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Art Deco Banner---Opening of Crissy Field---May 6, 2001
Art Deco Banner---Opening of Crissy Field---May 6, 2001
Appx 36" x 72"
Vinyl Banner celebrating opening of Crissy Field
as part of Golden Gate National Park, May 6, 2001.
Wooden pole and hardware for hanging.
reply: posterazzi at hotmail dot com
The restored Crissy Field is a favorite with locals and visitors
alike, a place to walk or bike on a flat, hard-packed promenade by the
bay and to bring the family for a class, exhibit, or performance at
the Crissy Field Center. A wide, fully accessible trail slices through
Crissy Field between Marina Green and Fort Point and is perfect for an
easy walk, jog, or bike, or for strollers and wheelchairs.
Crissy Field began as a marsh and seasonal home of Ohlone Indians, and
later hosted Spanish and Mexican ships, a Grand Prix raceway, an
historic army airfield, and a Coast Guard station. Today, the
shoreline provides both indoor and outdoor amenities, including a
well-groomed promenade trail, beaches, picnic tables, tidal marsh
overlooks, and a nationally renowned windsurfing site, as well as
cafés, bookstores, and an environmental education center.
Crissy Field's beach brings you right to the water's edge. The waves
deposit crab shells, jellyfish, and pebbles to examine, and there are
driftwood "seats" for picnics and shoreline contemplation. Crissy
Field's East Beach, which offers easy access to the water, is one of
the most popular and challenging windsurfing and parasailing sites in
the world (and not for novices). The most active period for these
activities is between March and October, when strong winds blow
through the Golden Gate.
Once covered with asphalt and debris, Crissy Field was restored as a
park, natural area, and historic site with the help of donors and
thousands of volunteers. Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
championed this effort, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and
the Colleen and Robert Haas Fund provided leadership gifts for the
Long ago, the natural features of this bay-front coastline included a
lush salt marsh that meandered as far as today's Chestnut Street and
well into the modern Marina District. Its extensive sand dunes were
prominent in many of the early photos of the Presidio of San
Francisco. Planners of the 1915 Panama Pacific International
Exposition, who were in search of land, filled in the marsh. Following
the Exposition, the bay-front land became a military airfield.
Restoration of the area began in 1999, resulting in today's public
open space that features the tidal marsh and 22 acres of dunes. As
part of the restoration, over 100,000 native plants representing 110
species were planted or seeded around the site. Since restoration,
biologists have identified over 17 fish species and 135 bird species
in the tidal marsh. Herons, egrets, ducks, gulls, and other
marsh-loving wildlife abound.
The coastal sand dunes that now sweep between the beach and promenade
echo the much larger 130-acre coastal marsh system that existed here
before development in the early twentieth century. These small hills
of sand are among the few places on the parks' bay-front locations
where native dune grass still grows. In an effort to restore Crissy's
historic vegetation, the National Park Service is planting more of the
native Elymus molli-a thick, green grass hardy enough to withstand
strong west winds, cool fog, and airborne sand-as well as beach
strawberries, seaside daisies, and pink sand verbena.
Crissy Center Crissy Field Center
The Crissy Field Center provides hands-on, multicultural,
state-of-the-art environmental education to kids, teens, and adults.
Stop by the Center and explore the interactive sand dune exhibit,
track ecosystem changes in the multimedia computer lab, examine
organisms under microscopes, paint in the art lab, scout the bay shore
from the observation deck, and unwind with a cappuccino in the café.
See the Center's website for a current list of activities and classes.
The Crissy Field Center's programs and retail operations are certified
This old army shed at the west end of Crissy Field, reborn as a café
and bookstore, provides a place to warm up away from the wind and fog
that blow through the Golden Gate. The building was renovated around
the theme of sustainability; all materials *from the shredded blue
jeans insulating the walls to the menu board salvaged from an Oakland
school* are renewable or recycled. Even the items offered for sale*,
including soy candles, placemats made of old tires, and pesticide-free
coffee *embrace a planet-friendly philosophy. The Warming Hut is also
a certified Green Business.
National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center
Experience some of the riches of the 948-square-nautical-mile
sanctuary onshore at this waterfront visitor center, located at the
west end of Crissy Field. The center, which occupies a former Coast
Guard station, has a touch tank full of sea stars and anemones,
microscopes aimed at ocean organisms, pressed seaweed samples, and
exhibits describing the Farallon Islands, which protect the largest
seabird breeding colony in the contiguous United States.
Now a large park in San Francisco, Crissy Field was originally an
airfield part of the United States' Presidio Army Base. Under the Base
Closure Act, in the 1990s the Presidio ceased all military operations
and the base became part of the federal Golden Gate National
Before military use, the area was a rich salt marsh and a gathering
ground for Native Americans. It later served as the landing site of
Spanish explorers and Russian, English and Boston traders. Shortly
after the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) was held
there in 1915 it became one of America's foremost military airfields
and a portion of the Presidio army base.
