Need directions to the Visitor Education Center or other areas of interest from the Home Front?
Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center
New to the Park? Start Your Visit Here!
The Visitor Education Center for the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park is located at 1414 Harbour Way South in Richmond, California, at the Ford Assembly Plant complex.
Plan on staying at least one to two hours to enjoy the interactive exhibits and to watch one of several orientation films that are shown in our theater. Rangers and docents are always available to answer any questions. You can pick up a free driving map which will help to guide you to the various locations listed on this page.
Oil House - Home of the Visitor Education Center
The remodeled Oil House sits on the edge of San Francisco Bay adjacent to the Craneway. Its fuel once powered assembly lines for Ford automobiles, and later WWII assembly of jeeps and tanks. As part of the development of Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, the Oil House was renovated to become the home for the park’s visitor education center in 2012.
Ford Assembly Plant
Out of the three wartime tank depots in the United States, the Ford Assembly Building is the only surviving structure.
The Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Richmond, California, was the largest assembly plant to be built on the West Coast and its conversion to wartime production during World War II aided the Nation's war effort.
The 500,000-square-foot Ford Assembly Building was built in 1931 to produce the new Ford Model A. The factory was a major stimulant to the local and regional economy during the Great Depression and was an important development in Richmond's inner harbor and port plan. Ford became Richmond's third largest employer, behind Standard Oil and the Santa Fe Railroad. It is also an outstanding example of 20th-century industrial architecture designed by architect Albert Kahn, known for his "daylight factory" design, which employed extensive window openings that became his trademark. The main building is comprised of a two-story section, a single-story section, a craneway, a boiler house and a shed canopy structure over the railroad track.
To ensure that America prepared for total war by mobilizing all the industrial might of the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt banned the production of civilian automobiles during WWII. The Richmond Ford Assembly Plant switched to assembling jeeps and to putting the finishing touches on tanks, half-tracked armored personnel carriers, armored cars and other military vehicles destined for the Pacific Theater. By July of 1942, military combat vehicles began flowing into the Richmond Ford plant to get final processing before being transported out the deep-water channel to the war zones.
The Ford Assembly Plant assembled 49,000 jeeps, but it's "claim to fame" was becoming one of only three tank depots in the entire United States. Every combat vehicle used in WWII was processed by one of these three depots. Here the finishing touches were put on 91,000 tanks, half-tracks, armored cars, and other military vehicles destined for combat. This Assembly Plant was one cog in that mobilization of the "Arsenal of Democracy" and a historical part of what is today's industrial culture of the United States.
The "Richmond Tank Depot" as the Ford plant was then called, helped keep American fighting men supplied with up-to-the-minute improvements in their battle equipment. In mobilizing the wartime production effort to its full potential, Federal military authorities and private industry began to work closely together on a scale never seen before in American history. This laid the groundwork for what became known as the "Military Industrial Complex" during the Cold War years. This Assembly Plant was one cog in the mobilization of the "Arsenal of Democracy" and a historic part of what is today's industrial culture of the United States.
After the war, the devastation to the local economy as a result of the closing of the Kaiser shipyards would have been crippling had it not been for the continued production of the Ford Plant. The last Ford was assembled in February 1953, with the plant being closed in 1956 because of the inability to accommodate increased productivity demands. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake severely damaged the plant.
The City of Richmond repaired and prepared the Ford Assembly Plant for use. Title to the building was then passed to Orton Development and most of the building is now leased to various businesses. Currently, the building has a new owner.
Rosie the Riveter Memorial
The Rosie the Riveter Memorial began as a public art project for the City of Richmond in the 1990's. During the creation of the memorial, the National Park Service was invited to participate, and this partnership led to the founding of the National Park in Richmond, California.
Designed by visual artist Susan Schwartzenberg and landscape architect/environmental sculptor Cheryl Barton, the Rosie the Riveter Memorial: Honoring American Women's Labor During WWII is the first in the nation to honor and describe this important chapter of American history. Chairwoman Donna Powers led the campaign to establish the Memorial and the sculpture was commissioned by the City of Richmond and the Richmond Redevelopment Agency.
The principal component is a walkway, the length of a ship's keel, which slopes toward the San Francisco Bay and aligns with the Golden Gate Bridge. The path is inscribed with a timeline about the home front and quotes from women workers sandblasted into white granite. Sculptural elements of stainless steel encountered on the walkway are drawn from ship's blueprints and suggest the unfinished forms of hull, stack and stern under construction. Two gardens - one of rockrose and one of dune grass - occupy the location of the ship's fore and aft hatches. Porcelain enamel panels on the hull and stack reproduce memorabilia and letters gathered from former shipyard workers during the course of the Memorial project, along with photographs of women at work in jobs across the nation.
