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  Rename Western Drive (North of I-580) to Stenmark Drive
July 25, 2013

In 2001, the City Council passed Resolution 113-01, “Statement of Policy and Guidelines for Naming and Renaming of Parks and Facilities and Renaming of Streets and Recognition of Citizen Contributions.” Although the policy provides a process for processing a nomination through the Recreation and Parks Commission, that process has never been utilized. Since adoption of Resolution 113-01, at least three streets have been renamed by direct action of the City Council, including Fred Jackson Way (formerly Filbert), Juliga Woods (formerly Erlandson) and Village Lane (formerly 15th Street).

Nevertheless, when I suggested renaming a portion of Western Drive, the City Council insisted that the provisions of Resolution 113-01 be followed, so please consider this a formal nomination to change the name of Western Drive (north of I-80) to Stenmark Drive. This name change was requested by Rosemary Stenmark of Rodeo to recognize one of Richmond earliest and most colorful pioneers associated with what is now Richmond’s oldest surviving structure, East Brother Lighthouse. East Brother Light Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Registered California Historical Landmark. Stenmark is the best-known keeper and served in that position longer than any other person.

  • A map is attached.
  • The reason for the name change described in the attached draft resolution citing the life of Captain J.O. Stenmark.
  • The Classifications under which the name is authorized includes A and C:
    • A.2. Deceased individual who was in a pay status for services. (a) Stenmark did not serve in the preceding three years. (b) His contributions were above and beyond regular duties. (c) His contribution exceeded 10 years in duration, and (d) his contributions had a direct positive effect on the quality of life for the citizens of Richmond. Stenmark’s appointment as keeper of East Brother Light Station spanned the time from the final partition of Point San Pablo in 1894 through the incorporation of the City of Richmond in 1905 until Richmond was an established industrial city. During this time, the population of what is now Richmond grew from less than 100 to more than 20,000. The U.S. Government paid a teacher to operate Richmond’s first public school for the exclusive use of the Stenmark family at East Brother. Stenmark oversaw numerous improvements at East Brother during his 20-year tenure, and his skilled operation of the light and fog signal prevented shipwrecks, a growing risk with the opening of the refinery and other industries in Richmond that depended on maritime transportation. See http://www.ebls.org/stenmark.html for more details.
    • C.2 National Hero. Stenmark’s bravery in saving the life of Lighthouse Inspector Thomas Perry was highly commended by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, and he was rewarded by being appointed keeper at Ano Nuevo Island and later at East Brother.
  • What is now Western Drive was designated as Road 27 when the partition of Rancho San Pablo occurred in 1894. The name Western Drive was adopted at a later date and has no reference to any unique geographic location.
  • There are fewer than half a dozen addresses on this portion of Western Drive, minimizing the logistics of renaming.
  • Legal notices have already been posted.


Western Drive map



WHEREAS, Captain J.O. Stenmark of the U.S. Lighthouse Service was keeper of East Brother Light Station from 1894 to 1914, longer than any other keeper in the 140-year history of the lighthouse, which is the oldest structure in the City of Richmond, and,

