Medicine in early South San Francisco


In 2002, the last of the Navy barracks in San Bruno that had been built in the mid-1940s came down. These "temporary” Navy facilities, along El Camino Real in San Bruno, had lasted for almost 60 years. They were built during the height of World War II but were now making way for civilian housing on the Peninsula. Apartments, condominiums, a hotel, retail space and recreation area were to be constructed for the owners of these apartments and condominiums.

When World War II broke out in 1941, all race tracks in California were closed for the duration of the war. This move enabled the government to divert civilian automobiles, gasoline, tires and other related scarce commodities for war use.

The Tanforan race track was appropriated by the U.S. government to be used at first as a relocation area for American-Japanese, and then as a naval base. Facilities at the Tanforan race track soon proved to be extremely inadequate for the intended use of temporary housing for naval personnel passing to the Pacific war zone. The government’s solution was to build another expanded naval facility to the west of Tanforan. By civil action number 23268 in 1944, Camp Terry B. Thompson Navy Base was built in San Bruno, with 113 buildings on 80 acres. The government owned 38 of these acres and 42 acres were leased from San Bruno Lands, Inc. (George W. Williams). Since the 1920s, the area had been farmed by vegetable and flower growers including the Repetto, Pastorino and Piedemonte families. They had purchased 25 acres of land for farming from the Silva family in the 1920s, but now they were ordered off their land. The Piedemonte family quit farming, and the Repetto and Pastorino families moved to the west of San Bruno, and eventually relocated their businesses to State Route 92 by Half Moon Bay.

The Naval facility was now referred to as the Naval Advanced Personnel Depot. The federal government put in $5 million to have the 113 buildings built on land between El Camino, San Bruno Avenue and Sneath Lane. In what in now the Bayhill Shopping Center area, 88 metal quonset huts were built (called Homoji) for the housing of the related-civilian personnel. At that time, San Bruno Avenue was only a path that led to the quonset huts. A 150-bed hospital facility was built where the Ryan National Archives exist today on Commodore Avenue. Immediately off of El Camino near San Bruno Avenue, extensive recreation facilities with a large recreation hall and a lounge for the personnel, 16-lane bowling alley, a 24-chair barber shop and two soda fountains were constructed. A mammoth drill hall was erected that had the capacity to hold 8,000 men, and in which at least six basketball games could be played simultaneously. A church was available, and a combination banking and Red Cross building existed on the grounds. A theater was built that had a capacity to hold 3,000 people. There was also a swimming pool, reported to be the largest in California. After the war, the city of San Bruno tried to negotiate to purchase these facilities, but was unsuccessful, and the swimming pool was filled in with dirt (A savings and loan was built on the site of the swimming pool, and it is now occupied by a Kaiser Hospital facility).

In 1946, the Naval Advanced Personnel Depot was "disestablished.” Numerous name changes occurred in the next few years, but the government continued to operate it in conjunction with buying, selling and operating property for the government in the western United States. In 1952, it became the District Public Works Office of the 12th District, and it had 350 daily workers. By 1959, it officially became the Naval Facility, District Public Works Office. To the north along Sneath Lane was the Avensino- Mortensen nursery.

This was torn down in the mid-60s. In the early 70s, the Homoji quonset huts had been replaced by the Bayhill Shopping Center, and Bayhill Avenue was built. In 1965, the remaining naval facilities became the Western Division-Bureau of Yards and Docks-West Docks. In the 1970s, Interstate 380 was constructed to the south of the remaining barracks. In December 2000, the remaining land that the government held was sold and by December 2001, the government moved out of the facility. In May 2002, all the remaining barracks were razed. In 2003, 20 acres of ‘Navy Land’ were sold for $20 million and construction of Phase I of the apartments for the "Crossroads” complex was begun.

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