When the Post Office scouted for a suitable landing field in San
Francisco, none presented better possibilities than the U.S. Army Air
Service airport, then called the Flying Field at the Presidio.
Major Henry "Hap" Arnold led the successful effort to change the name
to Crissy Field in honor of Major Dana H. Crissy, who crashed and died
in October 1919 in a de Havilland DH-4B during an Air Service
transcontinental reliability test.
Under the auspices of the Air Mail Service, San Francisco and Crissy
Field gained fame as the site of many early aviation milestones.
On September 11, 1920, airmail pilot Edison Mouton, flying the final
leg of the first transcontinental run, landed at San Francisco's
Marino Field. (One year later the Post Office moved from Marino Field
to the Army's Crissy Field.) The date was September 11, at 2:20 p.m.
The actual flying time for the bold experiment was 34 hours and 5
minutes, elapsed time 75 hours and 52 minutes. Upon landing, Mouton
was greeted by eager dignitaries and a bevy of flashing camera bulbs.
Anticipation gripped San Francisco and the nation on February 21,
1921, the day of the experimental first day/night transcontinental. At
4:30 a.m. two planes departed from New York and two from Crissy Field,
piloted by Farr Nutter and Ray Little. Two and one half hours later,
after crossing the 14,000-foot Sierra Nevada range, Nutter and Little
landed in Reno. Their successful effort, in combination with that of
the other east and westbound pilots, launched Air Mail.
Crissy Field also played a major role in trial night flying. On August
21, 1923, the first day of the four-day demonstration of the
transcontinental service, airmail pilot Claire K. Vance completed the
west-bound flight, landing at Crissy Field at 6:24 p.m. It was also
the terminus of the Air Service's "dawn to dusk" transcontinental
speed flight on June 23, 1924. Taking off from Mitchel Field, New
York, in a modified Curtiss PW-8 fighter, 1st Lt. Russell Maughan
crossed the United States in 21 hours 48 minutes, landing in front of
50,000 people at Crissy.
In 1962, along with the entire Presidio of San Francisco, it was
designated a National Historic Landmark.
The airfield was closed in 1974.
After becoming part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, much
of Crissy Field was restored to its former condition. During
1998-2000, individuals and groups from schools, civic organizations
and corporations planted over 100,000 native plants, in efforts to
restore natural systems at Crissy Field. Community volunteers are
still an important part of the efforts to maintain long-term
stewardship of Crissy Field.
Today, most of Crissy Field's buildings from its 1920s glory years
remain standing, including the U. S. Coast Guard station and pier.
Some buildings are in private use with businesses leasing hangars and
offices and families renting the former officer housing. The area also
has museums, cafés, gift shops and bike/pedestrian lanes. One can
spend a pleasant morning or afternoon biking through the area on the
way to the Golden Gate Bridge and taking a break to enjoy a snack. The
area also provides views of the city, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate
The beach at the east end of Crissy Field remains popular for
windsurfers and kite surfers. The summer winds which build in the
early afternoon make for good sailing.
Redesigned by Hargreaves Associates in 1994, Crissy Field passed from
being a military airport, into becoming a wonderful open space for the
people of San Francisco, now a part of the Golden Gate National
Recreation Area. Divided into 6 major zones: 1.the rehabilitation of a
1920s grassed airfield 2.a mile-long promenade 3.newly restored tidal
wetlands 4.beach & dunes 5.West Bluff(a picnic area) 6.East
In order to create the new site, 87,000 tons of hazardous materials
had to be removed from the site itself and the tidal wetlands where
redesigned to assimilate the wetlands that existed before the military
appropriated the site and used the area as a dump and landfill
location. The site provides great views to the San Francisco bay area,
Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Aviation at Crissy Field
by Stephen A. Haller
National Park Service Historian
Named to honor Major Dana H. Crissy, a brave young aviator who died in
1919 while stretching the limits of airpower, Crissy Field played an
important role in the pioneering years of military and commercial
aviation as one of the earliest army air bases on the West Coast.
Flying records were set here, aviators who became famous for their
contributions were stationed here, and history-making long-distance
flights started and ended here.
From Race Cars to Biplanes
Image of 1915 Grand Prix.
The western portion of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International
Exposition was sited on military land and briefly contained a
racetrack that doubled as a drill ground and aviation field. The Grand
Prix was held there, and the winning auto reached the dizzying speed
of 56 miles per hour.
When the exposition closed, a board of army officers recommended the
site for an Air Coast Defense Station-an airfield whose mission would
be to cooperate with the artillery defenses of San Francisco Bay. From
their lofty vantage point, they would scout for the approach of an
enemy, observe and correct the fire of our big guns on the coastal
bluffs, and pass messages to troops in the field.
