This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Allan Blank
The Cold War lasting from 1945-1992 was an era filled with tension, drama and the threat of nuclear disaster. NIKE Site SF-88 was at the heart of this conflict The only remaining operational site left out of about 280 in the United States, Site SF-88 serves as an example of how many divisions within Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) were able to work together to continue the restorative rehabilitation of this sacred site.
The opportunity to preserve, restore and rehabilitate the site was both welcome and an exercise in collaboration. Within the GGNRA, staff from Interpretation & Education, Cultural Resources, Facilities Management and a group of former NIKE Site veterans have all worked together to keep this site alive for today’s and future generations to see and relive an era of history so important to our daily lives. By setting up this GEO Team, we were able to meet on a regular basis and plan for the actions that we needed to undertake.
As the only site of its kind, the task to fund, scope, contract and repair the site was a huge undertaking. It was important to all of us working on this project that not only did we want the site to be restored, we wanted the site to tell a story………a story of an era that was shrouded in secrecy, an era with nuclear missiles in our backyards. Thus our efforts would help create a museum to tell that story. As we enter year four of our six year plan, the results have demonstrated what can be done with proper planning.
The presentation will include how we identified the work that needed to be done. For instance, to convert an unused building into a Welcome Center and still preserving the historic exterior and interior of the building. Another unusual circumstance we ran into was to reside and reroof what is known as the Assembly Building when the original materials used no longer exist. The work on these and other buildings led to new and insightful ways to complete restorative rehabilitation to the site.
The goal of the entire team was to preserve the historic nature of the site and at the same time make it a viable and lasting tribute to the era and the men who served. By being able to balance existing construction with creative restoration, we were able to accomplish our goals. There are no other sites like NIKE Site SF-88. As a “one of a kind” site, the story of SF-88’s restoration is important in the respect of how it was and is still being done and the story it can continue to tell.
Attracting thousands of visitors annually, NIKE Site SF-88 and its continuing restoration serve as a bell weather to keep sites alive….to preserve history, to tell the stories and to share what we have learned is the mission we want to talk about. It is our hope that we can present and share the story of NIKE Site SF-88. A piece of history never to be forgotten.
Al Blank has been at Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 2004. During his tenure at the park, he has worked as an Interpreter on Alcatraz Island, and at Muir Woods National Monument and the Marin Headlands. He has also worked for the park in Public Affairs and the Office of Special Park Uses.
One of his current duties is Site Manager for historic Nike Site SF-88. Over a period of the last five years, the park has undertaken a restoration of the site keeping in mind its’ historic place in history, a remarkable and rewarding experience. Originally from New York City, he never thought that his life’s adventure would bring him to San Francisco to work on the restoration of a nuclear missile site. But this work has been the most rewarding of all.