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Historic Photos of the Port of Redwood City

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Historic Photos of the Port of Redwood City

History of the Port of Redwood City
In 1851, a deep-water channel that ran inland to what is now Redwood City was discovered off of San Francisco Bay. Named "Redwood Creek," this channel was used by the lumber companies to ship wood and logs from the redwood forests in the peninsula hills to San Francisco. Lumber products of all types were brought to the waterfront for export, and Redwood City became famous for its workable port where materials could be shipped without the delay or expense of overland travel.

The port also generated the beginning of the ship-building industry . The first schooner was built in 1851 by G.M. Burnham and appropriately named "Redwood." Shipbuilding remained an active industry until the 1880's. The last wooden ship built in Redwood City, called the "Perseverance," was launched in 1883.

Many different types of businesses found the proximity to a deep-water channel of benefit, and wharves and businesses soon occupied the entire length of Redwood Creek. Commercial shipping of products other than lumber thrived, especially shingles, grains, and livestock. There were three main wharves. The two largest were on opposite sides of the creek at Broadway (then called Bridge St.) The third wharf, owned by Frank's Tannery, was farther down the creek near where the present-day Mervyn's Plaza is located.

Throughout the years, Redwood Creek was silted in with mud from land erosion caused by the building of wharves and the development of the town In 1896 and again in 1909, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the creek so that it could continue to be used for shipping.

The Redwood City Harbor Company was formed in 1912 by businessmen and civic leaders, but continued growth of the port was inhibited for some time by the railroad and other competing transportation interests. Several industries, however, saw the location as an asset, including the Alaska Codfish Company and the Morgan Oyster Company. The Pacific-Portland Cement Company, which located there in 1924, greatly increased shipping activity at the port.

A 1929 bond issue campaign to improve the channel was defeated. But in 1935, a harbor bond issue of $266,000 was approved by voters and matching funds were obtained from the federal government. With this large showing of support, the channels were dredged and larger piers were built along the sections that parallel what is now Seaport Blvd. In 1937, the first cargo ship steamed into the new Port of Redwood City, and since that year, the Port has operated independently and profitably.


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Photos provided by the Local History Collection at the Redwood City Public Library.
Copyright © 1999. Redwood City Public Library. All rights reserved.
Exhibit date: September 1997.