Public Health Hospital : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I would like to know more about the Public Health Hospital at Lake and 15th. When and why did it close down? I just went by there today and it looked really spooky. I've heard that a lot of the medical instruments are still inside of the building. Was it abandoned in haste? Thanks!

-- Alice (, January 23, 2002


The public health hospital was built all the way back in 1930 not for the Army but for would you believe U.S. merchant seaman. How many hospitals in the U.S. do you know of that were built for just merchant seaman. There is a story behind that too but I'm don't have the time to go into it. Since not that many U.S. merchant seaman were using it, the hospital then became public health hospital. Then what happened was that in the late 70s, a lot of World War II and Vietnam vets were starting to pour into Veterans hospital and Letterman hospital. The result was that the Army desperately needed more space and they argued that they needed this space because in case of a crisis, they wouldn't have any extra space available. They made their point and in 1981 the Army took over the building. In the late 80s the U.S. government decided to significantly cut back on military spending because for one thing the national had an incredibly huge debt to pay off. The Joint Chiefs decided that many of the military basis in this area were not needed so places like the Presidio and Treasure island were closed down. So when the army abandoned the Presidio, they also abandoned the hospital. For awhile, there was a big movement in the city to convert the hospital to and AIDS hospital but what happened was that there was a terrible protest from the neighborhood and also not enough funding. As far as it being closed down in a hurry. The entire Presideo was closed down in a hurry. Hell, I took tours of some of those supposedly closed buildings and yes it looked like people had not even realized they weren't coming back to work the next day. Treasure Island was really amazing. It was like an entire city was abandoned and you could just pry open any window and take a tour. I loved going into the missile bomb silo on the Eastern part of Yerba Buena island and also in some of the officers homes near the top of Yerba Buena Island. Everything was abandoned. Anyway, there is no security at the Public Health Hospital either and so to discourage people from breaking and entering, they put signs on the doors or near the entrances saying something like Dangerous Asbestos, keep clear. Well, I have to go now.

-- Harry Murphy (*), February 11, 2002.

The following history of the Marine Hospital is from March 1999 issue of the Presdio Trust's monthly newsletter:

"A Century of Service"

"In 1798, the Department of the Treasury established the Marine Hospital Service to provide free medical care for the world’s merchant marine seamen. After the discovery of gold in 1848, San Francisco became a bustling port bursting with new visitors. In response to a request from the California legislature, the U.S. Congress appropriated $500,000 in 1850 for a hospital to treat injured merchant marine seamen. The Marine Hospital was completed in 1853 and located in San Francisco at the corner of Harrison and Spear streets in Rincon Point.

"The earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1868 made the hospital unusable, and a search for a new site began. In 1874, an agreement was reached between the Secretary of the Treasury and the Army to designate land in the Presidio near Mountain Lake for a new hospital site. Three wood-frame ward buildings, small living quarters and a concrete boiler house were completed in 1875. In 1902, the Marine Hospital Service was renamed the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service and therefore the hospital became the Public Health Service Hospital.

"In 1932 the wooden hospital buildings were replaced by a new, reinforced concrete, six-story hospital building, which was the largest structure on the post. Other additions included a recreation center, nurses’ quarters, officers’ quarters and laboratories. In 1952, more structures were added to the hospital complex, including wings attached to the main building. The hospital was designated for closure in 1970 due to decreased usage. After strong protest, the decision was repealed. However, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 terminated medical benefits for merchant seamen, and the hospital closed on November 1 of that year, after more than 100 years of service. In 1994, the site was included within the boundaries of the park."

-- John Martini (, February 12, 2002.

I've heard rumours of the place remaining out of service because of existence of asbestos. That doesn't seem to have warded off the plethora of graffiti artists. Anyone know if that's true? Haven't been able to find much information on this place...unfortunate, because it's intriguing.

-- noele l. (, April 27, 2004.

Its a known fact that over 500 of the merchent seamen are buried behind the hospital and that their graves have now been asphalted over. What a serious shame and potentially haunting information.

