Corbitt's National Parks
Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front
            National Historical Park


2000: National Historical Park

Size: 145 acres

2007 visitors: ?

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

This new Park pays homage to all the homefront workers who contributed during World War II. The Park especially honors the women, referred to as "Rosies", who joined the wartime effort in great numbers. This Park comprises several historic sites, including a hospital, a child-development center, a waterfront shipyard, and fire stations. The shipyards were the most productive in the country in the early 1940's.

When millions of men joined the armed forces for World War II, there was a huge need for workers in America's factories. So, for the first time ever, women and minorities were recruited to do the heavy construction work. This National Historical Park in Richmond, California honors these workers for the tremendous surge they provided in wartime armament production.

Although women and minorities now were able to hold jobs previously denied them, we can't say they were treated equally. They often received less pay than men, and when the city of Richmond swelled from a population of 24,000 to 100,000 nearly overnight, they received the short end of the housing stick as well. Many spent nights in movie theaters or automobiles, or in the crates the raw materials arrived in. Sometimes three workers on different shifts would use just one bed in shifts as well. As one African-American Rosie said about the progress of labor and civil rights, while huge gains had to wait for the post-war civil rights movement, the Home Front did "begin to shed light on America's promise."

The Park also honors the first example of what we consider modern daycare. The Ruth Powers Child Development Centers allowed mothers to join the Home Front work force. Revolutionary for its time, day care has become an accepted norm. Henry Kaiser, owner of the Richmond shipyards, also realized that only a healthy workforce could meet the factory deadlines. So, he introduced a revolutionary idea, prepaid medical care for workers.

What You're Going to See

This is a very new Park, and the NPS is still working on organizing it. As a matter of fact, they're still figuring out exactly what the focus of the park will be. Another difference between this and other Parks is that the Park Service does not own any of the land or structures involved. Many are in private hands; others are owned by the City of Richmond and Contra Costa County. As of now, there are three areas open for visitation: A World War II cargo ship (the S.S. Red Oak Victory), exhibits in the lobby of Richmond City Hall South, and the actual Memorial in Marina Bay Park.

Call ahead to schedule a visit to the ship, at (510) 237-2933. The S.S. Red Oak Victory is generally open every day but Monday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. However, as I found out, the ship is closed in rainy weather "for civil liability reasons". Apparently they don't want anyone blown off the upper deck by high winds. A donation of $5 per person is accepted. Note that the ship is not operated by the NPS.

The temporary visitor center, and I do mean temporary, is located in the Richmond City Hall South. There's a small display in the lobby; beyond that, visitors must ask for a Ranger to come out from the small NPS office in the back. We did ask, and a Ranger was very helpful in taking us back to a storage area, where she showed us photographs of what the docks looked like during WWII. There was also information on Rosies and what they assembled, including ships and tanks. She had a stamp (yeah!) in her office, and proceeded to stamp my passport for me. Hmph.

By far the best exhibit currently open to the public is the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, located in Marina Bay Park. It basically consists of metal sculpture, designed to remind of a warship being built, and photographs and words of the Rosies who worked during the war. The park itself is very nice, right on the water, surrounded by grass and trees.

Personal Observations

Finally got here in December 2004. This is clearly a Site in Progress, and the Ranger on duty freely admits it. She hopes that the true visitor center will open within three or four years. Until then, they'll have to make do with space begged from the Richmond city government. We first arrived, to get a stamp, on a Sunday. That was my first mistake. The Richmond City government, surprisingly, isn't open on Sunday. So, I got pictures at the Memorial in the Marina Bay Park, and drove back to San Francisco, where I was staying.

I returned two days later and had more luck. It was just after Christmas, and the government building was practically deserted. But after using a phone to call for a Ranger (a sign on a deserted desk gave us that helpful information), she let us back where we could use a bathroom and learn more about Rosie. We got a ten-minute tour of photographs, and she gave us several brochures that outlined a driving tour we could take. Although I didn't take the tour that day (rain, colds among the family, tired kids), it seems that the driving tour would take maybe 60 to 90 minutes, which is certainly reasonable.

We did drive out to the S.S. Red Oak Victory, but had more bad luck. The gate was locked, even though the sign very clearly said it was open on Tuesdays between 10:00 and 4:00, and we got there around 1:00. I scrounged around for the phone number and asked the Navy guy on duty to let us in; it was his sad duty to inform us that it was too windy for visitors. So, call ahead before making the trip to the ship.

I give Rosie two subbies, and that's grudgingly. Right now it deserves only one, but it has promise, and it is a new Site just starting out, and the NPS seems to be doing it right, so in my heart I can't punish it with a single subbie. I bet it'll earn that second subbie in a couple of years.

Getting There

All parts of the Rosie site are in the city of Richmond, California. From San Francisco or Oakland take I-80 north, then take I-580 toward Richmond and San Rafael.

To get to the Rosie the Riveter Memorial: Once on I-580, take the Marina Bay Parkway/S. 23rd St. exit. Turn left onto Marina Bay Parkway and drive approximately one-half mile, and turn right onto Regatta Boulevard. You should see the Rosie banners hanging from streetlights. After about 100 yards, turn left on Melville Square right into Marina Bay Park.

To get to the Richmond City Hall South and visitor center: Once on I-580, take the Marina Bay Parkway/S. 23rd St. exit. Turn left onto Marina Bay Parkway and drive approximately one-half mile, and turn right onto Regatta Boulevard. Follow that for about half a mile until it dead-ends into Marina Way South. Turn left, drive a third of a mile to the City building at 1401 Marina Way South.

To get to the S.S. Red Oak Victory: Once on I-580, take the Cutting Blvd exit and go west on Cutting for about two miles, until Cutting ends. Go left on Foley, which as of this writing immediately turns into Garrard Blvd, and go through the tunnel in front of you. Garrard turns into Dornan after the tunnel. Drive to the end of Dornan, and you will see the ship in front of you. There's no formal parking lot; find a place, park, and go through the gate to the ship.

Nearby Attractions

Talk about options. In the San Francisco Bay area alone you'll find Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, Fort Point National Historic Site, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, John Muir National Historic Site, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. California Coastal National Monument runs the entire length of the California coast. North of the Golden Gate Bridge is Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore.

Visited December 2004.

Additional Photos