GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA (AP) — A historic World War II-era gun battery that once guarded San Francisco Bay has been restored as an exhibit that showcases the region's military past as the country's first line of defense against a West Coast invasion.
The U.S. Army built Battery Townsley into a Marin County hillside more than 70 years ago to house weapons that could lob 2-ton shells 25 miles. The series of underground tunnels and concrete gun emplacements became an underground party spot for teenagers and fell into disrepair after the Army left Marin in the 1980s.
Mia Monroe, a National Park Service ranger with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the crumbling structure had become infested with rodents and covered with graffiti.
More than a dozen National Park Service volunteers worked to shore up and clean out the battery in order to reopen the landmark to visitors. Their work earned them a major park service award last month.
"They turned it into a priceless treasure where the public can see what it was like to serve in a fort at the edge of the continent in the days just after Pearl Harbor," Monroe said.
The site is nestled in the Marin Headlands just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco in the Marin Headlands, a popular tourist spot known for its open spaces, beaches and sweeping views of the city and the ocean.
Starting in San Francisco's days as an 18th century Spanish colonial outpost, the region's defenders have mounted artillery in view of the famous passageway between the ocean and the bay. Many of the forts, barracks and bunkers built between then and World War II still stand but no longer serve as active military installations.
In the new year, the park service hopes to find money to bring a surplus battleship gun now in a Nevada arsenal to Battery Townsley.
The battery is open for tours the first Sunday of each month from noon to 4 p.m.