Established in 1866, Fort Baker was originally a coastal fortification safeguarding the San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas. Constructed during a time of peace, the Army made a special effort to build modern homes, barracks, and community buildings ensuring improved living conditions for enlisted men. The buildings, completed in 1920, were large symmetrical structures with classical elements, such as columns and wrap-around porches, a cornerstone of the Colonial Revival style.
As international skirmishes died down in the latter half of the 20th century, park planning for conservation began. In 1995, Fort Baker officially closed as a military outpost and came under National Park Service (NPS) management as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Planning took place in the next few years, and the official transition to a national park began in 2002.
With input from the community, the NPS and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy set about refurbishing the buildings and surrounding areas with an eye to historical, cultural, and environmental preservation. They brought in private and public partners, focusing on protecting the special historic and natural features while creating a new opportunity for learning, exchange of ideas, and recreation. To help facilitate convenings, they created a retreat/conference center and lodge nestled in an inspirational setting: Cavallo Point – the Lodge at the Golden Gate.
The partners and the community wanted Fort Baker to offer something more than just recreational space within the national park system. This led to the development of the Institute at the Golden Gate. Designed as the public component of Fort Baker, the Institute added a deeper purpose by providing programming focused on the environment and conservation and also enabled mission-aligned organizations to host their own events at Cavallo Point at heavily discounted rates. In the years since Fort Baker’s redevelopment and the opening of lodge, the Institute has also grown. It has evolved beyond the physical confines of Fort Baker and explores ways to position parks and public lands as a solution to social challenges.