In 1849, the Army’s newly appointed commander of the Pacific, General Persifer F. Smith moved his headquarters to land which was donated to the government by Semple and Larkin at his request. Three installations were established, each under a different section of the army. The first of which was the home of two companies of the 2nd Infantry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey which eventually became known as the Benicia Barracks. It occupied nearly 99 1/2 acres. The first buildings on the site were frame structures brought by ship from the east coast.
By 1856, there were officers quarters, soldiers quarters, office and guard house, the hospital and a pair of stables surrounding a rectangular parade ground. This picture taken around 1860 is one of the earliest known photo’s of the arsenal showing the store houses, barracks and the roof of the powder magazine.
In 1851, Captain Charles P. Stone was appointed to the head of ordnance for the Pacific Coast and ordered to select a site for an arsenal. He found Benicia to be ideal both due to its excellent climate and its protected position on the strait. In the spring of 1852, the army named the new installation one of the five major permanent arsenals in the US. There were many problems in the early days; land title issues, lack of water and lack of skilled labor. The first powder magazine was constructed in 1851 and was a forty by twenty foot wooden frame structure. Stone built a few other frame buildings on the site, some at his own expense, but they were not substantial and were soon demolished when the permanent buildings were built starting in 1853. The first permanent arsenal structures that were built were the two storage buildings with the small engine house between them, which now houses the Benicia Historical Museum. Go to the Museum Complex Buildings Page to learn more about them.
The second installation that was established was a supply depot for the Quartermasters Corps. Overflowing warehouses and expiring leases in San Francisco made a permanent location desperately needed. The new depot was established in 1849 in the southern portion of the Benicia reservation along the shoreline.
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