By Stacy Poulos PostcardTravelers
I’m always astonished how much rich History, or HerStory, there is right under our noses in the San Francisco Bay Area. I explored the waterfront area of Richmond by land and sea in search of what was once the largest Winery in the world when the California Wine Association moved from San Francisco to Point Molate Richmond after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. It remained the title of “World’s largest winery” for 12 years!! (1907–1919). Until prohibition crushed it’s demise and was shut down in 1919. Really, THE largest? Over Italy and France? Yep, it’s true. Now it’s an abandoned ghost town once called “Winehaven California” (It is in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places) and it’s castle remains in tact north of the Point Molate Richmond. Stenmark Drive is the last exit before you get on the Richmond Bridge and it is littered with a extraordinary and riveting California History.
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If you walk on Pt. Molate Park Beach facing the water Winehaven would be to your right, around the corner less than a mile away, you can’t walk to it on the beach, but you can see it. If continue to drive on Stenmark Dr you can see the backside through the fence from the road. There is a bit of a battle to what they are going to do with the area. In my humble opinion, it is rare to be able to boast the ‘largest in the world’ of anything, let alone the most prestigious commodity of wine! So. I say restore the castle and keep boasting! But there’s more.
Winehaven 2036-2040 Stenmark Dr. Near Point Molate Beach Park Richmond, CA
My map and notes.
Digital NOAA Chart https://devgis.charttools.noaa.gov/pod/
From that same beach, to your left walk 1,000 feet towards the Bridge to Point Castro and there is a 200 foot shipwreck, with half sticking out of the water even at high tide. (There are actually 3, if you look at Google Earth. 5 If you look at lowest tide.) With the completion of the bridge in 1956 the car-ferry service and inner city railway that resided there eventually rendered the pier useless and became a fishing pier. After years of lack of maintenance, it is now a barley recognizable battered pier. This once thriving corner of the Bay, is now a water front ghost town, mostly restricted from the public. For me, it’s a photographers dream. There is a public park you can enjoy where you can see the shipwreck. A 160-foot medium-endurance cutter patrol vessel ‘The USCGC Hermes WPC-109’ it was a Thetis-class coastal patrol ship in service from 1932 to 1958. It was assigned to San Pedro, California, and spent World War II watching for Japanese submarines, as well as escorting convoys out of the harbor. After the war, it was used as a stationary training ship. And was to serve as an enforcement vessel for Prohibition. A model is on display at the LA Maritime Museum. Hermes also served to deliver an important marble Cabrillo monument January 1937 to the San Miguel Island in the Southern California. In honor of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (Portuguese: João Rodrigues Cabrilho; c. 1497 – January 3, 1543) who was the First European explorer in California where he laid to rest. And yet another part of our Rich History.
The Hermes vessel was decommissioned November 2, 1948 and sold May 16, 1958. Eventually laid to rest where it is now, Point Molate. She still sits with her bow in the air above water, surrounded by unnamed shipwrecks beside her, slightly below the water line. You can see them on google earth, and on a lowest tide you can see them even more. It is a dangerous area with pilings sticking up.
Just know it is windy out there facing the Golden Gate. If it’s a date night you can start here and work your way back to end up at the wineries near, The Riveter Rosie Museum. To me it’s crazy this area is not as explored as it should be. And I pray they do not develop this but to bring back what was there.
Point Richmond Pier
Next stop is Miller / Knox Regional Shoreline at Point Richmond on Canal Blvd. At the very point, is a gutted out building. And a fishing pier which. Along side the new fishing pier is a dilapidated pier that used to be a commuter ferry service to the San Francisco Ferry. You can see where the train rails lead to the terminal which now are broken and lead underwater. I actually kayaked under it. Besides being broken-down and battered, it is clear there was a recent fire that further damages the battered pier. For me, it was the highlight of my 2nd kayak trip. It is said, it is at ‘Ford Point’ however you can’t find it on the map. Something I have found over time, places are renamed and it really depends on who you ask. It’s name came from the historic Ford Plant. But you put in ‘Point Richmond’ and you will find it. There is a whole walking tour of the area with points of interests. Across from the Museum is R&B Cellars where you can wine and cider taste and have a bit to eat while you enjoy the Bay view.
Now it’s time to warm up and get out of the wind. Working your way back go to see the inside of the SS Red Oak Victory ($10 donation to get in, mostly Closes at 2pm). I have not been inside yet, however I have been under the massive destroyer it in a kayak. It’s A original ship made by the Rosie The Riveters. If you aren’t familiar who Rosie is, during WWII all the available men were summoned to fight the war with no one left to build the Ships and Airplane’s. So women were summoned to come work in the shipyards. There is a famous print by Norman Rockwell that advertised “You can do it” to encourage women to join the movement where the women, who other wise were expected to be housewives were summoned to work in the shipyards. Back in those days it was ludicrous a woman would do a “man’s job”—even if they wanted to. Rivets are basically like ‘a nut and bolt’ a all in one, permanent mechanical fastener that holds metals sheets together to make airplanes, ships, bridges and such. They did more than assembled them with rivets, they welded and did all types of non-traditional jobs. It was war-time and Richmond area was the largest producer of war time products. The rural City of Richmond exploded. Now the whole area is dedicated to preserving this HerStory.
Open daily 10am – 5pm
1414 Harbour Way S #3000, Richmond, CA 94804 (510) 232-5050
After seeing the ship, go to the Rosie The Riveter Museum, it’s very tactile with life size people to give you a sense of that time. Maybe even go home with a lunch pail. Especially if you have kids, they should see how woman contributed to the war effort. The Museum is free but if you can spare it, donations are always appreciated.
Now that you’ve had a day of HerStory, reward yourself at the Assemble Restaurant you basically get to eat and drink in the boiler room of the Ford Assemble plant.
Now you have a choice to call it a day and watch the sunset there, or go back to see the sunset over a Pirate Harbor. Yep, a pirate harbor only you me, John Wayne and and a few others know about. If you continue on back on Stenmark Dr. past Pt. Molate Park Beach make a right onto a dirt road to San Pablo Yacht Harbor or they like to say San Pablo Pirate Harbor. They have developed the area in such a what that its very artiest friendly environment.
Follow the ‘Point San Pablo (Pirate) Yacht Harbor sign. There are is a public bathroom and public kayak launch. But this little eccentric cove has a long History. Is was originally made by By Captain Raymond H. Clark in 1939 lined up about 9 ships on both sides to create a breakwater Harbor eventually overtime the ships were covered with dirt. And yes, that’s what you walk on.. shipwrecks. Fascinating. At sunset, at least on this day was a golden calm. At one point in History that area was the setting of the movie ‘Blood Alley’ with John Wayne and Lauren Bacall!
Update! There is a quaint restaurant you’ll have to figure out what they have there now. Here is a link: https://www.pspharbor.com/ I promise you explore this area by kayak, car or foot, you will not be disappointed!
Point San Pablo Yacht (Pirate) Harbor
Many buried ship wrecks
1900 Western Drive, Richmond, CA 94801
1955 ‘Blood Alley’ with John Wayne and Lauren Bacall partly filmed at Point San Pablo Harbor.
Thanks for listening, fan me baby!