Friday morning I left Hostel Hell and travelled up to El Cerrito del Norte where I would be staying with my host for the next three days, Steve Schaffran and his partner Ellen Braithwaite. Steve, jack of all trades (and master of many) was a tutor in economics at Balliol in the late 60s, is a good friend of Andrew and Peggotty Graham's, is fluent in Spanish after time in the Peace Corps in South America, and now (from what I can gather) seems to dabble in many business activities. He was (according to internet sources) leader of the team by Apple and Adobe that introduced professional desktop publishing into Latin America, and now manages the Latin American business of a company that creates software for Apple. He also dabbles in the wine business, owning a stake in a vineyard in Argentina.
After an introduction to my room in Steve and Ellen's charming hill-top, wood-framed house, Steve and I hopped into the car to go on a tour of the local Richmond area and the historic waterfront where we were hoping to explore some abandoned structures.
Richmond was once a thriving city with a booming economy based on car manufacturing and, during the Second World War, the first mass production line of warships. During that period its population expanded due to the influx of African- and Latin-American immigrants who moved there to seek work in the ship-building industry where the demand for labour was high as all the native workers had been drafted into military service. However, once the war ended and the ship-industry collapsed, the Richmond economy suffered severely. The scars are still evident, as I saw when we visited Kaiser's Shipyard. The dry docks, once full of partly- and fully-assembled warships, now lie empty and flooded. The Red Oak Victory, a WWII Victory ship sits moored at the dock - serving partly as a monument to Richmond's contribution to the war effort; partly as a mocking reminder of Richmond's fall as a thriving marine-industry city.
Staircase to nothing: the once-dry docks now sit flooded - and empty
A regeneration project was completed a decade or so ago which sought to turn Richmond back into a thriving port city by building new cranes and new carrier-docks where ships could offload goods and carrier containers. However, the project failed and the cranes now tower above the abandoned landscape, decaying and rusting.
One of the remaining cranes
'FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSIDE'
We travelled onwards to Richmond Point. We parked the car nearby an old abandoned factory building on the edge of the bay. The history of the building is unknown, but around 20 years ago it functioned as a chemical factory, since which it has lain empty, abandoned. We saw a school-child walking out from the site and through a hole in the fence. Steve asked him what was inside. His reply: "art and stuff". We thought we ought to explore.
Like so many of the buildings I've visited, the interplay between the building's structure, the natural light sources, and the vivid colours of the graffiti 'art' covering the walls seemed to bring the building to life and inject energy into the otherwise desolate environment.
Silhouette of Man
"Art and Stuff"
Interior #4 (b&w)
At the rear of the building lay empty room shells that once houses offices. Upstairs stud-walling frames stood stripped of their plasterboard seeming to endlessly divide up the room in vertical slices.
Office interior, upstairs
We continued our walk along the bay shore. An old port terminal building and a fantastic train-pier ferry boarder.
Train-pier ferry boarder
The interior of the port terminal building reminded me of the interiors I'd seen at a local WWI munition factory back in Scotland.
Terminal Building - Interior
We returned after some more touring in the car just in time for a late supper of pork chops, rice, and some delicious sauteed apples washed down with a glass of red wine. Tomorrow I planned a trip to Angel Island, located in San Francisco bay, so headed to bed early in preparation for my trip the following day.