Skip to Content

Rare 'Transplant' Gives New Life to Historic Buildings

Two historic Presidio warehouses repurposed for new Building 640 near Crissy Field



Presidio of San Francisco (December 18, 2012) — You might call it an historic preservation “transplant.” Two historic Presidio warehouses, meticulously deconstructed to make way for the Presidio Parkway project, are helping breathe life into a reconstructed building taking shape not far from Crissy Field. Old growth lumber salvaged from the deconstruction projects is being re-used in the rehabilitation of Building 640 which will become the new Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center.

“This is sustainability at its finest,” says Dave Seabury, waste reduction coordinator for the Presidio Trust. “There is a tremendous satisfaction in having recovered old growth wood from these historic buildings and re-purposing it to prolong the life of another building. There is a cost savings associated with reusing the lumber, but the monetary value is insignificant. The real value is in preserving the resource.”

Constructed around the turn of the century, Buildings 230 and 204 stood in the shadows of the former Doyle Drive. Their wood-frame construction set them apart from other Presidio warehouses of the era. Previously home to the Presidio’s archaeology lab, Building 230 was originally used as a warehouse and later a clothing store. Building 204 was built in 1896 during a major expansion of the Presidio and was originally the post’s exchange store. Later it was transformed into office space and has also housed a thrift shop and most recently the Trust’s natural resources department.

Earlier this year, Caltrans crews painstakingly took the buildings apart “with a tweezers rather than a tractor,” says Seabury. Stick by stick they peeled away the buildings’ exterior walls, then carefully pulled apart the interior beams, allowing the old-growth Douglas fir and redwood lumber to be recovered. The high quality and highly sought after lumber will be used in Building 640’s new ceilings. The deconstructions were the first of their kind for the Trust, made possible by the Presidio Parkway project commitment to historic preservation.

“We are pleased to be able to repurpose the salvaged lumber in building 640,” said Rosalyn Tonai, Executive Director of the National Japanese American Historical Society, the organization overseeing the rehabilitation of building 640. “It makes sense for this historic wood to be re-used in a building that honors a key period of the Presidio’s history.”

Originally intended as a temporary warehouse, Building 640 became home to one of World War II’s best kept secrets — the Army’s Military Intelligence Service language school. The new MIS Historic Learning Center will feature exhibits and ongoing public programs devoted to the experience of MIS soldiers. The 10,000 square-foot facility will include a recreated classroom, barracks, and mission map room that will illustrate the historic achievements of the MIS; as well as displays from a growing collection of over 10,000 Japanese-American military documents and other historic artifacts.

The Presidio Trust (the Trust) is a distinguished federal agency created to save and transform the Presidio of San Francisco, an historic American place steeped in service. The Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to administer the Presidio, a former army base and new urban national park site located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Today, over 2,700 people live in the park’s former military housing, and more than 200 organizations have located in Presidio buildings, attracted by the Presidio’s beauty and historic significance. Under the Trust’s management, the Presidio has been transformed into a stunning visitor destination with an extensive system of trails and scenic overlooks; rehabilitated historic buildings; programs that teach about the Presidio’s military history and natural resources, and tenants and residents who help to sustain the park. To learn more about the Trust, visit

The Presidio Parkway project was carefully planned to reduce environmental impacts and protect historic resources. As part of the cultural resource mitigation program, Caltrans and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority documented each building in accordance with the Historic American Building Survey program, a federal program sponsored by the National Park Service charged with creating a permanent, publicly accessible record of significant historic buildings. Each building was documented with measured drawings, large-format photographs, 3-D laser scanning, and written histories.

Media Contacts

Lisa Petrie

Presidio Trust

(415) 264-7787