The panels, quotes and timeline illustrate the complex opportunities, challenges and hardships faced by women during the war years, including gender discrimination, hazardous working conditions, food rationing, and shortages of housing and childcare.
Donna Powers was inspired to create the Memorial by two women in her family. Her mother-in-law Ruth Powers was a teacher at the Richmond shipyards daycare centers and her great aunt Clarissa Hicks was a riveter at Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their wonderful stories led her to ask other women around Richmond what their jobs and lives were like during WWII, and the project grew under the leadership of historian and cultural planner Donna Graves.
Shipyard No. 3
Richmond shipyards built 747 ships, including 519 Liberty Ships, which represented almost a quarter of the total U.S. Liberty Ship production. New methods of ship construction were developed and perfected in these shipyards, including prefabrication and intense labor specialization, which allowed the production of new vessels at a record pace.
The Richmond Shipyard complex consisted of four yards constructed for the Henry J. Kaiser company in 1941 and 1942. The Kaiser Richmond Shipyards were immense, covering around 880 acres, and became the largest wartime shipyards on the West Coast. They were also the town's biggest employer, recruiting thousands of workers from across the country.
As you drive to the SS Red Oak Victory, you will see the remaining historic buildings of WWII Shipyard No. 3. These include the cafeteria, first aid station, forge, machine shop, warehouse and paint shop. You will be able to also get a glimpse of the 5 dry docks where the ships were assembled. Henry Kaiser applied mass assembly line techniques to buildings the ships. This production line technique, bringing pre-made parts together and moving them into place with huge cranes and having them welded together by "Rosies" allowed unskilled laborers to do repetitive jobs requiring relatively little training to accomplish. This not only increased the speed of construction but also opened up jobs to women and people of color. Shipyard No. 3 is one of the locations where this concept of new opportunities thrived.
Chronology of SS Red Oak Victory Ship
August 15, 1944
The SS Red Oak Victory started its’ existence known as hull #544 in Kaiser-Richmond Shipyard #1. Built in 87 days, she was the 558th of the 747 ships built in Richmond, a Boulder Class Victory ship built to serve as a cargo vessel for WWII.
November 9, 1944
#544 was launched as the SS Red Oak Victory and final outfitting begins.
December 5, 1944
Final outfitting is complete and the ship is turned over to the US Navy, commissioned as USS Red Oak Victory (AK-235), and assigned as a fleet ammunition carrier.
December 14 – 23, 1944
Sea trials (“Shake-down cruise”)
January 9 – 11, 1945
Loaded with ammunition at Port Chicago in Suisun Bay
January 10, 1945
Departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor
February 10, 1945
Departed Pearl Harbor for the Marshall Islands / Eniwetok Atoll
February 23 – 28, 1945
Steamed toward the Ulithi Atoll in the Western Caroline Islands in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa
March 3 – May 26, 1945
At Ulithi: Ammunition replenishment of numerous Allied vessels of the Pacific Fleet, notably the USS Missouri
May 8, 1945
Germany Surrenders, Hostilities in the European Theater of Operations are over.
August 6, 1945
Atomic Bomb dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.
August 9, 1945
Atomic Bomb dropped on the city of Nagasaki, Japan.
August 15, 1945
WWII hostilities end.
September 2, 1945
Aboard the USS Missouri Japan surrenders unconditionally. Hostilities in the China, Burma, India Theater of Operations are finished. World War Two is officially over.
May 21, 1946
USS RED OAK VICTORY (AK-235) decommissioned from the United States Navy at 2:54 pm.
June 12, 1946 – April 4, 1947
In temporary storage at the Olympia Ready Reserve Fleet, Olympia, Washington.
1947 – 1968
For the Merchant Marine in the Caribbean and Pacific she carried cargo and served as a relief ship carrying emergency grain shipments to Pakistan and India in 1947.
February 10, 1950 – May 5, 1951
Records indicate Military cargo voyages in support of the Korean Conflict
November 20 – December 31, 1956
Records indicate humanitarian grain cargo voyages to India and Pakistan
September 24 – October 3, 1957
De-activation and preparation for temporary storage performed by Pacific-Atlantic Steamship Company, Portland, Oregon.
October 3, 1957 – December 21, 1965
In temporary storage at the Astoria Ready Reserve Fleet, Astoria, Washington.
