Art and History vie for Presidio spot

Pub date December 4, 2007
SectionPolitics Blog

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History museum proposed by Presidio Historical Association

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Art museum proposed by Don Fisher

Last night at the Officer’s Club about 200 Marina residents gushed over Gap-founder Don Fisher’s plan to put a 100,000 square foot museum in the Presidio to house his art collection. For the most part they gave a demur nod to the Presidio Historical Association’s alternate proposal for a history museum. The two museums are vying for the same slice of real estate at the head of the Main Parade Ground, facing north toward the Bay where a bowling alley and tennis courts are currently located.

The historical association made a case for the site as a place where the history they’d be presenting actually went down, and said the grounds surrounding the museum would be a part of the museum itself. “The Main Post area is the most historically sensitive area,” said Gary Widman of the Historical Association. “It’s where San Francisco really started 1n 1776 and it’s an area that has buildings from almost every major period since that time.”

The only historical connection Mr. Fisher could come up with was the original plan for the Main Parade Ground, which called for a significant building at its head to anchor the site. He was firm in saying he could think of no other possible place for his museum. “This is the only location that works for us,” he said. “Nothing like that is available anywhere else in the Presidio.” In fact, he said he was planning on gifting his art to some other, already established museums until he was approached by the Presidio Trust, which suggested he consider building his own museum in the park instead.

Before the two plans were presented, Mayor Newsom offered some very diplomatic remarks suggesting a great compromise. “These don’t have to be competing projects,” he said, adding that he’d appointed a staff member (Kyri McClellan, 554-6123) to this project. “My office wants to participate in this process from the beginning.”

The plans agreed on one issue — parking would go underground. After that, they differ radically.