SF’s Most Historic Building: Presidio of San Francisco Opens a Reimagined Officer’s Club
by Hale Sargent of the Anza Trail, adapted from a publication by the Presidio Trust
The Presidio Officers’ Club is San Francisco’s most historic building. It is California Historical Landmark No. 79 and a contributing resource to the Presidio’s National Historic Landmark District status.
The Presidio Officers’ Club is one of just two buildings remaining in San Francisco from the Spanish colonization of California. The other is Mission Dolores.
The front portion of the club was erected by Spanish colonists of the Anza Expedition of 1776 with adobe bricks made with soil from the Presidio’s El Polín Spring. It is believed that the building was mostly destroyed during a devastating storm in 1779. It was rebuilt, only to suffer major damage during a series of earthquakes in the summer of 1808, and then again in the quake of 1812.
Over generations, the building has housed living quarters for Spanish and Mexican soldiers, barracks for the U.S. Army, a mess room and kitchen, laundresses’ quarters, post headquarters, an assembly hall, a ballroom, and a restaurant and bar.
The Officers’ Club took on its famous social role in the early 20th century. A 1934 remodel gave the building the familiar Mission Revival character it retains today. Celebrities of stage and screen were in regular attendance: Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Veronica Lake, Joan Crawford, and many others. California historian Kevin Starr described the scene during the war years: “At night, after duty hours, the bar at the Officers’ Club was packed solid with men in khaki and brass, pinks and greens, highballs in one hand, Lucky Strikes or Camels in the other, the room electric with the excitement of a city, a state, a nation, a world at war.”
The Presidio Officers’ Club came to hold a special place in the hearts of the thousands of servicemen who passed through the post. Within its walls “nearly every general officer of the Army from the Civil War days, and unsung thousands who never reached star rank have enjoyed the comradeship of their fellows.”
In 2014, the Presidio Trust completed a rehabilitation of the Officers’ Club, transforming it into a multifaceted cultural destination.
The fully rehabilitated Officers’ Club features state-of-the-art exhibits, rich community programs, a gracious “living room” for gathering, spaces for special events and celebrations, and a signature restaurant, Arguello, by award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins.
The September 23, 2014, ribbon-cutting ceremony featured a procession of the historic flags that have flown over the Presidio, presented by Anza Trail volunteers and staff. The Amigos de Anza drill team lent its flags for the occasion.
Anza Trail Park Guide Daniel Sanchez, dressed in a Spanish colonial officer’s uniform, led the flag procession, followed by Maya Smestad, Leticia Cowan, Dr. Greg Bernal-Mendoza Smestad, Patricia Kieffer, and Charlie Kieffer.
The ceremony also featured the presentation of a handcrafted basket by Ohlone artist and scholar Linda Yamane, and remarks by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton.
You are welcome to enjoy the array of offerings at the Officers’ Club and encouraged to use it to enrich your own Presidio experience.
Presidio Officers' Club Flag Procession
Presidio Officers' Club