|Richmond Capitalizes on Its History
November 15, 2006
Lots of exciting news the last few days for and about Richmond’s rich heritage.
· Richmond was notified yesterday in letter from First Lady Laura Bush that its application for designation as a Preserve America Community had been accepted. This is part of the Preserve America program sponsored by the White House in conjunction with the National Park Service. The designation recognizes communities that protect and celebrate their heritage, use their historic assets for economic development and community revitalization; and encourage people to experience and appreciate local historic resources through education and heritage tourism programs. Benefits of designation include: White House recognition, a certificate of recognition, a Preserve America Community road sign, authorization to use the Preserve America logo on signs, flags, banners, and promotional materials, listing in a Web-based Preserve America Community directory, inclusion in national and regional press releases, official notification of designation to State tourism offices and visitor bureaus; and enhanced community visibility and pride. Designation also makes communities eligible for annual grants.
· In the American Express – National Trust for Historic Preservation grant program that many of you have been voting on for months closed yesterday with grants of $75,000 to the Richmond Plunge (No. 8) and the Maritime Child care Center (No. 20) for $5,000. See article from the Chronicle, below.
Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Rosie Gets Her Due (http://www.pe.com/localnews/inland/stories/PE_News_Local_S_rosie11.79ef5d.html)
Riveters park to honor home front 'veterans'
By MARY BENDER
They served their country
during the 20th century's biggest war, toiling on the home front
rather than the battlefields of Europe, Africa or the Pacific.
Their "uniforms" weren't the Army's olive drab or the Navy's
"Cracker Jack" white and blue, but rather denim slacks cuffed at
the ankle, work shirts and sensible shoes, their tresses wrapped
in a bandanna or hair net.
giving city sense of itself
Posted on Mon, Nov. 13, 2006
Taking a tour of the many sites scattered around Richmond that make up the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park is not only about telling the history but also about gathering it.
The city and the National Park Service have held irregularly scheduled excursions on a small shuttle bus for invited "stakeholders" for nearly a year now.
"The tours serve a double purpose," said Betty Reid Soskin, who does community outreach for the park. "The community is learning about its history. And the park, on these tours, is learning from the community how it sees itself.
"We've had people from every walk of life," Soskin said. "It's been just an amazing experience. When they come together on the bus, they come together as equals, and the stories spill out."
Even for someone who was in Richmond during the war, as Soskin was, the tours are a revelation.
"Each time I take one of these tours I learn about one more place, two more places," said Soskin, who got a wartime job at the local union hall as a teenager. "Each tour has been different, very different."
Two weeks ago, those same stakeholders -- city, business, civic groups and other people who can play a role in how the park takes shape -- were invited to participate in focus groups.
The trick of the whole endeavor is that the city and the park are essentially one and the same thing, and both are works in progress.
The condominiums and yacht slips of the city's Marina Bay development, for example, offer little hint of once being the massive Kaiser Shipyard No. 2, other than the four-year-old Rosie the Riveter Memorial sculpture. And there is even less hint that the area was previously a Bay wetland swampy enough to swallow a Kaiser bulldozer.
"One of the challenges is conveying the sheer vast scale of the shipyards that built 747 ships during World War II," said David Blackburn, who is chief of interpretation for the local National Park Service unit.
That is true even at the most intact Kaiser site on the waterfront, the former Shipyard No. 2, now an active part of the Port of Richmond. This is where the S.S. Red Oak Victory -- originally launched at yard No. 1 and now a floating museum -- is berthed. The site includes a still-standing former Kaiser parts warehouse and one of the giant 220-ton whirley cranes, 16 in all, that used to dot the four shipyards.
Blackburn said there was once a long row of similar buildings where sections of ships were pre-assembled and then moved by the whirley cranes working in carefully choreographed unison -- one out-of-step move by either crane operator would send everything toppling.
Other buildings still relatively intact at the port are a former Kaiser first-aid station and a worker cafeteria that saw post-war use as the first home of Contra Costa College.
The National Historical Park has the largest remaining concentration of intact World War II historic structures and sites in the United States.
But the homefront story that is the national park's mission to tell isn't confined to just the waterfront, or to war work or the war period.
It encompasses the city proper, both during the war and after. The tour goes from the waterfront to downtown
"The National Park Service is using the bus tours to raise awareness that the city itself is a national park," Soskin said. "Waking people up to that fact is the hardest part. The tours serve a double purpose. The community is learning about its history. The park, on these tours, is learning from the community, how it sees itself."
