The Treasure Island Museum occupied an Art Moderne (Art Deco) structure erected in 1938 as both the administrative center for the Golden Gate International Exposition and the future terminal for the planned San Francisco International Airport.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1941, the U.S. Navy acquired use of Treasure Island, upon America's entry into World War II.  Building One became a command and communications center for the duration of the war.

The Museum occupied the lobby of Building One from its founding in 1976 until it was closed in 1997.  In addition to the Museum, Building One housed the headquarters of the Navy in San Francisco.


The Museum Collections:

  • Three Sea Services
  • 1939-40 World's Fair
  • Pan Am China Clippers
  • Lighthouses
  • Technology
  • Museum Facilities and Archives

  • Three Sea Services

    Treasure Island Museum interpreted the American experience in the Pacific as lived by the men and women of the U.S. sea services: the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. 

    Some of the many events covered were:  The voyage of the U.S.S. Essex, the first Navy ship in the Pacific in 1813, and the cruise of the C.W. Lawrence, first Revenue Cutter on the West Coast in 1849, the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, Commodore Perry's expedition to Japan, the Gread White Fleet of President Theodore Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, V-J day on the U.S.S. Missouri on Tokyo Bay, the Marines at Chosin Reservoir in Korea, and the Brown Water Navy of the Indo-China war. 

    The interpretation included original artifacts and documents as well as historic photographs.  The materials on display included a flag taken to the Moon by Navy Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, an original print of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, an actual (but safe) depth charge from World War II, and the diary of a sailor upon entering Tokyo Bay on the first mine sweeper in 1945.

    This was the rich, heroic heritage that was preserved and interpreted by the Treasure Island Museum.

    1939-40 World's Fair

    Located in the former administration building of the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-1940, the Museum exhibited artifacts and memorabilia of the famous "pageant of the Pacific." 

    In addition to celebrating the opening of the two bridges, one theme of this World's Fair held on Treasure Island in 1939 and 1940 was that of "Pacific Unity." International pavilions showcased these cultures, foreshadowing our modern concept of the Pacific Rim. 

    Home to over 40 percent of the world' s population, the Pacific Rim is the strongest single trade area for the U.S., accounting for more than half of the nation's total commerce with the world. It is a dazzling arena of people, cultures, geography and ideology that increasingly shapes our future into the 21st century.

    Pan Am China Clippers

    The first commercial trans-Pacific airline service departed from Clipper Cove, just outside Building One on Treasure Island.  The exhibit depicted the glamorous silver Pan American Airways seaplanes which flew between Treasure Island and the Far East before and during World War II. 12 Boeing B-314s and 3 Martin M-130s were built and operated in this service.  None remain today, except in memories and artifacts.


    The US Coast Guard controls traffic - saving lives - on the waters.  Lighthouses are crucial to preventing maritime accidents. 

    The Treasure Island Museum displayed a collection of artifacts from lighthouses, featuring an actual Fresnel lens used at the Farallon Island lighthouse.  Manufactured in France, this lens lit the waves using an oil lamp and magnifying lenses.  It was the job of the lighthouse keeper to clean it every day.


    Technology was also highlighted in the Museum's exhibits, including the building of Treasure Island, and our two bridges - the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge. The history of Yerba Buena Island was recorded, from its early use as an Army outpost to its present use for maritime traffic control and historic officers' housing.

    Museum Facilities and Archives

    An active group of docents, many with personal recollections of Treasure Island during the World's Fair and World War II, hosted visitors to the Museum and led tours.  Films were viewed in the Museum theater by prior arrangement.  The Museum also hosted receptions, ceremonies and meetings.

    In addition to exhibits, the Museum archives contained invaluable research material, such as photographs, letters and diaries, and a library of related books, donated to the Association.  The archives were available to researchers by appointment, and services were free to museum members. 

    Most of the collection has been transferred to the City of San Francisco.  Meanwhile, our organization has been accumulating our own collection through donations from many individuals.  We look forward to the day when items from both collections can again be placed on exhibit on the island.

    Next: When will the Museum reopen?



    Page last changed March 14, 2016