The Last Word in Airfields
Image of the west end of Crissy Airfield, 1921-1924.
The permanent air base was built in 1921 under the supervision of
"Hap" Arnold, a young major destined to lead the largest air force the
world has ever known during WWII. The original facilities consisted of
a kidney-shaped field on which the outline of the former racetrack was
still visible. In an era of open-cockpit, fabric-covered biplanes, an
airfield was just that: a wide expanse planted in grass to soften the
landing and to slow the plane after touch-down (no brakes in those
Image of Crissy Airfield from the air, 1921. Click for larger image
Click for larger image and caption.
Against the bluffs of the Presidio uplands, the field's southern edge
was lined with hangars for seaplanes and landplanes, workshops, and a
garage. Farther east was a cluster that included an administration
building, enlisted barracks, flagstaff, and a guardhouse built in
attractive Mission Revival style. On top of the bluff, where the
approach to the Golden Gate Bridge would eventually be built, were
bachelor officers' quarters and a row of small homes for married
officers. Later that year, no less an authority than Marshal Ferdinand
Foch, commander of the victorious Allied armies in WWI, inspected the
new installation and pronounced it "the last word in airfields."
One-or More-for the Record Books
Image of a Douglas O-25.
Between 1921 and 1936, aerial operations at Crissy Field consisted
primarily of observation of artillery fire for the Coast Defenses of
San Francisco; aerial photography; liaison flights for headquarters
personnel; special civilian cooperation missions, such as
search-and-rescue and publicity flights; and support for the U.S. Air
Mail Service. The first Western aerial forest fire patrols were
undertaken by Crissy Field pilots, who also checked for diseased
trees, identified archeological sites in remote southwestern deserts,
and participated in the dedication of Lassen National Park from the
cockpits of their flying machines.
Image of "Hap" Arnold and Lowell Smith signing a flight log.
It was, however, a series of record-breaking long-distance flights
during the Roaring Twenties that put Crissy Field securely in the
record books of aviation history and contributed to the growth of the
modern aviation industry. In 1924, the first Dawn-to-Dusk
transcontinental flight ended in triumph at Crissy Field. In doing so,
one of the "great goals of the Air Service," to "reduce the time for
deploying army aircraft from one part of the country to another," had
taken a giant practical step forward. Later that same year, the army's
Round-the-World Race stopped at Crissy Field, with Lieutenant Lowell
H. Smith of Crissy Field leading the flyers upon their return. This
was "the most important pioneering flight of the time in terms of
difficulty and international prestige. . ."
Image of the PN9-3 following the first attempt to fly to Hawaii. Click
for larger image and caption. Image of a Fokker C-2 before making
the first non-stop flight to Hawaii.
In 1925, two navy seaplanes took off from Crissy Field inthe first
attempt to fly from the mainland to Hawaii. Expected to last
twenty-six hours, the trip took twelve days and was only partially
completed by one plane, whose flyers had to be rescued at sea. Two
years later, they tried again. Army lieutenants Lester J. Maitland and
Albert F. Hegenberger readied their big Fokker three engine plane, the
Bird of Paradise, at Crissy Field and flew non-stop to the islands.
Image of Crissy Field just prior to World War II.
In 1936, Crissy Field closed as a first-line air base. Wind and fog
had always made for difficult flying conditions; the construction of
the Golden Gate Bridge made operating aircraft from Crissy Field even
more challenging; and its location near the ocean, though convenient
to coast artillery batteries, also made it vulnerable to enemy
bombardment by sea. There was little room for expansion, and the
activation of Hamilton Field in Marin County offered an up-to date
alternative location for the air corps.
Image of Nesei soldiers at the MIS Language School.
After the air corps left Crissy Field, the headquarters of the 30th
U.S. Infantry Regiment moved into the administration building and the
landing field was routinely used as an assembly area for troop
mobilization. With the coming of WWII, temporary wooden barracks
sprang up at both ends of the airfield, and more of the landing field
was paved. The former air mail hangar became barracks and classrooms
for the army's top-secret Military Intelligence Service Language
School; here, Nisei soldiers (second-generation Americans of Japanese
descent) trained as battlefield interpreters as their families were
being sent to isolated inland internment camps.
Image of an U-1 Otter at Crissy field during the Vietnam War.
In the years after WWII, the Sixth Army Flight Detachment operated
light airplanes and helicopters from the paved runway that replaced
the grass landing field. By this time, Crissy Field traffic consisted
primarily of liaison flights, and MedEvac flights bringing soldiers
wounded in Vietnam from Travis Air Force Base to Letterman Hospital.
In 1974, it was finally closed to fixed-wing aircraft, although
helicopter operations continued until very recently.
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