-- NKS (, July 18, 2004.

NKS...The Presdio Trust Management desires to remedy this. They rightly believe the cemetery should not be further disturbed. The tennis courts and parking lot should be removed and the whole area planted with native vegetation. A monument or plaque should be constructed with all the known names still available so this slight can be somewhat rectified and the matter finally put to rest. Money seems to be tight at the moment....

Care to donate to help in this cause?

-- strange (, July 18, 2004.


-- JANELLE BYRNE (LUCKGURL91@AOL.COM), August 05, 2004.

Hell yes this place is haunted. Me and my friends went in yesterday and this lady past right behing me and when I turned around I just saw her white hair. When we went further on in the dark hall way, a piano was playing and we were hella scared because we were the only ones in the building, so we got out through a broken window and ran as fast as we can out of there.When we were starrind at the building outside, I saw the same old lady in the @nd floor, and I saw through her and music was coming out of the widow,, but I didn't see through her. My friend also saw her, and we were like, cool. If you go to the 4th floor in a certain room, you willl get killed. Don't ever go there alone, go with like 30 people and with strong weapons!!!!

-- Tanya Bendana (, October 10, 2004.

my friends and i go in that place almost ritually. we are never shure if we can get into trouble for going in though. we always go with at least six peaple and make shure to have baseball bats and other various weapons. i'm not shure if it is haunted, but the squatters are what i am really worried about. what are the buildings behind the hospital? i havent had the balls to venture there yet but the hospital itself is awesome, what kind of hospital was it. (example... mental, veterans, general, i wonder if it is haunted.

-- Josh (, October 18, 2004.

I was in the hospital last night, and walked out in handcuffs.

I made several short student films in the building, and I appreciate it very much for its aesthetic qualities and psychological spookiness, but it is NOT WORTH IT. I am starting to have concerns about he asbestos, even though short exposure is normally not a problem. There IS A ROOM WITH NO FLOOR. And believe it or not guys, there are cops sweeping through the building routinely, checking every single room. You WILL get found if you go at night. I was extremely fortunate to be let off the hook, as were my friends, but that was only due to our respect and submission to the police officers.

The cops have good reason to be in there, as there is an armed, homeless carjacker believed to be living in the hospital or in the surrounding forest. Don't go in. Just don't.

-- no comment! (, October 30, 2004.

yeah theres also an alarm system on the 1st floor thats triggered by a motion senser...hey i didnt know about the homeless that true?

-- jd (, December 27, 2004.

Check out


Some comments:

The place is not hanted. All the ghosts dies long time ago from asbestos poisonning. Just kidding!

There might me some asbestos, but there is not a lot of it (compared to other places I have visited). Most of the windows are broken so there is a pretty good ventilation, so asbestos is a minimal risk there.

Yes, there are holes on the floor of some rooms, always watch your steps!

If the cops sometimes sweep the building, it's to look for squatters. They don't do that often, and if they do that, you would probably see dozens of police cars in the parking :) The presidio people are rightly concerned by people who would set camp in the building, as they are likely to lit fires and cause a building fire. I have seen several places with arson traces in the building.

I never heard about the carjacker guy story, even from talking with some US park police. The park police mentions ghosts, i think that's why they are affraid to get inside :)

Ther IS an alarm system in the main stairway area, it was installed shortly before christmas 2004, when they fixed the fence and re- boarded the building. The alarm makes a lot of noise and notifies the park police, but I have never seen them entering the building and conducting a full sweep when they come on the alarm. They just wait around the building and try to catch people who run away. If you ignore the alarm and stay stealth in the upper levels, and you will see the cops going away after a while. avoid the main stairway at all costs, even in the upper stories. don't even cross it. there are other ways, and the entire building can still be explored without triggering the alarm.

This was NOT a mental hospital. It was used for people with serious nasty infectious deseases, e.g. leprosy, tuberculosys, plague, etc.

Yes, there is an old cemetary under the asphated area north of the hospital.

> If you go to the 4th floor in a certain room, you willl get killed. Don't ever go there alone.

