Indiana Jones & the Treasure Island

Administration Building, Treasure Island

Administration Building, Treasure Island

There are many islands in San Francisco Bay, and most of them are natural. There is however one artificial island that has a short but intriguing history. It’s called Treasure Island, and it was built during the 1930s as the intended location of San Francisco Airport.

The Administration Building on Treasure Island enjoyed its “fifteen minutes of fame” (or less) in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when the airport terminal building was dressed up to portray “Berlin Airport”. The remainder of its existence has mostly been quiet, but its fascinating Art Deco architecture remains on public view to this day.

The first use of the new island was not as an airport, but to host the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. The island’s airport facilities were used by PanAm’s Clipper flying boats, which moored at Clipper Cove (aka the Lagoon of the Trade Winds), between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. This information is missing from the Wikipedia article, but I have a copy of a 1939 color movie titled Trans-Pacific, which shows PanAm passengers arriving at the terminal and boarding a Boeing 314 clipper, which then leaves from Clipper Cove.

After the start of World War II, the US Navy took over the island as a base, swapping the land for its existing base at Mills Field on the Peninsula. As a result, after the War the new San Francisco Airport was developed at Mills Field (which was just as well, because Treasure Island would have been impossibly small). The surviving Boeing 314s actually flew from the shoreline at Mills Field for a short time in 1945-46.

During the 1990s, I was a member of the Treasure Island Museum Association, and was involved with efforts to maintain the museum that was located in the Administration Building, so I visited the island quite frequently, and took the photographs shown in this post. Unfortunately, the museum closed in 1997, due to lack of financial support, but, now that the City of San Francisco owns the building, there are plans to reopen it.

View of Bay Bridge and San Francisco from Treasure Island

View of Bay Bridge and San Francisco from Treasure Island

The spectacular view from the Administration Building towards San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.

Treasure Island with Mustang

Treasure Island with Mustang

The Administration Building one summer evening, with my Mustang parked in front.

Sunset over the Golden Gate from Treasure Island

Sunset over the Golden Gate from Treasure Island

Goodnight from Treasure Island! Sunset over the Golden Gate, from the car park in front of the Administration Building.

Lunch in Tiburon

Angel Island - Tiburon Ferry with San Francisco in background

Angel Island – Tiburon Ferry with San Francisco in background

Yesterday, Mary and I enjoyed lunch at Sam’s Restaurant in Tiburon, with Japanese friends. Our friends live in Tokyo, but were staying in San Francisco for a few days.

They took the ferry from San Francisco to Tiburon to meet us, as shown above. The ferry stops on the way at Angel Island. The photo shows Angel Island and San Francisco behind the ferry, which is about to dock.

Below is the area of the Tiburon foreshore immediately east of the ferry dock. The building at the waterfront is the Railroad & Ferry Museum (unfortunately not open at this time of year). The entire visible foreshore area used to be a railroad yard and ferry transfer dock. The mountains beyond are on Angel Island.


Tiburon foreshore, with site of railroad ferry dock

The photo below shows the Christmas tree by the main highway. This area is now the route of State Highway 131, but was also originally part of the railroad yard.


Christmas tree in Tiburon

The link below takes you to a web site that contains some amazing color photos from the 1950s and 1960s, showing the railroad in operation in these locations. Tiburon looked very different in those days!