Point Richmond Rock Walls – Richmond CA

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Description

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built rock retaining walls in Point Richmond, a neighborhood of Richmond CA.   The most notable wall is found at 220 Bishop Avenue and was built in 1940. It is six feet high and runs the length of the property, about 40 feet.  This wall is constructed of finely-cut, multi-colored stone, which the property owner purchased and gave to the WPA workers to use.

Another wall on Bishop Alley is from the same time period.  It consists of three levels: dark stone along the base, then solid gray concrete, and finally colored stone set in concrete. The concrete level has a date stamp of 1938.

The WPA origin of these walls has long been a matter of local repute in the neighborhood.  It is reported in a history of Point Richmond by Roselius et al. 1980. A follow-up inquiry with Rosemary Corbin, one of the authors of that history and former mayor of Richmond CA, again confirmed the local story. Further confirmation came from a conversation in 2019 with Mildred Dornan, the 97 year-old former president of the Point Richmond History Association, whose father-in-law owned the house at 220 Bishop Avenue when the wall was built; Mildred was confident that the wall was built by WPA workers.

Roselius et al. , p. 77, say this:

“An impressive stone wall along Bishop Avenue was built in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration. Rock from the Blake Brothers Quarry was bought by Mr. Dornan, but labor was supplied by the program. (Other stone walls were constructed in the Point by the W.P.A. and rock was free if you were willing to accept ordinary stones).”

There may be other rock walls nearby also done by  WPA workers, but it is impossible to tell since rock walls were quite popular around the East Bay in the early 20th century.

The WPA job cards below show that in 1937, the WPA allocated $83,066 for street improvements in Richmond. The work included retaining walls, among other improvements. An additional appropriation of $120,602 was earmarked in 1937 for various road improvements “near Richmond,” in Supervisoral District No. 1 in Contra Costa County.

 

Source notes

Roselius, Donna, Teresa Albro, Michelle Brown and Rosemary Corbin,  This Point in Time: An Historic View of Point Richmond, California. Point Richmond History Association.

http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/2120/Point-Richmond-Historic-District---This-Point-in-Time---An-Historic-View-of-Point-Richmond?bidId=

WPA Job Cards, 1937, Fresno Public Library, San Joaquin Valley Heritage & Genealogy Center.

Project originally submitted by Dale Roberts, Kate Harps on March 7, 2019.
Additional contributions by Andrew Laverdiere.

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Location Info


220 Bishop Ave.
Richmond , CA 94801

Coordinates: 37.923247, -122.387607

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