I've been in all the rooms, alone, and apparently i'm still alive :)


no. it was the reflection of the moon in the window!

-- tristan (, January 09, 2005.

there is definatley an alarm system in the building. i know cuase i set it off last weekend. and the park cops did catch me outside. they gave me $100 ticket for trespassing. and took my paint. they couldnt prove i did any writing inside so they couldnt charge me with that.

i was in the main stairwell on the 3rd floor. i wish i had found this site earlier.

if the alarm does go off do what the thread above said. do not run. if i had hidden inside they wouldnt have caught me. only 2 cop cars were outside, they would have gone away if i had stayed inside the building. they are not going to sweep the entire building if the alarm goes off. just hide and you'll be fine.

also id advise you to go in groups. not alone. its better to have back up.

stay out of the main stairwell.

-- d (, January 11, 2005.

Guess I should come clean and admit that I ysed to work for the Park Service at the Presidio. I'm forwarding these postings about trespass and vandalism at the Public Health Service hospital on to the Park Police.

-- anony (, January 11, 2005.

> Guess I should come clean and admit that I ysed to work for the Park Service at the Presidio. I'm forwarding these postings about trespass and vandalism at the Public Health Service hospital on to the Park Police.

I think you should come cleaner and indicate your real name and email address, too. There is no shame in doing what you did. But I think the Park Police is well aware of all the issues with PHSH. I spoke with one of their officer, in person, and did not hide behind an anonymous email.

This is a public forum so law enforcement can certainely read it if they want. Trespassing in an abandoned building, although technically a misdaeminor, it not a very serious crime, especially if there is no intend to cause any depredation. Being a photographer, I have often been inside abandoned buildings, and I never felt that I was committing a crime against anyone by doing so.

Presidio People are concerned about possible accidents and arson, and I can understand that. Vandalism exists in PHSH but it is not a big problem since the building will be destroyed (or rehabilitated) and everything that is inside has no value (or in fact negative value, e.g. like toxic waste) and will be sent to the junkyard. But let's not be paranoid, this abandoned hospital is not like an active military base. Trespassers endanger mostly their own life by getting in there.

-- tristan (, January 12, 2005.

Oh my god yes that place is haunted! Me and my friends went there three days in a row. On the last day we took a video camera and went during the day. Later on that night we got together at someone's house to watch it, and the whole film was black. Everyone ragged on the guy who had been filming saying he'd forgotten to take off the lense or had left his finger over the viewfinder thingy. We went back a couple days later to film again, only this time I filmed half and another person filmed halfof our "escapades". We were careful not to cover the camera at all, but when we watched it later, it was black, just like the other tape! Creepy!

-- Molly O'Grady (, January 23, 2005.

I went to the hospital this last saturday just to go and check it out with my friend Harry, Mateo and Ashley. We first just looked around the went to the roof. We chilled there for a while then went down stairs. When we approched the main stairwell we saw a guy in a uniform walking towards us. At that second we ran as fast as we could into a roof about three floors down. We sat quietly but when we heard a walkie-talkie we ran out of the building. We all sat on the big staircase in the back for a while. People started to smoke and chill out a little. One of my friends said that she saw a man in black up the hill. We stood up but no one was there. I looked down at a driveway to see cops rooloing up. My friend droped the b***t and we ran. But unfortunately did not get away. That day we got arrested for trespassing on "federal land". We aperently triggered 4 motion detecters that set off a silent alram. If you do ever go there do not go in the main stairwell. Watch out for motion detecters and cream colored half bubbled cameras on the walls. If you do set off the alarm or see cops in the hospital searching for you.... you should not run out of the hospital. If you do that there is a larger chance that they will catch you. Go to the top floor and chill in a room with a door and a window that looks apon the cops car. When they leave wit like five min then run the f**k out of there... dont stay, leave and get away from the hospital. You will be fine if you do this. Good luck and dont get caught!

