41st Annual California Preservation Conference, New Acts, New Assets: The Changing Face of Preservation

by Michael H.  Imwalle

Approach to Alcatraz Island. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Approach to Alcatraz Island. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

In April 2016 I was fortunate to attend the 41st Annual California Preservation Conference at the San Francisco Presidio. Conference Partners the California Preservation Foundation, the Presidio Trust, and California State Parks Office of Historic Preservation hosted four days of workshops, mobile workshops, study tours, and paper sessions in and around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Historical Architect Jason Hagin (center) with group discussing ongoing seismic retrofit and rehabilitation of the Quartermaster’s Warehouse. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Historical Architect Jason Hagin (center) with group discussing ongoing seismic retrofit and rehabilitation of the Quartermaster’s Warehouse. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

I began the conference with an eight-hour behind the scenes study tour of Alcatraz entitled, “From Civil War to Civil Rights: Structure Stabilization at Alcatraz.” The morning was spent with National Park Service Historical Architect Jason Hagin visiting ongoing stabilization and rehabilitation projects on the island. Projects ranged from the stabilization of Civil War-era fort underlying the main cell block to the recent “restoration” of the political slogans painted by the American Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) that occupied the island from November 1969 to June 1971.

Political Statements painted on the Water Tank recently “Restored” to commemorate the occupation of the Island by the Indians of All Tribes. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Political Statements painted on the Water Tank recently “Restored” to commemorate the occupation of the Island by the Indians of All Tribes. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

In the afternoon Park Service Ranger John Cantwell gave a very special interpretive tour of the island.  Alcatraz was the first developed as a lighthouse installation and during the Civil War, the military expanded its presence as part of a larger multi-site system of defensive structures designed to ring the San Francisco Bay. Attendees were treated to a tour of the basement under the main cell blocks to see the remnants of the Civil War-era fort and to the top of the lighthouse. We truly got to see the island from bottom to top!

Civil War-era Montgomery Street Barracks on Presidio’s Main Post. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Civil War-era Montgomery Street Barracks on Presidio’s Main Post. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

The following Day I participated in another study tour titled “Adaptive Reuse in the Presidio’s Main Post” with Rob Thomson, Michelle Taylor, and Rob Wallace of the Presidio Trust. We visited several buildings on the main post including the Officer’s Club, the Montgomery Street Barracks, the Inn at the Presidio, and were introduced to the ongoing Presidio Parklands Project.  I also attended the following sessions,  “Simpler National Register Nominations: The MPD Approach” and “Saving Our Historic Post Offices.”

Interpretive Signage explaining the settlement of El Polin Springs. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Interpretive signage explaining the settlement of El Polin Springs. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

On the last day of the conference I participated in another study tour entitled “El Polin Springs: Habitat Restoration, Cultural Landscapes, and Archeology in the Presidio.” El Polin Springs is a natural, year-round water source that provided water for Native Ohlone, Spanish-colonial, Mexican, and U.S. Army-era settlers.

Water from the El Polin Spring running through stone-lined channels towards Tennessee Hollow. Photo by Mike Imwalle.
Water from the El Polin Spring running through stone-lined channels towards Tennessee Hollow. Photo by Mike Imwalle.

The tour included a visit to the small settlement of El Polin to see the spring and several archaeological features including an adobe houses of the Miramontes and Briones families. The day finished up with a tour of the archaeological lab where it was nice to touch base with archaeological colleagues from the Presidio Trust. Like the model of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park within the State Park system, revenues garnered from the rents of adaptively reused buildings within the San Francisco Presidio are reinvested by the Presidio Trust into new development projects within the park.

Michael Imwalle is the Archaeologist at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

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