NOTICE OF OCTOBER 25, 2007, BOARD OF DIRECTORS and MEMBERS’ MEETING
(and Minutes of the September 27, 2007, Board of Directors’ & Members Meeting)
NEXT MEETING: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2007, 3:30 - 6:30PM: Presidio Historical Association Offices, 2nd Building on Funston Street (cross Street Lincoln) directly across the Street from the YMCA, Presidio of San Francisco. Street parking available and at the gym. Guests and prospective new members are welcome. Please bring refreshments for our reception that follows our meeting.
We will begin our meeting at 3:30 PM with a short walk in the Presidio to view first-hand the proposed sites of the Hotel and the Fisher Museum on the Main Post/Parade Grounds. Gary Widman will lead this tour.
President’s Message - John J. Hodges:
"Why are cultural museums important? OK, so they draw visitors and keep people entertained, but what else do they do? Consider the following:
"We have scores of local museums in California. There are 23 in Sacramento alone for example. And there are wonderful history or heritage museums in the Bay Area. Just this week I was asked to comment on the San Mateo County History Museum (CHC Award in 2005) for purposes of a new funding campaign. I sent the Museum President the following quote for his brochure:
"And last week I sent the following letter at the request of the CHC Board to the Presidio leadership:
"CHC is the oldest architectural preservation organization in California. And at the most recent Board meeting many questions were asked about the Trust Board and its intent.
"Thus, a Board resolution was made on September 27 and I was asked to convey it to you and to focus subsequent publicity on this project and the Presidio Trust Board through our web site www.californiaheritagecouncil.org as follows: 'Motion of the CHC Board: CHC is in favor of the Fisher art collection as an attraction at the Presidio, however the parade ground is not the right venue and alternative sites should be considered and part of the public process. The parade ground should be kept as open space and major new construction should not be allowed to detract from the historic character of the Presidio. The precise terms and conditions of this Museum should be disclosed to the public and to date, have not been. CHC reaffirms the primary museum mission for the Presidio should be a museum articulating the history and cultural heritage of the west and the Presidio's role in that story. This should be the Presidio Trust Boards first responsibility among competing projects.'
"Ladies and gentlemen, think smart about your jobs and responsibilities. The people are simply asking for balance. Approve a history museum and an art museum together. Make sure all public art projects are a public process and not secret deals. And for the sake of all of us, site all new buildings, whether hotels or endowed gifts, in appropriate places."
Regards, John Hodges, President
In a small book about the Presidio, author Robert Bowen writes:
Thoughts from Board Chair, Gary Widman: WHAT THE PRESIDIO COULD HAVE BEEN:
"Imagine a San Francisco resident in the mid-90s, (perhaps you) on hearing for the first time that the Presidio was to be a National Park, under a law emphasizing the Park’s history. With the central post then declared a National Historic Landmark, you could reasonably imagine your new historic park, - something rare in the West. The new National Park explaining our history would not be located in Washington, D.C., New England or the Eastern seaboard, where most such parks are now found. This one would be for the West, where, in comparison, it was so urgently needed. You might have thought about what the Presidio Park could become!
"Imagine the current Presidio Officers Club, with its parking area replaced by a reconstructed walled patio, bringing to life the original El Presidio building of the 1700s. The flag of the nation, “New Spain” would be flying, and the visitor could sense the past, looking out at the same bay and sky, and understanding the military and other reasons why Spain wanted a presidio and a settlement in this special place. (After all, if the State of California could reconstruct forts at Ft. Ross and Sacramento, why wouldn’t the US, want to do that much for the more important site in San Francisco?)
"Schoolchildren could see exhibits explaining how the US military ruled “California” , (then including what are now several western states) for several years after the US war with Mexico. They could learn about the Gold Rush, the immigration of “outsiders” from the East and Chinese from the West in the Gold Rush. They could learn of the political and social push and pull of the South and the North, before California was finally admitted as a free state. They could learn about the people who served in the Presidio, and what they did in the Civil War; - Sherman, Sheridan, Halleck, Johnston and Letterman for example. They could learn about Letterman’s establishing the first army-wide medical service and his evacuation of tens of thousands of wounded from Antietam and Gettysburg into the private hospitals of the North.
"Visitors might have been challenged to sort out the good and the bad, the far-sighted and the short-sighted perspectives on the Mexican War and the War in the Philippines. They might have learned about another Presidio officer, General Pershing, and what he did for the US and the world in World War I.
"A visitor could have learned about the controversies involving aviation leading up to World War II, about Pearl Harbor, the progress and results of that War in the US and in Asia. They might have learned about the removal of Japanese-Americans to internment camps, and the sacrifices by their sons who fought and died for the country who sent their parents to those camps. One could have learned learn about those soldiers, families and leaders in WWII who were at the Presidio, such as Arnold and Stilwell, to name two of the officers.
"A visitor in the Presidio that-could-have-been would have learned much about the successes and failures of different political positions and of different views of the military. He or she would have learned about the interweaving of different cultures in the West, about why the West is different from the East and how the West, and the Presidio of San Francisco helped shape the nation that the US is today. The visitor, whether a local schoolchild, or a an international tourist, depending on the scope of the Presidio’s museum and historic presentations would have learned much about the US past. And as a result of visiting here, he or she could have become a more understanding, tolerant and knowledgeable citizen, both of the US and of the world.
