San Mateo County History

Tales of the San Francisco Peninsula
Theron G. Cady
A series of articles first published in 'Peninsula Life Magazine'
Published by C-T Publishers, San Carlos, California, 1948

Port Ravenswood
        At the end of Bay Road, a long narrow strip of pavement stretching from Redwood City through Atherton and Menlo Park to the waters of the bay east of Palo Alto, is the old port of Ravenswood.
        Build about 1853, the town boasted a wooden pier which jutted out 1,500 feet from land to deep water.  Wharf Street was the main thoroughfare and it was crossed by Woods Street, Haskell Street, Charles Street, all named for men interested in the town's possibilities.  Lots were laid out adjoining these streets and the buildings which occupied many were built of lumber from the mills near Woodside and Searsville.
        A lone steamer, the Jenny Lind, according to records, was the only vessel operating between San Francisco and Ravenswood.  It was a sturdy side-wheeler of some sixty tons and on one of its regular trips down the bay in 1853 it met with disaster.  When the boat, laden with cargo and passengers, reached a point opposite San Mateo, her boilers exploded killing thirty-one passengers and completely destroying the boat.
        In 1864, when the railroad was completed to San Jose, it brought an end to much of the bay shipping.  Redwood City, which was closer to the lumber mills, was now the chief lumber port and great things anticipated for Ravensood failed to materialize.  Real estate activities decreased and after a time the propery came into the possession of L.P. Cooley and Michael Crowe.
        In 1874 Ravenswood secured a second lease on life when Hunter, Shackleford and Company started a brick manufacturing plant near the old port.  It was the largest plant of its kind in San Mateo County and all the bricks that went into the building of William G. Ralston's Palace Hotel were made here and shipped from the old wharf.  When the hotel was completed in 1875 it brought an end to the brick business and Ravenswood gradually faded into the past.
        Today, nothing remains of Ravenswood except a gaping pit from which brick clay was obtained in the early days.  The 1,500-foot wooden wharf is gone and the last piling which served as a landmark for so many years has completely disappeared.  All the remaining things that once made Ravenswood a thriving community now lie hidden beneath tons of refuse, for the site of San Mateo County's first town now serves as a county dump.
© 1948 Theron G. Cady. All rights reserved.
Posted here with permission of his granddaughter, Andrea Van Norman.
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