Tom Butt
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  Forgotten Tales of Point Molate - Industrialization of the Point San Pablo Peninsula
May 6, 2022

With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho San Pablo was filed with the Public Land Commission by Joaquín Ysidro Castro in 1852, and the grant was patented to Joaquín Ysidro Castro in 1878.

Figure 1 - In 1894, what is now Point Richmond and the Point San Pablo Peninsula was a high tide island.

At the turn of the 20th Century, what is now Richmond quickly transitioned from hayfields to industry with the establishment of a railhead at Point Richmond and construction of what is now the Chevron Refinery. The Point San Pablo Peninsula became Richmond’s industrial heartland, with quarries, brickworks, fish processing facilities, a barrel factory, and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Winehaven.

Figure 2 - The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway came to Richmond in 1899, and the refinery that is now Chevron was completed in 1902. This 1910 map shows the rapid industrialization in the first decade of the 20th Century, including the Richmond Belt railway, Winehaven, Point Orient and the fish processing facilities at Point San Pablo.

Figure 3 - On New Year’s Day of 1903, the Richmond Record Herald touted the impending construction of a belt line railway along Richmond’s western waterfront and around Point San Pablo, tying together “…the dozens of factories and great system of docks which are projected to entirely encircle the vast waterfront.”

Figure 4 - In the early 20th Century, boosters market Richmond as the "Pittsburg of the West."


Figure 5 - With the west shore of the San Pablo Peninsula nearly built out, dreamers envisioned a North Harbor of Richmond roughly where the Chevron settling ponds are now located.

Figure 6 - The San Pablo Peninsula was marketed for its industrial opportunities

Figure 7 - The Central Brick Company, just south of where Terminal 4 is now.

Figure 8 - Before kerosene became big, the world burned whale oil, and this manufacturing facility was located where the Long Wharf is today.

Figure 9 - The Healy-Tibbets Quarry reduced the hill at point Molate to the flat site it is today.

Figure 10 - To package and store cased goods for Asian markets, Pacific Coast Oil (predecessor to Standard Oil) established the Point Orient facility two miles from Richmond and began shipments of kerosene, relabeled Victory and Cock, to Japan, the Philippines and India. Originally an unmarked spot on an isolated beach at the time Rheem identified the refinery property, the Port Orient wharf handled so much kerosene for China that sailors all over the Pacific knew of it and gave it its name.

Figure 11 - The growth in commercial sardine fishing spurred construction of a number of fish processing plants between Point Molate and the Point San Pablo Harbor.