Category Archives: Arsenal Park

President Lincoln’s Historic Benicia Arsenal in Peril – Former Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

[Excellent background here on why oppose current plans for new construction in Benicia’s historic Arsenal District.  To sign a petition in support of a lawsuit to stop the plan, see “Help Us Appeal the City’s Approval of these projects!” on  For additional background and photos, see “YES! Benicia Arsenal Park“.   Earlier stories on BenIndy see below– R.S.]

New efforts to save our National Treasure


Benicia, California

August 3, 2022

One woman is responsible for listing most of the historic structures in the Historic Arsenal of Benicia. Ms. Wold, a graduate of University of California at Berkeley (UCB), recognized that the city leaders in 1965 were focused on surviving the Army’s closure of the Arsenal and loss of jobs and business.  Therefore Ms. Wold filled out the forms – around 90 – and got the historic structures listed. State Parks and Recreation was interested in establishing a State Park for the mostly early portion of barracks, garrison, officer quarters, infirmary and enclave of Civil War Era buildings. President Lincoln commissioned the garrison and barracks – about 120 acres – to ensure Union presence to prevent Confederate efforts to make California a slave state. Think about that.

But the city leaders showed little interest in the history and even did a land swap that put many historic structures at risk. Witness the demolition of the 1860s Foundry and Pacific Mail Steamship company office building just three years ago. While Mayor I used my office as a bully pulpit for saving or at least respecting these structures as the last tangible evidence of the first industrial site in California. It was a struggle. At least the city was able to negotiate a settlement price with Amports that will help preserve other historic structures. But none on the list are the first industrial buildings.  Gone. Part of the settlement was to develop a “demolition by neglect ordinance” – an ordinance to prevent intentional or neglect and then seek a demolition permit to tear down. I don’t have the exact numbers but we are talking about more than 20 or so historic structures demolished by this strategy.

The city brushed off the State’s proposal for a State Park and embarked on permitting industrial and commercial development with no master plan, limited infrastructure improvement and legacy problems of pollution that range from monitoring to major cleanup or mitigation – in 2003 dollars about $50 million that ultimately was reimbursed to the developers by the Army. Yep. The United States Army left stuff that could be catastrophic. Some areas can never be safe and that is why we have a few open spaces with trails and not homes.

In the early 2000s there was a “McMansion”* proposal of 16 large, expensive homes for the Historic District C – between the Commanding Officers’ Quarters and Jefferson Mansion and the open space and parade grounds. The city council certified a report that declared there was no environmental impact and approved the project. No impact to the President Lincoln commissioned Arsenal. No impact to the historic parade ground and oak trees planted like sentinel soldiers to guard the Civil War enclave.  A large and passionate group organized, sued the city for failure to asses the impacts and also gathered signatures for a referendum on the city council approval. The applicant and city settled with us and we put the money toward beginning restoration of the Commanding Officers’ Quarters where Arts Benicia is now. 

The Secretary of the Interior and the State Office of Historic Preservation have written in the past that too many new structures will impact the historic integrity of the district. It may be removed from the National Register.  President Lincoln’s commissioned Arsenal – removed from the National listing because the city leaders acquiesce to misguided state legislation that the city interprets in a manner that favors the applicants.

Here are the links to the appeals filed by Benicia Arsenal Park Task Force and Benicia Arsenal Defense.

*In suburban communities, McMansion is a pejorative term for a large “mass-produced” dwelling marketed to the upper middle class.

P.S The first link is one appeal and the second link is the other appeal – just can’t make a link work for two documents. I hope you read them. They are short.

See earlier on BenIndy:

Benicia Petition: STOP approval of 163 condos and apartments on Jefferson Street’s historic Officers’ Row

September 6, 2021

Benicia Arsenal Park Task Force petition would preserve Jefferson Street Officers’ Row

Hello Friends for Benicia,

Marilyn Bardet, Benicia

As a member of the Benicia Arsenal Park Task Force [BAPTF], I’m asking for your help to protect from density housing development the last precious open spaces along Jefferson Street’s Officers’ Row that date back to the Civil War era. These landscapes are central to the character and 19th century ambiance of the Arsenal Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On this Labor Day, I hope you can take a moment to read our petition and consider signing it to save these heritage sites from avoidable destruction.

>> Petition >> STOP approval of 163 condos and apartments on Jefferson Street’s historic Officers’ Row! ·

The Benicia Arsenal is central to the history of the City of Benicia from its earliest days. We believe these former military grounds deserve to become Arsenal Park for the benefit of all, to honor Benicia’s unique place in state and U.S. history, and, not least, for sake of the beauty and calm these landscapes – maintained and gardened by the army for 104 years – still offer in the midst of our industrialized lower Arsenal area.

An Arsenal Park would protect our City’s unique heritage and represent our legacy for future generations: it would be a magnet within District C for the leisurely enjoyment of residents and tourists alike. It would be central to development of heritage tourism, as envisioned by the Benicia General Plan, to derive economic benefit from our historic resources.

While we strongly support creating affordable housing in Benicia, we know there are other available parcels in town that would provide suitable and feasible locations for infill density residential. We do not need to sacrifice the heart of the Arsenal Historic District for only a few affordable housing units within a massive “market rate” condo development!

For more about the Arsenal and District C, please visit our website <>

If you sign the petition, thank you for your support of this good cause! You can help get the word out by circulating the petition to friends and neighbors, and by sharing the link to our website.

Let’s aim high, as always, together!

🙂 Marilyn

Click here to sign the petition!