Fort Scott planners seek social justice partners

by Thomas K. Pendergast

It was once a place dedicated to war, with the prospect of death, but now the Presidio Trust is hoping to turn Fort Scott into a campus committed to peaceful change and social justice.

Mostly built from 1909 to 1912 and used as barracks for soldiers assigned to fire the big artillery guns that once guarded the San Francisco Bay, Ft. Scott is one of the last remaining relatively unoccupied places in the Presidio.

The 30-acre site has 20 Spanish Revival style buildings in need of renovation, and the Presidio Trust is looking for developers and organizations to help remodel and lease them.

Two other buildings have already been renovated, with one building alone costing $11 million to renovate over a five year span.


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 Rob Thomson, a federal preservation officer for the Presidio Trust, stands in front of the stockade at Ft. Scott, which housed solders who “mutinied” and refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Photo: Thomas K. Pendergast.


But that is only part of the challenge, because the Trust is not looking for just anyone with money to become tenants.

“We’ve been contemplating this for a long time,” said Jean Fraser, the Presidio Trust’s chief executive officer. “We’re now at a point where we have the financial wherewithal to manage the rest of the Presidio and we’re really interested in seeing whether there are organizations out there that want to make Fort Scott a really special place, serving a higher purpose.”

Trust representatives are now looking for concept proposals with the key requirement being that Ft. Scott would be used for organizations providing environmental and/or social justice services.

The campus will also require an all-new utility infrastructure as well as site and landscape improvements in order to make it ready to occupy, according to Josh Bagley, associate director for real estate development at the Presidio Trust.

A transportation hub must also be included, at the Lincoln Boulevard entry to Ft. Scott, which will include a new transit center where the Presidio shuttle, and possibly Muni buses, could be expanded. The buildings would also be required to have Wi-Fi.

“All of the buildings will be wired for the latest technology,” Bagley said. “It will require an entity that has sufficient resources in order to both renovate the campus but also to occupy and carry the campus over the long term.”

One of the more historically noteworthy buildings is likely to be among the most challenging; the old stockade, where misbehaving enlisted men were held. This was the site of the infamous “Presidio mutiny” in 1968, when soldiers stationed at Ft. Scott refused to follow their deployment orders to serve in the Vietnam War.

Rob Thomson, the Presidio’s federal preservation officer, said the soldiers were jailed at the stockade, Building 1213. They were assigned to a work detail as part of their imprisonment. One of the soldiers tried to flee and was shot dead by military police officers. The remaining soldiers refused to work further and were charged with mutiny, which can be a capital offense.


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 This mural is in the attic of Ft. Scott’s Building 1216. It was painted by specialist
third class, Perren Gerber and three enlisted men. The man to the left, sitting and
drawing, is a self portrait of Gerber.


“Over time their trials progressed and their sentences were reduced but the whole episode really raised the issue of the anti-war movement from within the military, which was an important component of the larger anti-war movement,”

Thomson said. “So, this is just another example of how the different layers of history at the Presidio, and here at Fort Scott in particular, present themselves and could offer some really interesting opportunities for interpretation to the public in the future.”

Building 1216, however, presents a more peaceful history and a different sort of challenge.

Between 1956 and 1957, Specialist third Class Perren Gerber was an artist who, along with three other enlisted men who assisted him, painted a series of murals in the attic. The murals depict gory battle scenes juxtaposed against ordinary Army life at that time, a mid-20th-century time capsule.

The murals are in a somewhat deteriorated and eroded state, so the Presidio Trust is looking for tenants that would like to help with conservation efforts to restore them.


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 This mural is in the attic of the barracks, Building 1216, at Ft. Scott. It was painted
between 1956 and 1957 by specialist third class, Perren Gerber and three other enlisted
men who assisted him.


Proposals are due by end of June and the Presidio Trust’s board is expected to have a public meeting in late July, when the board members will consider all of the proposals seeking to fill 280,000 square feet of space. If the board feels that there are proposals that meet the spirit of what they are interested in, then it will select those proposals to move forward to round two, when they’ll send out a detailed request for proposals. The

Presidio Trust hopes to get the refined proposals back early next year.

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