-- Samantha Douglas (, January 24, 2005.

if anyone wants to go into the hospital do NOT. i was in there a few days ago with a few people and we set off a motion alarm and we ran out of there as fast as we could but didnt get away when we were leaving, the cops where at the top of the stairs...we all got arrested and got charged for tresspassing. If you do decide to go be really careful. I have never seen a ghost or "car jacker" in the building before but i have heard alot of random banging and music playing.

-- (, January 25, 2005.

agreed that spot is dead fool they are bout to destroy it so there is no point in painting and even if ur going juss to practice u might as well juss practice on the side of a police station in all seriousness

-- (, January 26, 2005.

> Oh my god yes that place is haunted! > the whole film was black. > when we watched it later, it was black, just like the other tape! Creepy!

Weired - I never had problem taking photos, and even videos, in this building.


> a guy in a uniform walking towards us.

probably officer Smith from park police :)

-- tristan (, January 26, 2005.

It's been a long time since I posted my other comment, but in response to tristan-

The cops do, in fact, conduct full sweeps- with police dogs. Imagine my fear on the night that i got caught when I was looking for my friend and I just start to hear panting, which, unfortunately, wasn't my frightened breath. They go through with german shepards, especially near holiday weekends to catch stupid teenagers like myself.

The carjacker story is likely a lie.

As was a few other lies that the police told me, like I was commiting a felony, and that they were towing my car, and that we were all appearing in court no matter what happened. And the police that slapped cuffs on me definitely weren't afraid of any ghosts.

-also, it's untrue that the cops nonchalantly wait around for you at the exit. There are a few exits, if I'm not mistaken, and I've managed to avoid cops that I heard in the building before, but that was just lucky timing. Hanging out in one of the upper floor rooms does NOT guarantee safety. 1, we were surrounded by asbestos while we crouched in this little room, and 2, they found us. Dogs!

-- no comment! (, March 08, 2005.

> The cops do, in fact, conduct full sweeps- with police dogs.

They rarely do so. I know that officer smith has a german shepard and he takes it sometimes in the building.

> -also, it's untrue that the cops nonchalantly wait around for you at the exit.

each time I have seen the police coming at the building, they did not enter, they just waited around. most people get caught because they run out when they trigger the alarm.

> Hanging out in one of the upper floor rooms does NOT guarantee safety.

It does unless you are not lucky and the police gets in with dogs. I suppose that the park police enters when they are 100% sure that they will find someone, and when they have nothing better to do!

Being in this abandoned building is not a felony, it technically a misdemaenor (CPC 602 "No Trespassing"). If you are not causing any depredation and cooperate with the park police, it is unlikely to get you into serious trouble, but you should be responsible and decide whether it is worth going inside and risk getting cought. Last time I was caught in some abandoned buildings (in hunters point naval shipyard, last week-end), they just asked me to leave.

-- tristan (, March 08, 2005.

Actually, entering the Public Health Service hospital IS a citable offense under federal law, since the Presidio is under federal jurisdiction. I dusted off my old Title 36 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations and found the following:

36 CFR 2.31 Trespassing, tampering and vandalism. (a) The following are prohibited:

(1) Trespassing. Trespassing, entering or remaining in or upon property or real property not open to the public, except with the express invitation or consent of the person having lawful control of the property or real property.

(2) Tampering. Tampering or attempting to tamper with property or real property, or moving, manipulating or setting in motion any of the parts thereof, except when such property is under one's lawful control or possession.

(3) Vandalism. Destroying, injuring, defacing, or damaging property or real property.

-- John Martini (, March 09, 2005.

> Actually, entering the Public Health Service hospital IS a citable offense under federal law, since the Presidio is under federal jurisdiction.

But would a juge let the Presidio Trust sue a trespasser to the fullest extent of the, given the minor nature of the "crime" ?

i.e. this is an abandoned building, not an active site, and from what I have heard, most people arrested by the parc police have been let out with just a warning.

So it would seem unlikely that all of a sudden the Presidio would pick one person for just simple trespassing (no depredation/vandalism), and hit them with procecussion under federal law.

-- tristan (, March 09, 2005.

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