Recollections of Ferry Point, Richmond, California: oral history transcript/John Andrew Vincent

Background Information on Ferry Point

by J.A. Vincent, Jr.


Ferry Point was originally developed as a barge and ferry terminal to serve the western terminus of the Santa Fe Railroad. The terminal was built in 1900 and was in continuous use for both barge and ferry service (to San Francisco) through 1933 at which time the ferry service was discontinued, the passenger trains and/or buses being directed to Oakland. Barge service was discontinued in 1984 after a severe fire. The site, except for the old pump house and warehouse, including the wharf, is unencumbered. The site offers sweeping vistas of the bay, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Angel Island, Marin County, Red Rock and Point Richmond with a backdrop of the hills protecting Miller Knox Regional Park.

My father worked for Santa Fe. He was assigned to Ferry Point when we moved in December 1923. I lived there for the next thirteen years. During that time I became acquainted with the hills, the sloughs, beaches and marshes of the Richmond waterfront. There were few fences and the shoreline was my front yard. The waterfront from Terminal No. 1 (where Petromark is located) to the Ferry Point Santa Fe terminal and the one mile stretch to Kellers Beach were popular fishing areas, much of it by casting from shore. Fishing from a dock by drop line near the mussel laden pilings was also very popular, less equipment was needed and it became a family affair. Kids could drop a simple line. Fishing off the dock at Terminal No. 1, the abandoned Southern Pacific ferry slips and the Santa Fe docks was common.

The Southern Pacific operated an automobile ferry for a few years from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. One wing of the ferry slip remains adjacent to Terminal No. 1. A broken down cyclone fence separates the slip from Dornan Drive. This is a very popular place for fishing, bay watching and just looking on a warm day. The fact that the dock is still standing and in use is likely due to the fact that it is protected from southerly storms by the adjoining terminal.

A few additional comments are in order with respect to the fencing which now surrounds the Santa Fe property. There was no fencing until the 1950s when a portion of the property on the western side near the old train station was leased to Richmond Tank Co. for cleaning, sandblasting and repair operation. Running between Garrard Blvd. and the Santa Fe terminal was a public street—access to the terminal and access to the houses located there. It was a road widely used by the public as access to the bay. This road was blocked by fencing installed along Garrard Blvd. including the Southern Pacific ferry slip. Gates were installed on the road leading to the Santa Fe terminal and another across the railroad track which leads past Brickyard Cove to Levin Metals.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The bayshore and docks at Ferry Point have been used by the public for fishing, sightseeing, strolling, etc. since the area became available to the public at the beginning of this century. It doesn't take long, after a few conversations with those at the bayshore, to become convinced that there is much pleasure and need for people to have access to the bay. For many people this is the only outing they can afford. Over 500 signatures were collected on petitions when it was proposed that South Garrard be closed two years ago which without doubt expressed a public concern about public access to the bay.

The proper installation of a new fishing pier near Terminal No. 1 will fulfill a definite public need. It could well be the centerpiece for opening the whole stretch of shoreline between Terminal No. 1 and the Santa Fe docks to the public, an area that for many years was Richmond's public waterfront.

John A. Vincent, Jr.
February 20, 1985
Richmond, California

About this text
Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
Title:  Recollections of Ferry Point, Richmond, California : oral history transcript /John Andrew Vincent
By:  Vincent, John Andrew, Interviewee, Dunning, Judith K, Interviewer
Date: 1985
Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
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