January 27, 1966 – September 16, 1968
Records indicate numerous Military cargo voyages in support of the Vietnam Conflict from Pacific Northwest ports to Southeast Asian ports. Captains R. Blood, N. Carlson, C. Englestone, R. Gundersen and M. Dale as ships Masters.
October 10 – December 16, 1968
Final voyage to Viet Nam and back to San Francisco Bay.
Transferred to the Ready Reserve Fleet (Mothball Fleet) in Suisun Bay
January 12, 1970 – September 18, 1998
In permanent storage at the Suisun Bay Ready Reserve Fleet, Suisun Bay, California.
Title to the SS Red Oak Victory conveyed to the Richmond Museum Association by the U.S. Maritime Administration
September 18, 1998
Transferred to Mare Island Naval Shipyard for transport to Richmond, California
September 20, 1998
Relocated to the shipyard area in Richmond, California that originally built the Red Oak Victory to be restored back to original launch condition.
August 20, 1998
The SS Red Oak Victory was moved to Pier #1 in Richmond.
State TEA grant awarded for restoration work. $1.3M was spent on the overhaul to paint the deck and superstructure and install 480 V AC power system
National Park Service awarded $700,000 grant
The ship was towed to BAE dry dock in San Francisco by Foss Maritime for inspection and repair of hull steel plates, hull cleaning, repainting, tail shaft repair and installation of new propeller
Ship returned to Richmond from BAE dry dock
March 4, 2016
SS Red Oak Victory towed to nearby Basin 5 in order to provide unobstructed waterfront views for Rigger’s Loft winery grand opening.
July 9 – August 16 2018
SS Red Oak Victory towed from her berth in Richmond, California to the California Maritime Academy (CMA) in Vallejo, California. The boilers were successfully lit off nearly 20 times over the five-week duration, testing the auxiliary systems in the process as steam pressures were gradually raised to maximum levels. One turbine generator was put online, enabling the Red Oak Victory to run on ship’s power. After being towed back to Richmond, the ship re-opened to the public on September 1, 2018.
SS Red Oak Victory
The SS Red Oak Victory is the last surviving ship built in the Kaiser Shipyards, and is owned by the non-profit Richmond Museum Association. Today, the Red Oak Victory remains a monument to the men and women who worked in war related industries as part of the World War II Home Front. In 1998, the ship was saved from the Naval Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay by a courageous group of men and women and has been under restoration since that time. When visiting, take the time to talk to the volunteers on boards the ship. If you are lucky enough to find one who actually served on Merchant Marine vessels during the war, find out what that life was like - ask them how they felt to be on board ships built by women.
For more information about hours, please visit: www.redoakvictory.us
Please note: The SS Red Oak Victory ship is now in a different orientation and is not anchored to the dock as depicted in the photo.
The Whirley Crane, named for its ability to turn 360 degrees, currently sits next to the SS Red Oak Victory ship. At a weight of close to 230 thousand pounds, this crane is the only one left of dozens that were used to help build ships at record speed. The scale of it, is enormous, like a revolving boxcar sitting on massive legs as tall as a 10-story building. Whirley cranes were used to move very large and heavy components from place to place in the shipyard. The cranes could work alone or in unison and could manage enormous amounts of steel while lifting and moving large, prefabricated components into place during the assembly of ships. A single Whirley crane could lift up to 166 thousand pounds, alone.
Today, Shipyard No. 3 is the only remaining shipyard of the four constructed in Richmond. This shipyard facilitated mass production of wartime ships and retained its exemplary resources in part because it was built to be a permanent facility.
More Historic Sites and Places to Visit in Richmond
Some of the following sites are either reservations only, closed to the public, active neighborhoods or only accessible by walking. These sites are significant to the history of the city. Spend some time driving by the following locations to explore more about Richmond's Home Front story! If you have a question about a specific site, you can contact the Visitor Education Center at 510-232-5050 ext. 0.
Maritime Child Development Center
In addition to health care, Henry J. Kaiser provided child care for families working in his four Richmond shipyards during WWII. The child care centers he built with funding provided by the United States Maritime Commission incorporated progressive educational programming, and innovative curriculum and services including art classes, well-balanced hot meals, health care, and family counseling.
One of the largest facilities in Richmond was the Maritime Child Development Center, opened in 1943. Completely restored and reopened as a multi-use building in 2011, today it houses a small exhibit by the National Park Service of a wartime preschool classroom. On regularly scheduled guided tours, visitors have the opportunity to explore the vital role of federally funded childcare in bringing women into the WWII work force. Tours are available by appointment as well.
