Battery Ridge and Spencer, California

After our little tour of the Golden Gate Bridge, also after visiting the lookout and crossing it back and forth by walking I drove Long and Laura to another magnificent view of the bridge. We exit to 101 north and took the first exit heading west to the Marin Headlands and driving up the hill we parked on the parking lot passed by the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. We took the pathway leading to the Vista Point. It was funny because Laura doesn’t like high places and the path was almost at the edge of the hill so we have to wait for her and she took her time. Upon reaching the area there was a parking lot which was obviously full. We went to the trail and pass by an old building converted into a restroom. The first sight we saw was the Battery Ridge. Here is the history of the military site.

Battery Ridge

“Originally built as an 1870s System battery for the defense of San Francisco Harbor under the supervision of Colonel George Henry Mendell. Construction took place between 1871 and June of 1873 but the battery was not armed and the suspension of coastal defense funding in 1876 placed the battery in caretaker status without any cannon in place. Although some official documents refer to the nine gun emplacement as Battery Ridge, the builder of the battery referred to the four north most emplacements as Battery Ridge and the five south most emplacements as Battery Cliff.

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Battery Ridge Earthworks

The battery was built with emplacements for nine smoothbore 15″ Rodman cannons mounted on iron Barbette carriages. The five south most gun emplacements were 6″ center pintle mounts while the four north most emplacements were 6″ forward pintle mounts. Two earth covered brick magazines were built for the south most cannons and two for the north most cannons. The battery had a commanding view of the Golden Gate and, at 445′, was one of the highest seacoast batteries in the country.”

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Battery Ridge

We walked along the battery because the path leading to the magnificent view was just through it. There were signs warning people to be careful to what they step on and it was helpful but you can definitely see that the area was not maintained at what it should be. Just like the lack of attention here is the final details leading to the end of Battery Ridge.

“At the beginning of the Endicott Period it was clear that the manufacture of the necessary guns , carriages and structures would take years and some temporary batteries would be necessary. It was decided that the first four emplacements of Battery Ridge would be armed with 15″ Rodman smoothbore cannons and that the five remaining emplacements would be destroyed to make way for a new Battery Spencer. The 15″ Rodman smoothbore cannons were removed from the West Battery on Fort Point (3) to make way for the construction of Battery Cranston and Battery Miller. Four of these cannons were sent to Battery Ridge and mounted in July-September 1893. The five emplacements of Battery Cliff were never armed and they were destroyed in the construction of Battery Spencer. By 31 Dec 1909, the four 15″ Rodman cannons were dismounted and the carriages had been dismantled and sold.”

Plans of Battery Ridge

Only few remnants of the battery remain today, and it is recognizable because it is made of red bricks, totally different construction material than the later Battery Spencer. Finally, reaching the end of the path is the Battery Spencer the more prominent of the two battery overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.

Battery Spencer

Battery Spencer (1897-1942) – Battery Spencer was a reinforced concrete Endicott Period 12″ gun battery located on Fort Baker (1), Lime Point, Marin County, California. Named in G.O. 16, 14 Feb 1902, after Maj. Gen. Joseph Spencer, a Revolutionary War hero who died 13 jan 1789. Battery construction was begun in 1893, completed in 1897 and transferred to the Coast Artillery for use 24 Sep 1897 at a total cost of $110,352.70. Deactivated in 1942 during World War II.

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Golden Gate Bridge from the Battery

Part of the Harbor Defense of San Francisco. Battery Spencer was a concrete coastal gun battery with three M1888 12″ guns mounted on long range Barbette M1892 carriages. It was constructed on top of the five front emplacements of Battery Ridge.”

We took some pictures of the bridge and surrounding views and as I recall my first time there was on May 2006, 8 years ago. The area remained unchanged and Battery which was forever etched in my mind was still standing there while tourists steps on its body to take their photos. After taking some pictures we explored the battery and we were literary one of the few who did it. As if our purpose was not to admire the bridge but the lonely battery. Here is some more information about the battery.

Emplacements #1 and #2 were separated by a magazine with two shell rooms, a powder room and a shell hoist room. Emplacement #3 had its own shell room, powder room and hoist room. This was a two story battery with the magazines on the lower level and the gun emplacements on the upper level. The projectiles were originally moved from the magazine level to the loading level with hand powered projectile hoists. These were replaced in 1908 with electric Taylor-Raymond front delivery hoists. The new hoists were accepted for service 30 Sep 1908. There were no powder hoists.

North of Emplacement #1, along the access road, was the BC Post and a separate building that had four rooms, a CO room, a guard room, an oil room and a large 12′ by 43′ plotting room. On the other side of the road were two other buildings, one housing the tools and rammers and a latrine building with separate facilities for officers and enlisted.

In 1910 the BC post and the plotting room were modified and updated. The work was accepted for service on 5 Aug 1910 at a cost of $ 1680.68.”

Battery Spencer Gun #2

We explored the battery taking pictures and entering its abandoned rooms. Like I said before it was neglected and the graffiti was everywhere but still we make the most of it. What makes Battery Spencer unique for me is that once I read the marker 8 years ago with the title, “The Enemy who never came.” It was referring to WWII when the US waited for the invasion of Japan after Pearl Harbor. The markers around the area gave information about the structures, nature and wildlife and the battery’s purpose was the one that attracted it to me. But before World War II the battery had begun its disassembling as the front of the war is in Europe.

Battery Spencer Gun #3

“The U.S. entry into World War I resulted in a widespread removal of large caliber coastal defense gun tubes for service in Europe. Many of the gun and mortar tubes removed were sent to arsenals for modification and mounting on mobile carriages, both wheeled and railroad. Most of the removed gun tubes never made it to Europe and were either remounted or remained at the arsenals until needed elsewhere. One gun was removed from emplacement #3 in 1918 and sent to Battery Chester at Fort Miley, it was not replaced and the emplacement was considered abandoned. The carriage remained in place until it was ordered salvaged on 10 Jan 1927.

In 1921 the abandoned emplacement #3 magazine powder room was converted to a power room, with two 25 KW motor-generator sets. The abandoned shell room was converted into a fire control switchboard and the hoist room became a radiator room for the motor generator sets. This work was accepted in July 1921 at a cost of $2,311.50.

The remaining two guns and carriages were ordered scrapped 19 Nov 1942 in conjunction with the first large scale scrap drive of World War II.”

Battery Spencer Plan

We took the route back to the car and as Long and Laura talked about how awful the restrooms were and the inside of the battery house were filled with insects such as mosquitoes. I once look back to admire those structures thinking about their current purpose. After the war the battery remained untouched as the Golden Gate Recreation Area (GGNRA) administered by the National Park Service took over in maintaining it. No period guns or carriages are in place for the safety of everyone. Now it offers one of the very best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.  That was what I learned and concluded as we walked along the grassy trail by the cliff, and the wind of bay blowing in our direction.

Here the links for more information:


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Say Cheez!

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