Batteries Smith-Guthrie & O’Rorke


On an overcast Sunday afternoon Claudia and I headed out to the Marin Headlands for the Headland Center for the Arts Summer Open House (always fun.) After touring the studios and a tasty lunch in the HCA galley we headed out to take some photographs. We elected to visit Batteries Smith-Guthrie and O’Rorke, Endicott-era gun emplacements on the coastal ridge at the southern end of Rodeo Beach. Battery Smith-Guthrie once boasted four six-inch, rapid-fire guns on barbette mounts while Battery O’Rorke had four three-inch guns. Both defended minefields north of the Golden Gate. Winds were light for this time of year at around 10-12 MPH. The Sutton Flowform 30 proved just adequate for my new lightweight Canon EOS-M cradle.

Battery Smith-Guthrie

A view of the batteries from the southeast toward Rodeo Beach.

I have photographed these batteries before and given the dull overcast I did not expect much new out of this session. The highlight for me was a series of very low level KAP shots (< 6 feet high) taken at Battery O’Rorke. These were taken just after I launched the cradle having retrieved it for a few moments to make a few adjustments. Like many of the other Endicott-period batteries, Battery O’Rorke is slowly returning to the earth. In this low level series you can see the blast apron slightly separating from its adjacent concrete paving with a neat line of opportunistic grass accenting the gap. I have read in old c. 1890’s reports the mention of “granolithing,” a form of concrete pour that mixes cement with crushed granite aggregate. These photographs have me wondering if the smoother surface is granolith.

Battery O'Rorke

Blast apron detail. The two planes of concrete are slowly separating.

It is pleasant spending time around Batteries Smith-Guthrie and O’Rorke. They command sweeping views of the northern approach to the Golden Gate – an asset for Sunday picnics as well as harbor defense. The kite flying was fun and the session yielded some useable photographs. Altogether an afternoon well spent.

Here is a set of images from the session that I have posted to Flickr:




I am taking these aerial photographs as a volunteer with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. For more information see

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