Introduction to Richmond, California
Richmond is the 58th largest city in California. It is located within Contra Costa County. Richmond lies 12 miles northeast of San Francisco, although it is 16 miles over the roads. The two cities are separated by San Francisco Bay. Richmond lies along Interstate 80. It is also at the eastern end of Interstate 580, which connects it by bridge with San Rafael, a city that lies just 10 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The city is served by two major airports and one with limited scheduled passenger service. All are within 28 miles of the city. Several bus lines provide service. A combined railway station provides access to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit District) and AMTRAK, which provides inter city passenger rail service across the United States. The city's deep water shipping port is the third largest in California as measured by annual tonnage
Esselen Indians lived in the area about 5,000 years ago until the Ohlone Indians displaced them some time before 500 A.D. In 1823 Mexico granted 17,000 acres of land in present day Contra Costa County to Don Francisco Castro. Part of this land grant, named Rancho San Pablo, became the city of Richmond. As with other Californian Ranchos which gave birth to cities, San Pablo was first used for agricultural on a grand scale. It then evolved into commercial, industrial, and residential use as it was divided into ever smaller parcels of land.
By 1900 the Santa Fe Railroad had established its western terminus in Richmond. This was a convenient location because passengers traveling to San Francisco from the east could simply board a ferry for the final leg across San Francisco Bay. This saved the expense of constructing tracks all the way around the bay. The railroad attracted other activity, and soon the Standard Oil Company (now called Chevron), Stauffer Chemical, Pullman Palace Car, and others built industrial facilities here. The dredging of a deep water harbor in the 1920's was instrumental in attracting the Ford Motor Assembly Plant in 1931.
World War II brought a massive shipbuilding effort at the Kaiser Shipyards and a four fold population increase from 1941 to 1943. After the shipyard closed in 1945, a population decrease of 30% occurred between 1947 and 1960. Vacant space was filled to a large extent by warehousing and distribution operations, for example those of Ford Parts Depot, International Harvester, Safeway, and United Grocers.
In a story familiar to many cities, Richmond's downtown has lost economic vitality to the Hilltop Mall Regional Shopping Center. But like many cities, the industrial decline at the waterfront has given birth to a mixed use area with the unmatchable attraction of the water's edge. As part of the Harbour Redevelopment Project, begun in the mid 1970's, a 350 acre master-planned Marina Bay development has risen on the site of the wartime shipbuilding industry. When completed it will consist of 2,100 homes, two thirds of a million square feet of commercial space, a marina for 1,500 pleasure boats, parks, lagoons, and promenades.
Arts and Leisure
Four of Richmond's main Cultural organizations are:
- The Richmond Art Center which contains 5,000 square feet of gallery space and a courtyard for sculpture. Its educational and outreach programs have included artist studio tours and a large community mural project involving 30 organizations.
- The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (EBCPA) which was founded in 1968 under the name of the East Bay Music Center. It was begun by five area teachers as a response to the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and the violence that followed. Since then it has expanded by adding dance, theater, and film making. Original works for theatrical and film, produced by its staff and students, total more than 42.
- The Richmond Museum of History presents the prehistoric and modern stories which one would normally expect of a local museum. But its highlight is the last surviving Victory Ship from World War II, which was built in 1944 at the Kaiser Shipyards, and which is currently being restored.
- The Masquer's is a community Playhouse which celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2005. The main season consists of at least five productions each year, both musicals and plays. A special program is dedicated to less mainstream productions.
The city sponsors adult, youth, and senior activities at a dozen locations. Adult activities include fitness, aerobics, softball, volleyball, and water sports. The youth programs include soccer, tennis, baseball, volleyball, water sports, and martial arts.
Richmond continues to build and maintain its section of the Bay Trail, a 400-500 mile hiking trail encircling the San Pablo and San Francisco Bays. The city has the most trail distance of any city along the route.