"But those dreams of what the Presidio might have been are about to end. The reality is that neither the Park Service nor the Presidio Trust have, to date, done those things. They did raise funds for preserving the Presidio’s natural habitat, but so far have raised none for enhancing the minds and understanding of those children, SF residents, (forty percent of them foreign-born) citizens or visitors who, on reading the news of a new national park, and a historic district at the Presidio in the 90s, thought they would finally enjoy a national historic park in the West.
"Both organizations will offer reasons for this failure. Some of those explanations are based in the reduced levels of funding of the Park Service, failure of the two organizations to agree on even basic steps for historic interpretation and education, a perceived priority to preserve the Presidio’s ecosystems by the Park Service and a priority for raising income levels by the Presidio Trust.
"But some of those reasons lost much of their persuasiveness when the Presidio Trust’s income levels rose to the point that its legislative goal appeared to be either achieved or in sight. The National Academy for Public Adm. report to Congress advised the Trust to adopt a greater role in presenting the history of the area, or face revised legislation. The SF Chronicle’s architecture editor, and a former member of the Trust, (who also happened to be a former UC Chancellor, and head of the Smithsonian Institution) all advised the Trust to step up to its public responsibilities rather than to continue giving its highest priority to increased income.
"But the most telling reason that the Presidio Historic Park that-might-have-been is increasingly unlikely to happen is that the Trust has never made an enforceable plan for its most sensitive central post Historic Landmark District that included any restoration of the El Presidio or any provision for a History Center or Museum. On the contrary, the Trust last week announced that it had selected a developer for a major hotel in that most sensitive historic area. In recent weeks, it also announced its great pleasure at the offer of a local family, and former Trust Director, to construct a new Museum of Contemporary Art displaying that family’s collection, also in the heart of the National Historic Landmark District.. Whether the Trust has the will to protect the central Historic District against these incursions of high-rent hotels and a contemporary art museum appears increasingly doubtful, despite nearly unanimous opposition by the general public to the main post location of the hotel and art museum in public hearings.
"Those early dreams of a national historic park are now almost history themselves, unless the Presidio Trust makes an abrupt about-face and recognizes, as so many have tried to tell it, (so far unsuccessfully) that it has Congressionally mandated responsibilities to the public uses of the Park, as well as a mandate to make the park financially self-sufficient.
"And unfortunately, those commentators who in the beginning years of the Park were so negative on the Presidio Trust as a public institution, going on in the press about how the public’s needs would be sacrificed to the wishes of the powerful and to the pressure to develop, may soon be proven absolutely, conclusively right. After a San Francisco experience that puts hotels and an art museum into the area’s most sensitive historic district, it appears highly unlikely that any future community, or any future Congress, would adopt a “Presidio Trust” type of solution for a future base closure. That is another tragic consequence of the Trust’s current course of action, because a Trust-type of institution which was more responsive to the public’s needs could have been so valuable in blending the needs of the public for historic and natural preservation and interpretation with the economic realities of contemporary government budgets and urban life."(NOTE: The Presidio Historical Association, of which the author is President, is preparing a proposal for a History Center at the Golden Gate, to be submitted into the Presidio Trust’s RFP process, in the hope that the Trust will see in the proposal an opportunity to better serve the public’s needs.)
Minutes of the September 27, 2007, Board of Directors and Members’ Meeting: The meeting began at 4:00 PM at the San Francisco home of Board Members, Ted and Dorothy Kitt. President John Hodges presiding.
Presidio Update - Fisher Museum: After discussion, the following major concerns and questions from CHC to the Trust were formulated:
Motion by our Board: CHC is in favor of the Fisher contemporary art collection as an attraction at the Presidio, however, the parade ground is not the right venue and alternative sites should be considered and part of the public process. The parade ground should be kept as open space and major new construction should not be allowed as it will detract from the character of the Presidio. The precise terms and conditions of this Museum should be disclosed to the public and, to date, have not. Pres. Hodges will draft a letter to the Trust.
Awards Committee: The following members volunteered to be on the committee: Conchita and Bill Applegate; Tony Aquirre; Betsy Dohrmann; Christopher Layton; Jules Levaggi; Betty Ann Prien; Dianne Rowe; John Hodges, ex-officio. Anyone else that wishes to be a member should contact Dianne Rowe.
December 4, 2007 Commonwealth Club Event: CHC is a partner in this event with the Commonwealth Club and thank Conchita and Bill Applegate for making the arrangements. The evening is as follows: 5:30 - 6:00 PM Wine Reception; 6:00 - 7:00 PM presentation by Daryl Sattui, owner of V. Sattui Winery and Castello Di Amorosa: Every Child Dreams of Building a Castle; Daryl Sattui Built a Real One and a Wine Business Too!
Daryl Sattui owns a successful winery in the Napa Valley, and he carries on the tradition and love of the land given to him by his father. The father’s dream of a major wine organization is now complemented by the son’s vision of a “knock-out architectural tour de force” blending art, history, wine, and old-world building crafts and traditions. The result is Castello di Amorosa located in Calistoga. It is a 107 room, 121,000 square foot medieval castle complete with drawbridge, battle towers made with ancient imported Italian stone and brick crafted with authentic attention to detail. The ironwork, the woodwork, the frescoes are museum quality and the medieval architecture is to scale and authentic. We will hear first hand from Daryl the story of the odyssey of conceiving and building the most amazing “new/old” building in California. An introduction will be given by John Hodges describing the work of CHC.
CALENDAR OF FUTURE MEETINGS & EVENTS (Please mark your calendar):
LoadingJefferson Street Mansion
in Benicia, CA