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From Post to Park: Innovation and Preservation at the Presidio of San Francisco

Thu, Mar 5, 2020    6:30pm

In 1994, the U.S. Army marched out the Presidio of San Francisco for the final time, ending 218 years of continuous military use. The chapter that followed was a grand experiment in historic preservation, land use, public-private partnerships, and governance that has resulted in a remarkably successful National Park site and a revitalized National Historic Landmark District. Established by Spain in 1776 at the northernmost reaches of its empire, the Presidio grew under the Mexican and U.S. flags to encompass a 1,491 acre reservation with over six million square feet of built space spread over 800 structures. Mandated by the U.S. Congress to be financially self-sufficient, converting the vast military post to a new civilian park has required innovative planning and leadership. This lecture will address 25 years of lessons learned at the Presidio that have resulted in one of the largest and most successful preservation projects in the U.S.

Rob Thomson is the Federal Preservation Officer for the Presidio Trust, a unique, financially self-sufficient U.S. federal agency responsible for managing the Presidio of San Francisco, a component of the most-visited national park in the United States. Rob has worked for the Trust since 2006, where he manages the agency’s historic preservation program.  Prior to the Presidio, Rob worked for the Getty Conservation Institute, where he contributed to global training programs for preservation practitioners. He is co-author of Architectural Conservation in Asia: National Experiences and Practice, the first-ever comprehensive survey of preservation policy and practice across all Asian countries. Rob began his career as a historical archaeologist, trained at the University of Virginia, and is a 2005 graduate of the Columbia University GSAPP program in Historic Preservation. He has lectured widely on his work at universities and conferences throughout the U.S.

Historic Preservation Podcast #22: Rob Thomson on the Presidio

Jorge Otero-Pailos, director of GSAPP’s Historic Preservation Program, speaks with alumni Rob Thomson, Federal Preservation Officer for the Presidio Trust, in advance of his Spring 2020 lecture at the school. The Presidio Trust is a unique, financially self-sufficient U.S. federal agency responsible for managing the Presidio of San Francisco, national park and home to the Golden Gate Bridge.

They discuss the park’s long military history which lasted from 1776 until 1994. The years following, the park underwent a grand period of experimentation in historic preservation, land use, public-private partnerships, and governance that has resulted in a remarkably successful National Park site and a revitalized National Historic Landmark District.