Posted in North America, Travels, United States

Battery Spencer

Most people know this area for the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge that isn’t really golden, but not everyone knows that this area one had another purpose. Besides a great view, Battery Spencer was once an important outlook in protecting the San Francisco Bay Area.  


Construction was started in 1893 and took four years to complete. I guess they didn’t have those guys from Extreme Home Makeover to put something together in a week. It was named after a general in the Revolutionary War, who (fun fact) ended up having a total of 13 children in his lifetime. Along with several sites in the area, Battery Spencer was part of the Fort Baker property.

Platform for giant gun

So, I don’t know much about the military or the fancy terms that go along with it, but from the things I’ve read online and the signs posted around the area, this place was some sort of an armed outpost, as evidenced by the big circular platforms that look like small stages. You’re up high enough here to have a great view of the bay to look out for bad guys, and there were enough guns and ammunitions stored here to put a serious dent in any ship coming past. Probably would have been difficult to aim at something with the bridge in the way, but keep in mind that the Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t completed until 1937.

Plaque commemorating Battery Spencer

This site was an active outpost from the time it opened to about 1943 (according the sign above). At that time, the outpost was considered obsolete and weapons were dismantled. I believe the weapons were then sent to contribute to the World War II effort at that time.

Love scribbled on the wall of a particularly strong urine-scented room

Now, the area is flooded with locals and tourists alike, each vying for that famous view (of the bridge, not the battery itself). Graffiti covers some of the walls, empty beer cans and bottles of Hennessy dot the grounds, and the smell of urine hangs in the air in some of the rooms. The Nancy Drew fan in me senses that this area is also inhabited by secretive drinkers, people who can’t wait to pee, and young couples who believe that the best way to proclaim their love to the world is to scribble it on the wall of a historical landmark. I also found a couple of tubes of eyelash glue here, so either someone was practicing makeup or was coming here to impress someone. Not that Battery Spencer seems like an appropriate place to do either. I am no longer surprised by the quirkiness of the human race.

Battery Spencer view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Anyway, I actually think it’s disappointing that there’s not a lot of information on Battery Spencer itself. I found plenty of information about the best time to go, parking information, and how it’s a great place to view the bridge, but little else on the actual military history of the site and the people who worked here. I think it would be really interesting to see how the empty rooms and bare platforms were used in it’s heyday and what a typical day was like here. Feel free to let me know if you have some sources.

And if you’re the academic type, besides correcting me on my use of military terms, see below for the list of places where I got my limited information:


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