Some sites on the tour, such as the innovative Atchison Village housing complex for defense workers, are essentially unchanged from when they were built. By contrast, the festively painted building on 23rd Street now known as Garibaldi Plaza bears little resemblance to its former use as a Greyhound Bus station that was the arrival point for countless war workers.
A vacant building on 23rd Street is the last remnant of a string of auto dealerships that opened after the war.
But the physical structures that make up the various stops are only a starting point for telling the story of how Richmond almost overnight became both a city and the site of major social changes.
The tours, which are evolving as new information is uncovered, do a good job of filling in the gaps of the story. Piecing everything together borders on archaeology.
"One of the tricky things is to try and tell the everyday history," historian Donna Graves said. "Finding those untold stories is a challenge that is really exciting. You do wonder what's still out there, what's gone. There's a time pressure before the people who can connect sites to those stories are gone."
In fact, it's the sociological end that is one of the most compelling components of the tour, which gives a good picture of daily life and the changes that took place in Richmond, some of it groundbreaking, some of it not very pretty.
"We want to tell the story to the extent we can really look back to the period of the war years that was so tumultuous for all of us and retell those stories without romanticizing them," Soskin said.
The war spawned innovations such as the government-funded Maritime Child Care Center that freed mothers to do war work, worker housing projects such as Atchison Village and the foundations of the first health maintenance organization, Kaiser Permanente, exemplified by the original Kaiser field hospital building on Cutting Boulevard.
For the first time, women and minorities were brought into the mainstream on a large scale, which sowed the seeds of the civil rights and women's movements.
But integration in the workplace did not carry over to other aspects of life. The downtown USO, dances at the Winters Building and facilities such as the Maritime Child Care Center and Atchison Village were all whites-only. Workers from American Indian reservations of the Southwest who were brought by the Santa Fe Railroad were confined to an area known to locals as "the reservation."
And segregation continued to define Richmond after the war ended, part of the post-war legacy that the city still grapples to resolve and that the national park wants to relate.
"What Kaiser set in motion was a social revolution, which was really an unintended consequence, but there were changes nonetheless," Soskin said. "There is a negative legacy we have because this was a city based on segregation. People don't talk about that much. Part of the job of this park is to help us retrace our steps and make the correction."
The tours are essential to the new national park, not only because the various sites are scattered so widely but also because the story is so sweeping.
To date, 103 people have taken the tours, and the park service hopes to offer them soon to the general public once its official visitor center opens inside the renovated Ford Motor assembly building. When they do, tours may be tailored to the individual group.
"What we're working on now is designing a number of tours that can tell different stories about different people," Soskin said. "It's a wonderful device.
"I think the city can redefine itself through this park," she said. "That's the power the National Park Service has. People don't realize the significance of what's here."
Reach Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust: www.rosietheriveter.org
The Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Park: www.nps.gov/rori
Twenty-five Bay Area historic sites will share $1 million in cash grants as the result of an unusual electronic vote and a review by a panel of experts.
The big winner was Berkeley's First Church of Christ, Scientist which will get $118,000 to complete a seismic upgrade in its Sunday school. The Christian Science church, designed by famed architect Bernard Maybeck, got the most votes in an online election sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.
The church narrowly edged out the Angel Island immigration station in the electronic vote; the immigration station got an $84,000 award to repair the roof and an old mess hall. Angel Island, however, came in third in money grants. The second-highest award went to the Tilden Park carousel in Berkeley, which got $97,000 to restore the floor and the band organ.
The final decision about how much money each site got was made by a panel of experts who considered historical significance and need along with the number of votes.
Other winners included $75,000 grants to the Casa Grande in New Almaden in Santa Clara County, the Fox Oakland theater, the Haas-Lilienthal House in San Francisco, the Richmond Municipal Natatorium, and the Spreckels Temple of Music in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
The Japanese YWCA in San Francisco received $62,000, and the Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the San Mateo County coast got $54,000. Cleveland Cascade Park in Oakland, the Fallon Building in San Francisco and the Tomales Town Hall each got $50,000.
Twelve other sites, which finished out of the top 13 in the electronic polling, got $5,000 each as consolation prizes.
The online election, which National Trust Vice President David Brown said was inspired by the television show "American Idol," ran from mid-September until Oct. 31.
E-mail Carl Nolte at email@example.com.