Preserving the Explosive History of Hercules, California. An Oakland-based local newspaper columnist recently observed, on a field trip to the distant hamlets of Port Costa and Martinez, that the traces of industry and settlement along the Carquinez Straits tell stories of a 19th Century heyday, followed by decline and disappearance. The first and largest such industry was the Hercules Powder Works.
For nearly forty years, the Hercules Historical Society has worked to discover, collect London Life Insurance Company Phone Number preserve the buildings, artifacts, documents, photos and oral histories of the Hercules Powder Works during its vital century as the mysterious dynamite factory, and afterward as a place to live.
In the years before abundant petroleum, high explosives were the first magical source of chemical energy harnessed for work. Init was forcibly reorganized under one of the first antitrust actions brought by the Federal government. The factory covered nine square miles of the Refugio Creek watershed, with two piers onto the San Pablo Bay and an extensive internal railroad system powered by compressed-air locomotives.
But fromthe plant site was transformed into a collection of residential subdivisions. Today, only twenty-seven buildings remain from the Works: twenty are restored as private dwellings, five are in restorable condition, and two have been savaged by neglect.
In the late s, local preservationists, including Dr. Since then, its membership has served to preserve and restore historical artifacts and documents about the City and its industrial past. Inthe Society moved and consolidated its collection of Hercules Powder Works artifacts from scattered and unsecured sites to a leased building adjacent to City Hall. The Society holds monthly meetings, and mounts occasional displays in the City Library.
Members seek out, collect and receive artifacts, documents Hercules Powder Company photographs Hercules Powder Company to both the industrial years and the years of growing a residential city. The Society Oriental Packing Company with private owners of the remaining unrestored historical buildings to secure their preservation and restoration.
The Society has recently launched a social media presence, and aspires tell the obscure, fascinating story of how the explosives industry shaped the Bay Area, the West, and Contra Costa County. Ever wander down to the historic homes district near the waterfront, and wonder just how was it that an entire neighborhood from the Powder Works days was able to survive intact?
At its height, Hercules totaled up to residences, duplexes, and dormitories. As they became vacant and were deemed no longer necessary due to fluctuations in the workforce, they were demolished. By the early s, an inventory of Lingo Construction Company remaining homes determined 20 were in restorable condition.
The City then made the unprecedented decision of centralizing them into one coherent historic district. Upon approval of the Hercules Municipal Historic District Board the City Council membersthe developers will paint the homes to reflect their design.
The colors will be muted and an overall color scheme will be used for the whole area. Doors, windows and decorative touches will be accented with colors complementing the main body of the houses. The interiors will reflect the era of the homes. Even details such as streetlights and correct types of pickets for the fences were researched to ensure correct period detail was captured. Professional building movers moved the other thirteen, weighing approximately 30 tons each, into their current positions.
New foundations were built, and restoration work began. Each home was kept as close to its original design as possible.
They were ready for lease byand residents could purchase them beginning in The result of all the painstaking research, relocation, and restoration speaks for itself. The beautifully preserved district is a time capsule. Since it commenced operations inthe principal activity at the Hercules powder works was the manufacture of dynamite and later black powder and TNT. The location was chosen for its isolation from population centers and its access to rail and water transportation.
Nearby Pinole and Rodeo were then sparsely settled agricultural areas. Providing residences for workers at the Hercules plant became a practical necessity.
Chinese workers, who made up the largest part of the Hercules workforce in the 19th century, lived in rough, wooden buildings at the waterfront. These men worked through a labor contractor who also charged the men a fee for lodging and meals.
This arrangement continued untilwhen the waterfront camp was dismantled. Many of the other plant workers Hercules Powder Company at the plant boarding house or one at Pinole. The company-owned village eventually grew to some houses and duplexes. Workers were charged a nominal rent and paid no property taxes. The demand for housing rose and fell according to the level of production orders, but never Hercules Powder Company the need so great as during Josepdam Sugar Company During the build-up related to World War I, additional houses and temporary dormitories were added to the housing stock to accommodate workers.
Also, a residential hotel was built to house some 45 to 50 men. Hercules had the largest population of the company towns in the East Bay. A guide to s California listed its population atwhile the company town at Oleum was estimated at persons, Selby had residents, and Giant had a population of only Although it had no retail district, Hercules did have a clubhouse, and like the other nearby company towns, it had its own post office and rail depot.
At Open A Numbered Company In Ontario, the American Smelting and Refining Company owned two hotels plus 52 houses at the adjacent village of Tormey where there was a small school.
Those employee-rented homes Full Service Film Production Company now gone and the industrial site is paved with a thick layer of asphalt. Oleum, the town at the Union Oil Company refinery between Crockett and Rodeo, once had hotel for men and a few homes for managers, some of which have been relocated to Rodeo.
The village of Giant at Point Pinole, owned by a commercial rival to Hercules, had a school, Craftsman-style bungalows, and boarding houses for workers. Hercules has undergone many changes. White Columns was dismantled in the aftermath of a huge December explosion that damaged it and other homes in the Hercules village and shattered windows in nearby towns.
All of the dormitories are gone, as well as the hotel. In the s, during the last years of plant operation, many houses were torn down as they became vacant and fell into disrepair. However, remnants of the company-owned village survive. Several historic dwellings, which have not been rehabilitated, await their next use.
These include two former management homes and Quinan Inn, originally a residence for technical employees now known as the Masonic Hall. A restaurant currently operates in a former company-owned home at Railroad Avenue that dates from These architecturally and historically significant buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It can be purchased on this website at the Book Information Page. It is currently on loan to Sala Restaurant in Hercules. Historic homes relocated in Hercules, CA The City then made the unprecedented decision of centralizing them into one coherent historic district.
By Jennifer Posedel The Gothic-revival home for the assistant superintendent was later converted into the Bachelor's Club Since it commenced operations inthe principal activity at the Hercules powder works was the manufacture of dynamite and later black powder and TNT. White Columns was built in for the plant superintendent. The hundreds of workers then hired to build the TNT plant were advised to bring a blanket.
During World War I, these dormitories housed four men to a unit.
DuPont's divestiture in 1912 created the Hercules Power Company as an independent entity, and eventually resulted in Alliant becoming America's premier gunpowder manufacturer. The long, proud history of Alliant Powder began in 1872 as Laflin & Rand, later to become Hercules Powder Company — the most respected name in the reloading industry.…
The Hercules Powder Company was one of the several small explosives companies acquired by the Du Pont Company in the 1880s. By the beginning of the 20th century, Du Pont had absorbed so many of its competitors that it was producing two-thirds of the dynamite and gunpowder sold in the United States.…
Established in 1872 by the Atlantic Giant Powder Company, the Kenvil plant was the second dynamite plant built in the United States. The Hercules Powder Company (later Hercules Inc.) took over the facility in 1913 and built a smokeless powder line that allowed the company to become a major Allied supplier during World War I.…
In 1912, as a part of the break up, the Hercules Powder Company was incorporated. Despite the name Hercules Powder Company, the company had over thirty locations including one in Canada and England. In the first 38 years of the California Power Works’ operations in ……
The Army and Navy Intelligence Services, the Hercules Company, state police, the Dies committee, local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey Legislature were conducting or preparing to start investigations. More than 200 men were searching for bodies, aided by a steam shovel.…
KENVIL, (720 feet alt., 1,000 pop.), formerly known as McCainville, advertises itself as the "Home of America's Oldest Continuously Operating Dynamite Plant" – ……
Hercules Powder Co. began operations at its 168-acre facility in 1923 and produced over 250 varieties of chemicals before shutting down in 2009. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Images of America ...…
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