Commanding Officer's Quarters

The Benicia Arsenal Commanding Officer’s Quarters was built in 1860 by Julian McAllister, the commander of the installation between 1860 and 1885. The house is situated on a rise, to the west of the original ordinance storage building (Clock Tower Building). By contemporary accounts, McAllister was active in the social life of Benicia. Based on the social norms of the day, and given that McAllister was a leading citizen, it is likely that his residence served as a community focal point. Commanding Officers’ Quarters were historically at the top of the residential hierarchy on any military post. They were the largest and most elaborately designed. They not only indicated rank, but were intended as places for hospitality. It is easy to imagine that the house accommodated military dress balls, afternoon teas, elaborate dinners, meetings of community leaders, holiday parties, or gatherings of staff officers. In the later years of McAllister’s command, the house was altered on both the inside and exterior without change to its primary use as a residence. By the turn of the twentieth century, from 1905 to 1911, Colonel James Walker Benet commanded the Arsenal. He lived in the residence with his family, including his young son Steven Vincent Benet, who was later famous for his writings. Over the ensuing years, the residence served a succession of commanding officers and their families, while (to varying degrees) maintaining its status as a social center. In 1964, the Benicia Arsenal was closed by the U.S. Army, and ownership was conveyed to the City of Benicia.

In the 1970’s the City leased the Commanding Officer’s Quarters to a restaurant operator. The house served as a popular eating establishment and bar for a number of years, until 1981 when it was closed. During it period as a restaurant, the ground floor of the north wing suffered a kitchen fire. The house has been closed and unused for over twenty years. This historic building was recently renovated; a three million dollar effort to restore and seismically retrofit the building was completed in May 2009