A Look Back in History: Health and Recreation at Crystal Springs

By June 1946, World War II had been over for more than six months. But many veterans were still convalescing. Some of those were cared for at the Letterman General Hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco. In 1945 alone, this hospital received more than 73,000 patients from the Pacific Theater.

In the following June 1946 letter, Major James T. Lang documents a conversation he had with the Water Department’s General Manager, N.A. Eckart. In the letter, he outlines a plan concerning a recreational visit to Crystal Springs by select patients from the Army hospital located at the Presidio. He notes that the tour group will consist mostly of “camera-enthusiastic patients.”

It is interesting to also note that, while he is corresponding with the San Francisco Water Department, he refers to the Crystal Springs Reservoirs as “the Spring Valley lakes.”

Veterans to visit Crystal Springs Letter from Letterman Army Hospital to San Francisco Water Department’s General Manager. [Note typo in the header.]

The Letterman General Hospital, built in 1898, was an Army hospital on the Presidio in San Francisco. In 1911, it was named for Major Jonathan Letterman, MD (1824–1872). It remained in service for almost a century until the army base was decommissioned in 1994 and transferred to the National Park Service. The building was demolished in 2002, and in 2005, Lucasfilm opened the Letterman Digital Arts Center on the site of the old hospital.

Letterman General Hospital.

Three days later, on June 28th, the Superintendent of the Water Department’s Peninsula Division was also corresponding with the General Manager on this topic. He details elements of the planned excursion, with no mention of the requested fishing component. Sounds like the Major had wanted to visit Stone Dam. But the Superintendent advises that a large bus would not be able to maneuver the twisty road. However, the patients will get to visit not only Lower Crystal Springs Dam, but also the Pulgas Water Temple and have lunch at the Watershed Keeper’s Cottage. All-in-all, sounds like a lovely day for some deserving vets.

From Water Department Peninsula Superintendent to General Manager.