Treasure Island – A Look Back

The Treasure Island Music Festival debuted in 2007 and has since become a highlight of the West Coast music festival circuit. It is highly regarded for its star lineups and Bay Area vibe, as well as for its unique location: Treasure Island, a strangely polygonal island in wind-whipped San Francisco Bay.

Given its oddly regular shape, it is not surprising that Treasure Island is a man-made landform. Built in the late 1930s, it was constructed with quarried stone and dredged sand upon the shoals of neighboring Yerba Buena Island, which sits at the foot of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Originally envisioned as supporting an airport, the island was built to host the magnificent “Magic City” of the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, with the aim of funding later development. Despite its elaborate preparations and the locals’ high hopes, the expo flopped.

The island became a naval base in 1941 and was officially seized from the City of San Francisco by the United States Navy shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After World War II and throughout the Cold War, Naval Station Treasure Island was home to an electronics school, a strategic air command radar station, and numerous other military facilities.

Beginning in the 1980s, several of the island’s structures opened up for use as settings and sound stages in filmmaking. Several popular films were shot in part on Treasure Island, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Matrix, Flubber, and Bicentennial Man.

The naval station closed in 1997, but it was not until after several years of red tape, political maneuvering, and cleanup that the island finally began opening up for residential and commercial development. Beginning in 2011, a number of multi-decade plans have been officially approved. Much to the benefit of the Bay Area, development of Treasure Island is finally on the horizon, beginning in no small part with the Treasure Island Music Festival.

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