Lucretia Edwards Shoreline Park
Named for a local champion of open spaces, the park commemorates the other San Francisco Bay Area Shipyards. Explore and you will find exhibits that will show you were the other shipyards in the Bay Area are located. This park is a .01 mile walk from the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center.
This two-acre park honors Lucretia Edwards, a champion of open space and open shorelines. It also memorializes the wartime contributions made by the Bay Area Shipyards during World War II. Cast boot prints point visitors toward the locations of additional WWII shipyards that ringed the Bay.
Surrounding a granite map of the Bay Area at the center of the plaza are three shadow figures, two adults and one child, by artist Wang Po Shu. The two adult figures represent liberty and victory and are inscribed with historical definitions of these concepts. The infant figure, left blank, is a representation of the possibilities of the future.
Historic Kaiser Hospital
More American workers died in Home Front accidents than US soldiers killed on WWII battlefields. This was true up to the invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. Henry J. Kaiser realized that only a healthy work force could meet the deadlines and construction needs of wartime America. He instituted a revolutionary idea, pre-paid medical care of workers, which soon expanded beyond workers. For many workers, this was the first time they had seen a doctor. Today, pre-paid medical care is central to American culture –it is a legacy of the WWII Home Front. The Kaiser Hospital is where many of these medical services originated.
The Field Hospital at this location opened with only ten beds. Later additions increased its capacity to 160 beds by 1944. It was the second tier of emergency treatment for those injured at the yards, with the first tier being a clinic on-site that administered first aid. If the patient needed serious care, he or she was taken to the Kaiser Hospital in Oakland.It operated as a Kaiser Permanente hospital until closing in 1995. The building still exists and is privately owned.
The opportunities in Richmond lead to an immediate growth in population. This lead to an intense strain on city infrastructure. One of these strains was lack of housing. Workers arriving in these rapidly expanding urban centers were forced to find what they could. In response to the need, government and industry combined to construct communities all over the nation that included housing, schools, fire/police stations, child care facilities and other amenities. Atchison Village was one of them. Today, Atchison Village is a collection of privately owned houses managed by cooperative of the homeowners. While most of the dormitories and other low income house of WWII is gone, Atchison Village, built as permanent housing, remains.
Barbara and Jay Vincent Park
This park sits on a breakwater in front of Marina Bay that was originally constructed for Kaiser Richmond Shipyard No. 2. It is home to a monument that interprets World War II experiences of shipyard workers. Tremendous views of the Ford Assembly Plant and Shipyard No. 3.
The park is dedicated to Barbara Vincent and her husband Jay who campaigned for public access to 33 miles of Richmond’s shoreline primarily owned by private industry in the 1950s. Together they spearheaded the creation of many coastal access points, including Point Isabel, Point Pinole, and the Bay Trail.The park site once was part of Kaiser Shipyard No. 2 and is now home to the Liberty Ship Monument describing WWII shipyard worker experiences.
Shimada Friendship (Peace) Park
Located along the shoreline and forming the eastern end of the national historical park, this three-acre peace park commemorates the sister city relationship established in 1961 between the City of Richmond and Shimada, Japan.
Sheridan Observation Point Park
Looking across the channel from Sheridan Observation Point at the foot of Harbour Way South, you can see some of the buildings of Henry J. Kaiser's Richmond Shipyard Number Three.
Richmond Fire Station
The original Richmond Fire Station 67, also known as Fire Station 7 located at 1131 Cutting Boulevard, was built by the City of Richmond to serve the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards.It remains as an architectural reminder of the emergency support activities that took place at the Kaiser Shipyards during the war. The historic structure has been modernized and is currently in use by the Richmond Fire Department.
Filice and Perrelli Cannery
Opened in 1930, this cannery “barely made it through” the Great Depression, according to its founder Joseph Perrelli. World War II brought new contracts to supply tomatoes and fruits to the military and allowed the cannery to hire 1,200 workers during peak season.
However, many cannery workers were Italian, like its founders, and were affected by the new law designating Richmond a “defense prohibited zone.” As a result, many community elders lacked U.S. citizenship and were forced to move away from Richmond. The company’s building still stands on Harbour Way.
Nystrom School, along with Pullman, Lincoln, and Stege Schools, were overcrowded during WWII because of their proximity to the defense housing projects and the large proportion of new students who lived there. With construction, Nystrom was able to triple the number of classrooms.Because funding was unavailable for construction of new classrooms in other facilities, Richmond schools held double and even triple daily sessions. The construction of only sixty additional rooms by 1944 led the average elementary school enrollment to rise to sixty-seven children per classroom.