WHEREAS, Captain J.O. Stenmark was born in 1865 and emigrated to the United States at age twenty. In 1888 he joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service. His first job was working as a crewman aboard the lighthouse tender Madroño. At that time equipment and supplies for most lighthouses were delivered by ship. The 180-foot-long Madroño had a crew of nineteen and steamed about 10,000 miles each year servicing lighthouses and buoys throughout California. The lighthouse inspector was usually on board to deliver the keepers' pay and to inspect the station. It was while Stenmark was helping unload supplies for the Point Conception lighthouse that he saved the life of Inspector Thomas Perry, and
WHEREAS, Point Conception stands out as the most pronounced point along the California coast. Consequently, seas there can be particularly rough. Captian J.O. Stenmark and some of his fellow crew members were trying to get a small boatload of supplies to shore from the tender. Suddenly, a rough wave capsized the boat, dumping the men and supplies into the water. Perry was carried helplessly away by the heavy seas and was soon in serious trouble. The other crew members clung fearfully to the capsized boat as young Stenmark, bleeding from a cut on his head caused by a breaking oar, swam towards the inspector. Just as the inspector was about to go under, Stenmark reached him and struggled unsuccessfully to swim to shore, holding the officer's head above water. Both men nearly drowned before finally being rescued by the tender, and,
WHEREAS, Captain J.O. Stenmark was highly commended for his bravery. As a reward, on August 1, 1890, he was appointed assistant keeper at Año Nuevo Island fog signal station. Located forty-five miles south of San Francisco, the island supported a twelve-inch steam fog whistle and a small lens-lantern for a light. Although an improvement over life on the lighthouse tender, conditions on the tiny island were far from ideal. Stenmark and his wife, Breta, shared with the principal keeper a tiny cottage that had been partitioned into two living areas. The island residents could only get to and from the island by rowboat. Navigating through the surf, while trying to avoid the rocks around Año Nuevo Point, always made crossing the half-mile channel dangerous. In 1883 four men, including the keeper and assistant, drowned while trying to make the crossing, and,
WHEREAS Captain J.O. Stenmark must have been an able assistant, for in 1892, when keeper Henry Hall was transferred, Stenmark was appointed keeper at Año Nuevo. He continued helping others, several times rescuing fishermen whose boats capsized near the island. In 1894 the Stenmarks' first daughter, Annie, was born at Año Nuevo. Three months later John Stenmark was transferred to East Brother and the young family set up housekeeping on San Francisco Bay. The island was smaller, but the house was bigger, and bay waters usually calmer. The Stenmarks quickly grew to like their new home and stayed almost twenty years, and
WHEREAS, Captain J.O. Stenmark and Breta made the most of the small piece of land. They bought soil from the mainland and grew vegetables in a tiny garden in front of the lighthouse. In pens they raised goats, pigs, rabbits, and chickens. During his first few years as keeper, Stenmark, like his predecessors, rowed the 2 miles to Point San Quentin to do shopping and get mail. Prior to the birth of each of his two sons he rowed all the way to San Quentin and back to fetch the doctor, and
WHEREAS, The Stenmarks had four children: Annie, Ruby, Phillip, and Folke. For several years when the children were young the government paid for a teacher to live at East Brother part of each year and tutor the children. Later, when a road was built from Point San Pablo to the town of Point Richmond, the children attended school there. By that time, mail and provisions were picked up at Point Richmond instead of Point San Quentin, and,
WHEREAS, Daughter Annie lived for the first twenty years of her life on the island until she met and married Charles Morisette. Morisette worked a short distance from the lighthouse at the Standard Oil refinery. "My hubby, Charlie, used to come courting to the island," she recalled fondly in later years. "He couldn't row very good at first, but we soon taught him." When the couple got married in June, 1914, the newspaper announced "Cupid Ends Lighthouse Romance:"
A romance that had its beginning beneath the tall, gray tower of the Brothers Lighthouse, located [off] Point Orient, culminated in a happy marriage at Oakland yesterday when Charles Morisette, a foreman at the Standard Oil wharf, claimed Miss Annie E. Stenmark as his bride.
Miss Stenmark is the daughter of John O. Stenmark, lighthouse keeper [off] that point, and it was while assisting her father about his duties of caring for the great white light that flashes across the treacherous waters of the upper San Pablo bay that she became acquainted with Morisette.
WHEREAS, Despite living on an island, the Stenmarks had many friends in the surrounding bay area. They sometimes entertained as many as fifty friends and relatives at the lighthouse. On the occasion of their nineteenth wedding anniversary, the local newspaper described the gathering:
The guests were carried across to the light house from Bailey's wharf in row boats, and as the bay was calm everyone enjoyed the trip immensely.
The rooms were very prettily decorated for the occasion and the evening was spent with music and dancing. Dainty refreshments were served at the proper time, after which hearty congratulations and best wishes were extended to the host and hostess
WHEREAS, Captain J.O. Stenmark retired as keeper of East Brother in July, 1914. The family moved to Richmond, where they owned and operated the Stenmark Hotel on Fifteenth Street. Stenmark died only a year later in 1915 while on board the steamer, City of Topeka, traveling up the coast from San Francisco, and
WHEREAS, East Brother Light Station benefited from numerous improvements during the two decades the Stenmarks served as keepers. The lighthouse and fog signal gained renewed importance following construction of the Standard Oil refinery in Richmond in 1901. Docks for tankers were built along the San Pablo shoreline only a few hundred yards from the station. In 1909 the California Wine Association also established its huge aging and bottling plant just south of Point San Pablo. The plant had a storage capacity of 12 million gallons and a 1,800-foot wharf where grapes were unloaded and barrels of wine shipped out. With these and other developments, the town of Richmond ballooned in population from 200 in 1901 to 23,000 by 1917.

Because of Captain J.O. Stenmark’s illustrious life and recognition of the colorful contribution to the early history of Richmond by him and his family, Western Drive north of I-580 is hereby renamed “Stenmark Drive.”

A detailed account of the Stenmark years at East Brother may be found at http://www.ebls.org/stenmark.html.

I certify that the foregoing resolution was passed and adopted by the Council of the City of Richmond at a regular meeting thereof held on July _, 2013, by the following vote:





                                                                                    Clerk of the City of Richmond