Original Fort Baker officers’ quarters and barracks return to life as a luxury eco resort

Spectacular views of San Francisco across the bay combine with a breathtaking backdrop framed by the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands surrounding the sheltered cove and marina at Cavallo Point, the site of old Fort Baker near Sausalito.

This pre-WWI military post built between 1901 and 1910 has been completely restored to its former grandeur and now serves as an “eco resort” open to the public since July 1, 2008, boasting 68 historic and 74 contemporary luxury guest rooms and suites.

The overall cost of the project was $103 million, according to Ted Lieser, project manager with The Fort Baker Retreat Group LLC, owner and developer of the project.

Of this total, roughly $45 million went into rehabilitation of the historic buildings, $23 million went toward construction of the new buildings, $10 million went into site work and landscaping, $19 million for design, engineering and other “soft costs” and $6 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The Fort Baker Retreat Group is comprised of Passport Resorts LLC, Equity Community Builders LLC and the Ajax Capital Group. Cavallo Point Lodge is committed to the highest standards of historic preservation and sustainability, evidenced by the lodge’s environmental ethic and the mission of this national park site.

Many suites come with separate living rooms, gas fireplaces and outdoor spaces where guests can relax and take in the views al fresco. Each accommodation features the highest quality beds, certified organic linens and cozy reading chairs as well as windows that open to bay breezes.

The expansive grounds include 15,000 square feet of outdoor meeting space and the former parade ground; amenities include the signature Murray Circle Restaurant and Farley Bar, private dining and banquet facilities and 14,000 square feet of adaptable meeting places. The grounds are also home to Cavallo Point’s on-site cooking school. All cuisine is under the direction of Michelin-starred Executive Chef Joseph Humphrey.

Both hotel guests and day visitors can enjoy the 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa and Tea Bar featuring 11 treatment rooms for massages and facials, in addition to exercise and yoga classes and a heated outdoor basking pool. There is an “Experiences in Wellbeing” program along with hiking, kayaking, biking and team-building activities for guests to enjoy.

A variety of workshops, creative arts, art walking tours and culinary arts programs are also provided. Guests can also participate in olive oil, tea and wine tastings and engage in fireside chats with park service experts.

Ken Aherns, project manager with Herrero Contractors, the general contractor for the Cavallo Point project, said a total of 21 historic building restorations were involved, including 16 renovated officers’ quarters and guest quarters and five common buildings, such as the old chapel converted to a meeting space; the former gymnasium transformed into a meeting complex; a concrete bunker that is now maintenance space; laundry and engineering building; plus vintage barracks that became a restaurant, bar and “New construction started in the fall of 2006 while the historic restoration work commenced in January of 2007,” Mr. Aherns said. “Our mission was to retain and restore. However, sometimes we had to replace dry-rotted wood. This involved peeling unusable wood down to solid core elements and replacing it with new materials to retain the historic fabric of the site.”

In one case the team had to work from old photos to restore porches to their original condition following the removal of key features in the 1930s. “At the same time, we had to install new fire alarms, sprinklers, electric and MEP systems to bring the facility up to code, add new bathrooms and place flue inserts and collar brackets on chimneys for seismic and fire safety,” Mr. Aherns added.

For Jim Dickey of Cinquini & Passarino Inc., the firm responsible for the construction layout and land surveying, this was a once-in-a-lifetime project resulting in a beautiful destination resort. The second phase focused on new construction.

The goal was to preserve the past while making this lodge as up to date and environmentally friendly as possible.

Thirteen new buildings were constructed along with pathways, site lighting, parking lots and up-to-date utilities. All workers had to take Mission Blue Butterfly training from a National Park biologist to help safeguard this endangered species as well as to become sensitized to the need to protect nearby wetlands.

Wood-burning fireplaces were refitted to use natural gas. Every original item removed, such as tin ceiling panels, had to be carefully cataloged, numbered and stored so they could be accurately replaced when refurbished.

Precise measurements were taken of unsalvageable gingerbread and chair rail designs to create exact replicas executed by a Herrero Southern California millworker.

In all, about 15 percent to 20 percent of the original wood and features had to be replaced, meaning that from 80 percent to 85 percent was refinished on site or put back once removed and reconditioned.

In keeping with Cavallo Point’s green philosophy and after myriad efforts to make this eco resort as green as possible, U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification is pending. The hotel hopes to achieve a Gold rating. The lodge is also working to meet the Green Seal Environmental Standard for U.S. lodging properties.