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A history of fueling the local economy

In the Gold Rush era of Northern California, a booming development industry sparked the building of new homes, storefronts and entire towns –and an abundance of local redwood logs, milled into lumber for construction, met those needs. In 1851 loggers discovered a waterway that transported the long redwood timber down to San Francisco Bay much more quickly than trekking them over land, down the mountain and through the forest by wagon. Thus, Redwood Creek emerged as a thriving business corridor, and with it, sprouted the Port of Redwood City, positioned perfectly on the channel where the creek meets the Bay.

The Port offered a crucial connection between local industry and convenient access to the South end of San Francisco Bay, helping Redwood City flourish, along with other towns in the region, such as Belmont, San Carlos and San Mateo. In 1882, the Port became a federally approved shipping channel for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a critical step in securing future funds to keep our waters navigable and commerce moving. The importance of the Port’s role in regional construction strengthened in 1906 when an earthquake devastated San Francisco. The Port of Redwood City served in rebuilding San Francisco. 

During World War I, a cement-hulled steamship, the first of its kind, was built here on our waterfront. The war ended before its life in combat, however after its commissioning in 1917 it delivered a cargo load of salt and copper ore on its maiden voyage, deepening the Port’s role in manufacturing and development. Today the Port still maintains a strategic role in emergency response and rebuilding, as designated by FEMA as a federal staging area for natural disasters and other major incidents.

In 1937, the City of Redwood City incorporated the Port with the appointment of the first five-member Board of Port Commissioners. The life of the Port further evolved during WWII when it was commandeered by the U.S. Government for two years to support US Navy freight needs. During the 1950s, the Port transported a historic 27 million tons of cargo, partially enabled by long-awaited support of federal dredging funds. By the end of the decade, the Port welcomed the addition of a recreational marina to the waterfront in 1959. 

In 1993, the Port underwent a major renovation of that marina to the waterfront, expanding the commercial recreation business taking shape throughout the 80s. The Port of Redwood City celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2017, followed by back-to-back record-breaking years of cargo tonnage movement, and revenue.

As an original catalyst for business growth in the region, and a long-standing contributor to the region’s construction industry, the Port of Redwood City is well poised to usher in a long and prosperous future serving the maritime and recreation needs of Silicon Valley over the next 150 years. 

Historical timeline

Hover over the boxes to read more.

1882

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognize the Port as a federally approved shipping channel for maritime commerce

APPROVAL AS FEDERAL PROJECT 

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1917

The world’s first cement-hulled ocean-going vessel locally built

CEMENT-HULLED STEAMSHIP “FAITH” BUILT

1937

The Port of Redwood City was formally and officially recognized, and a five-member board appointed

BOARD OF PORT COMMISSIONERS FORMED

1944

The military commandeered the Port for two years to unload as part of their overseas freight terminals

US NAVY TAKEOVER DURING WWII

1959

The Redwood City Marina opened on the waterfront, a commitment to balancing community recreation with industry

MARINA ADDED TO WATERFRONT

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2018-19

2.3 and 2.65 million tons of cargo resulted in $8.6 million and $9.3 million in revenue respectively

BACK-TO-BACK RECORD-BREAKING CARGO MOVEMENT 

2020

First of its kind long-term 25-year vision plan released to guide the next quarter century of development

PORT RELEASES 2020 VISION PLAN

1851

Loggers discovered this waterway running through the peninsula emptying into South San Francisco Bay, delivering affordable transport of redwood logs

DISCOVERY OF REDWOOD CREEK 

1906

Following earthquake devastations, lumber moved through the Port rebuilt the “City”

PIVOTAL IN REBUILDING SAN FRANCISCO

1912

Business interests recognized the value and potential of a deep water South Bay port

REDWOOD CITY HARBOR COMPANY FOUNDED

1936

An amendment to the city charter established a new department to control, operate and manage development of the Port

VOTERS APPROVE PORT DEPARTMENT

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1950s

Over 27 million tons of cargo moved across Port docks, and long-awaited dredging funds were appropriated by Congress

GOLDEN YEARS OF CARGO

2012

The Port invests over $17 million to rebuild wharves, upgrading the ability to withstand sea-level rise and natural disasters to support resiliency

WHARVES 1 AND 2 ARE REBUILT

2017

Federal Emergency Management Administration designates Port as a Federal Staging Area (FSA) to support regional emergency response

FEMA DESIGNATION FOR EMERGENCY STAGING

2017

Federal Emergency Management Administration designates Port as a Federal Staging Area (FSA) to support regional emergency response

OFFICIAL 80TH ANNIVERSARY

2019

Inviting the community to the waterfront with the launch of public art

PUBLIC ART ADDED TO WATERFRONT

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