Nystrom Village is situated on Maine, Virginia and Florida Avenues between 13th and 16th Streets, with 51 single-story duplexes arranged around central open spaces. It shares many design attributes with Atchison Village, the only other surviving defense housing project in the area.Today, the complex of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units is largely intact and is administered as low-income housing by the Richmond Housing Authority. Future plans for the park include refitting one of the houses as an exhibit on daily war-time home life that will eventually be open to visitors.
Japanese American Nurseries
Over one dozen nurseries owned by Japanese American families flourished in Richmond from the 1910’s until the forced relocation and incarceration of their community in 1942.This area (bounded roughly by Cutting Boulevard, 45th Street, San Pablo, and the Santa Fe Railroad) held the most intense concentration of Japanese American families and their nurseries, which specialized in growing carnations, roses, and other cut flowers, primarily for the wholesale market.
After Japanese Americans were forced to leave behind their homes and businesses in Richmond and incarcerated, many of their nurseries in were vandalized and fell into disrepair. A few, such as the Ninomiya’s in North Richmond, found friends or neighbors who cared for their nurseries on their behalf while they were imprisoned.
However, a comparatively high percentage of the original owners were able to return and revive their nursery businesses in Richmond. After reclaiming their businesses, the Oishi and Sakai nurseries were operated by members of the original families until the properties were sold ca. 2006.
This area has been redeveloped as housing and a park, featuring a handful of historic nursery buildings that were relocated and have been restored for adaptive reuse. The development, called “Miraflores ,” holds a series of interpretive elements that tell the story of the nursery families and other aspects of community history.
Richmond Marina Bay Trail
The San Francisco Bay Trail weaves along the edge of the national historical park on the Richmond waterfront. Eight interpretive markers shaped like ship’s prows tell various stories of the World War II home front that expand on the histories presented at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial.
The Macdonald Landmarks are a series of sculptural interpretive markers designed to share the history of Macdonald Avenue—Richmond’s historic “Main Street.” The five markers describe the Avenue’s many evolutions, including its important role as the heart of the city during World War II, when Richmond was home to the nation’s largest shipbuilding effort. These and the Bay Trail markers were developed by historian Donna Graves with designers Mayer/Reed.
The machine shop is part of several outfitting buildings. Propellers and propulsion machinery were assembled, cleaned, and polished there. The machine shop housed the most modern tools and equipment of the day, including a lathe that could turn sections of steel fifty feet in length. Traces of the original equipment and “jig patterns” remain throughout the building to this day.
Sheet Metal Shop, Riggers Loft, and Paint Shop
Location: Shipyard No. 3. Close to SS Red Oak Victory Ship
This single-story building was built between 1941 and 1942, as part of Richmond Shipyard No. 3. The building was divided into three areas and used as a riggers loft, paint shop, and sheet metal shop. It served as a venue for assembling prefabricated ship parts.This historic building that once played a vital role in building the Liberty and Victory ships of World War II is now a working winery and cidery.
First Aid Station
This medical facility was used for treating minor injuries and ailments of shipyard workers. It served as the first tier of a pre-paid, three-part system developed by Kaiser Permanente for the benefit of shipyard workers. The system survived after WWII, thanks in part to continued participation by members of the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU).
During the war, this cafeteria was open 24 hours a day, as a place for home front workers to come to eat and socialize before or after their shipyard work shifts. Physicians and shipyard managers believed that better nutrition would bring about increased productivity through healthier workers and higher staff morale.
Initially, the cafeteria was only available to officials, supervisors, and management, regulating who could eat there based on rank and position. Lunch stands were available to shift employees, but most workers brought their own lunches to work with them.
The cafeteria that once served the workers is still intact today. The wood-frame building is an excellent example of the International Style of architecture used for most Kaiser buildings in Richmond.
The general warehouse is a four-story building from which ships received their finishing touches: blankets, mops, brooms and all the other individual pieces of furnishings and equipment needed to completely fit out a self-contained floating vessel.
Richmond Museum of History
The Richmond Museum of History is a little known jewel and the most significant local history museum in the East Bay. The museum is housed in a Carnegie Library built in 1905 that boasts a permanent exhibit gallery and also the Seaver Gallery, a space for temporary exhibits and special events. The Museum draws from their extensive permanent collection of historically significant objects and documents to stage exhibits and host educational programs for the benefit of the public.