement a 5-Year Plan to increase support for Fort Point and the Presidio Army Museum, our association has brought in Mr. Mitchell Postel as Executive Director. He comes to us from the San Mateo Historical Museum where he was Director of Development and Community Affairs.

Fort Point and the Presidio Army Museum now have a combined annual visitation of more than 1,125,000. Their needs for interpretation, exhibition and procurement of artifacts have multiplied along with their attendance figures.

In-addition to providing aid to-these two important and historical resources the association's plan will call for expanding services to the community by initiating 5 new programs:

(1) the establishment of a new research library at the Army Museum;

(2) the organization of a docent program at the museum;

(3) creation of a local history writing project for high school and college level students;

(4) the development of a conference series to study the relationship of the military to the west. The first conference in this series will discuss "Military Medicine in the Development of the West." It is schedule for September of 1982. Our membership will be notified when the program is completed;

(5) last but not least, our plan calls for expansion of the association's publications program.

Postel comes well qualified in these areas of development. Among his accomplishments for the San Mateo County Museum were a project making that museum one of the first in the United States accessible to the blind; the building of a traveling exhibit gallery; the conservation of valuable photographic collections; the creation of an educational outreach program, and the development of the museum's most important fund-raising affair, "Victorian Days in the Park" (an art and crafts fair in San Mateo's Central Park). Postel also has served as a consultant for the Johnston's House Foundation and the Spanish Town Historical Society.

After his first few weeks with the association, Postel commented on our potential to reach our goals once they were firmly established: "When I began to interview staff at the Fort Point and Army Museums and they described the crucial role the Association has played in their development, I began to realize the important contribution this organization has made to the cultural community here in the Bay Area. After looking over the membership roles, I came to know why. The association membership list reads like a 'whose who' particularly of Northern California. If these people can be motivated to assist with the planning process and help to develop programs, there is no limit to what can be accomplished."

Need for Volunteers

"Working by myself not much can be accomplished," Postel says. "All I can do is get things going, what we really need are volunteers." He explains that help will be needed in almost every phase of the 5-year Plan.

"We need people interested in becoming docents, we need people to help with conservation of artifacts. We need people to simply stuff envelopes, and most of all we need people who want to get involved, right now while the planning process is still continuing."

If you have any suggestions or wish to volunteer for duty, Mr. Postel will be most happy to talk with you.

You can reach him at (415) 561-3837. Remember, currently our two museums are among the most well attended and active history museums in San Francisco.

$20,000 Dollar Grant from the Hearst Foundation

We wish to express our sincere thanks to the Hearst Foundation, one of our staunchest supporters over the years, for awarding the Fort Point and Army Museum Association a grant of $20,000. This will enable us to launch our five-year plan to improve and expand our services to the Bay Area Cultural Community.

In addition, funds from the Hearst Foundation Grant also will be used to step up our support at Fort Point and develop new and significant exhibits in the Presidio Army Museum.

"Today our association has 450 members. Our five year goal is to raise that number to 2,500 to assure the accomplishment of our objectives. I am convinced this can be done and we are working on it now," says Executive Director, Mitchell Postel. "We could double our membership this first year if each of our members would bring in just one friend. Believe me, we'll send you membership applications at once, just call us at (415) 561-3837 or write Fort Point and Army Museum Association, P.O. Box 9136, Presidio of San Francisco, 94129."