The Macdonald Landmarks are a series of sculptural interpretive markers designed to share the history of Macdonald Avenue - Richmond’s "Main Street." The markers describe the Avenue’s many evolutions, including its important role as the heart of the city during WWII, when Richmond was home to the nation’s largest shipbuilding effort. They serve as the first permanent interpretation in downtown Richmond for Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park.
Marker #1 Transit Village Plaza on Macdonald Avenue
Generations from across the United States and the world have continued to arrive at Richmond’s doorstep seeking a new life. Waves of immigration from Mexico and Central America expanded the pre-war Latino population, while refugees from war in Southeast Asia built a vital community, enhancing Richmond’s dynamic cultural mix.
Marker #2 NW corner of Marina Way and Macdonald Avenue
In 1968, Richmond was shocked when its premiere furniture store, Travalini’s, was burned to the ground near here. The arson was fueled by larger tensions: Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, civil rights protests, and closer to home, the shooting of an African-American youth by Richmond police.
When Hilltop Mall opened four miles away in 1975, Macdonald Avenue was no longer the place to shop and gather; but community leaders and activists refused to let it die. By the turn of the 21st century new transit, housing and retail developments began making the street a destination once again.
Marker #3 NW corner of Harbour Way and Macdonald Avenue
For decades, Macdonald Avenue has been the vibrant heart of Richmond; a place where you’d catch the latest movie, get your first job or visit with neighbors on the sidewalk. However, not all were welcome downtown. African Americans felt more accepted in North Richmond and Mexican American Zoot-suiters endured slurs, while Japanese Americans were required to register as “enemy aliens” at the Post Office just one block away.
The flood of defense workers changed Richmond from a quiet town to a boiling city of more than 100,000. Despite conflicts, important issues brought old and new residents together during and after the war – walking picket lines and pushing to make Richmond one of the first cities in California to ban job discrimination once again.
Marker #4 NE corner of 11th Street and Macdonald Avenue
Can you hear the music floating across the street? Since 1923, the Winters Building has kept Richmond residents moving to the beat even as the city changed with the times. German immigrants Adolph and Elisabeth Winters built the handsome structure, installing a flower shop and music store on the ground floor. During World War II shipyard workers forgot their worries as they danced to big bands in the upstairs ballroom and tried to ignore that the building was also part of Richmond’s network of air raid shelters.
Marker #5 Macdonald Avenue and 12th Street
Music and nightlife have shaped Richmond’s soul since the city was founded. World War II migrants brought their varied tastes to Richmond, creating a rich musical stew. The Base Hit Bar and the It Club kept Macdonald Avenue jumping all night long. Rhythms of western swing packed local dance halls, and in North Richmond, Minnie Lue’s and Tappers Inn cooked up rich soul food and down home blues, drawing fans from throughout the Bay Area.
Richmond, California played a nationally recognized part in the World War II Home Front. The City was home to 56 different war industries including four shipyards. It grew overnight from a small city of 24,000 people to a bustling, and bursting, 100,000 people, overwhelming the available housing stock, roads, schools, businesses and community services.
Recruiters brought people in record numbers, with large migrations from the south and other parts of the US. With the emphasis on jobs for women, young girls from poor families were sent on their own to find jobs or lived with relatives who had already arrived. Mostly, people lived in anything they could find, sometimes in cars, in wagons or trailer camps, or sleeping in movie theater seats, many workers resorted to sharing what was called a “warm bed” where they slept in a bed in their own room for one shift and someone else rented it from them for another 8 hours. As the war effort continued, meeting people’s needs for shelter, food, childcare and medical care became a top priority for more enlightened employers.
The park sites below chronicle the explosive growth of wartime industry, the innovations fostered by visionaries like Henry J. Kaiser and others, and the extraordinary history of people who were challenged as never before and came together to overcome the odds.
Visiting the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, the Rosie Memorial and all Richmond City public parks are FREE!
1414 Harbour Way South, Suite #3000 (Oil House) Richmond, CA 94804
Open daily: 10am-5pm | (510) 232-5050 x0
(Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day)
Make a lasting gift that can help us inspire current and new generations with Home Front stories. Your gift can help us carry on this legacy for years to come, educating people of all ages.
You can include the Rosie the Riveter Trust in your will or talk with your tax advisor to set up other means of making tax deductible contributions that benefit you, your family, and the park.
To include the Trust in your will, share this sample bequest language with your estate planning attorney:
I give and bequeath to Rosie the Riveter Trust, Tax ID #: 94-3335350, the sum of $______ (or _______% of my estate, or ___% of the rest and remainder of my estate).
View and print out our Intent to Give letter.
The Kaiser Field Hospital sits on Cutting Boulevard, a short distance from the shipyards and can be seen by taking the Marina Bay exit and continuing toward Richmond. The Field Hospital opened with only ten beds. Later additions increased its capacity to 160 beds by 1944.
It was the second tier of treatment (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. This health system and its availability on a pre-paid basis to workers for a nominal price, represented a visionary innovation at the time and laid the groundwork for the present day Kaiser Permanente health system. It operated as a Kaiser Permanente hospital until closing in 1995.
The cargo ship SS Red Oak Victory - AK235, was launched November 9, 1944 by Permanente Metals Corp., Richmond, California, for the U.S. Maritime Commission, acquired by the U.S. Navy December 5, 1944 and commissioned the same day with Lt. Commander John S. Sayer, USNR in command.
\The Red Oak was loaded with cargo and departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor January 10, 1945. From then until the end of the war she served as an ammunition ship for various ships in the South Pacific. After many other voyages, operating out of the Philippines, she issued cargo and ammunition to various ships in the fleet through the end of the war in August 1945. During a hazardous tour of duty in the Pacific, the Red Oak Victory handled many tons of ammunition, supplying the fleet without a single casualty.
In 1996, Congress passed legislation authorizing the conveyance of the Red Oak to the Richmond Museum of History. Saved from the scrap heap, the ship was moved from the Ready Reserve Fleet to Richmond on September 20, 1998. Restoration of the ship continues under the direction of the Museum Association and many dedicated volunteers.
Address: 1337 Canal Blvd, Richmond, CA
Directions: South of I-580, Canal Blvd exit, follow south to end, looping around storage yards, to the parking lot next to the ship.
Hours: Tu, Th, Sa, Su 10-3. Rainy day closings. (Call to verify)
The Whirley Crane cannot be missed when touring Shipyard #3. It sits adjacent to the Red Oak Victory ship and across from the restored Rigger’s Loft, a former shipyard building used for fitting out the top part of the completed vessel with masts and other equipment; The scale of the crane is enormous, like a revolving boxcar sitting on massive legs as tall as a 10-story building.
The Whirley Crane got its name not because of the speed of its movement—it probably moved carefully and deliberately because a single error could cost several lives—but because the crane could turn a full 360 degrees, thus allowing the boom to achieve a speed of operation as it went about several tasks. Sixty years ago, workers-many of them women-used to sit in the turret at the top of the Whirley Crane, operating the controls that caused the 110 foot boom to lift and assemble and put into place the massive sheets of iron that eventually became the cruisers and battleships that sailed out into the Pacific and helped win the naval war for the United States.