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A look back at Treasure Island; remnants of 1939's great fair, ship traffic tours, "Peace in the Pacific."

A look back at Treasure Island

Imagine the cost and logistics of building an island in San Francisco Bay today. The creation of Treasure Island--a herculean task that took two years (1936-37), $3,799,800, and 400 acres of shoals near Yerba Buena Island a half-century ago-- would be financially and environmentally unthinkable in 1986.

It was an ambitious undertaking for an equally ambitious fair, the grandiose 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition, held to commemorate two projects some said couldn't be done--building the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.

In new exhibits at the Treasure Island museum, you can learn more about the fair as well as see displays on the role of the Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy in the Pacific. Fronting the museum, Avenue of Palms is an exposition legacy.

Renowned architects such as Timothy Pflueger and Arthur Brown, Jr., designed fair structures that were art deco whimsies denoting the "Pacific Empire.' Most, including a 400-foot-tall Tower of the Sun, are gone, but you'll see stunning photographs of them.

The museum, originally a fair building, also served as an airport terminal for the amphibious China Clipper, which flew out of Treasure Island from 1939 through 1946. The plane carried 12 passengers (at $1,000 each) and tons of mail on weekly trans-Pacific flights (during World War II, its route ended in Hawaii). A model of the plane dominates a permanent exhibit on the brief but romantic China Clipper service.

Now through May, "Peace in the Pacific,' a hundred-item display, portrays WW II struggles in the Pacific Theater. It features wartime photographs, clippings, and scale models of 39 ships.

A permanent exhibit on the old U.S. Lighthouse Service (now Coast Guard) includes an impressive crystal first-order lens (the brightest of its kind) from the Farallon Islands lighthouse. Ask a guide to turn it on.

The museum, open 10 to 3:30 daily, is free. Park next to it, just inside the main check-in gate, or stop outside the gate and take in a spectacular view of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, San Francisco, and Angel Island. The rest of Treasure Island is a Navy base and off limits.

On adjacent Yerba Buena Island, which is also primarily a military base, the Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service Visitor's Center offers a guided tour that provides a look at how controllers track ships on the Bay. To get to the center, turn right on Macalla Road just before reaching the main gate; go up the hill and turn left on Yerba Buena Road. Park at the tower. Open 9 to 9 daily, it's free. Groups must call (415) 556-2760 for reservations.

To get to Treasure and Yerba Buena islands, take the Bay Bridge (Interstate 80) to the Treasure Island-Yerba Buena Island exit.

Photo: China Clipper model at Treasure Island museum has deck-like sea wings used as pontoons

Photo: At Coast Guard center on Yerba Buena Island, traffic controller monitors Bay ships on radar screen as visitors on tour watch

Photo: Streamline moderne architecture distinguishes Treasure Island museum
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1986
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