By Alexa Chipman May 9, 2017
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought America into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that gave near carte blanche power to remove undesirable persons. It was Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt at the Presidio in San Francisco who translated his general command into the specific incarceration of 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry, who were forcibly relocated into camps, despite most of them being citizens. The overwhelming antagonistic sentiment drowned out protests, and began a dark chapter in American history.
The exhibit “Exclusion: The Presidio’s Role in WWII Japanese American Incarceration” faces this era with a challenging installation at the Officer’s Club. Opening with a timeline of immigration laws reflecting growing anti-Japanese legislation and ending well after World War II, it sets the stage for a noir style exhibit of dark walls punctuated by reproduction posters of instructions that were placed throughout the West Coast explaining where those of Japanese ancestry had to present themselves.
A desk similar to the one DeWitt used when he chose to implement the incarceration dominates the room, opposite a translucent window for viewing the corridor outside, covered with thousands of names from those affected by the general’s decision. This small, powerful exhibit will be available through March, 2018.
Officer’s Club Hours:
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Closed Mondays)
Visit the website
Where to Eat
After perusing the museum, wander downstairs to Arguello, the Presidio Officer’s Club restaurant. Its elegantly presented Mexican fare is delicious, especially the tacos. The mixologist is phenomenal, with seasonal artisan cocktails or traditional margarita pitchers for a refreshing accompaniment. There is outdoor seating if the weather is agreeable, and if you are there in spring, the Presidio is carpeted with flowers. For dessert, try their freshly made churros dipped in chocolate.
If you’re keeping an eye on the budget, The Walt Disney Family Museum is around the corner with salads and sandwiches. Their half salads are quite generous, I would recommend the tuna which is heaped with fresh greens, fish and tomatoes.
If you are craving a coffee pick-me-up or quick snack, try the Transit Café on the opposite end of the parade grounds by the Visitor Center.
Events at the Presidio
As the largest urban national park, it is a vibrant community with arts events, lectures, night life at the Commissary Restaurant, book club and screenings. During the summer, stop by on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for the Presidio Picnic and enjoy gourmet food trucks, games and yoga on the lawn. Visit the Presidio website for upcoming activities.
If you are feeling adventurous, the Presidio has 24 miles of hiking trails through tranquil woods and a campground on Rob Hill to stay overnight—the only one in San Francisco.