1860: Hunters Point begins its historical journey
A.W. Von Schmidt and Thomas Hardy, two ruddy San Francisco entrepreneurs, buy 29 acres from the South San Francisco Association, under the condition that they build a drydock. The area, known as Hunters Point, lies four miles to the south of City Hall and boasts 2,000 feet of waterfront. Von Schmidt and Hardy set aside 11 acres for the dock and buildings and keep 18 acres for themselves. Smart move.
1866: San Francisco’s first graving dock emerges
Von Schmidt and Hardy break ground on San Francisco’s first graving dock, a drainable dry-storage area where ships can be repaired from the hull up. In October they sign a contract to sell the docks to the California Drydock Company—later the San Francisco Drydock Company. One of the company’s principal investors is W.C. Ralston, founder of the Bank of California. From an article in the Daily Alta California, October 21, 1866: “Men familiar with drydocks express the opinion that it is admirably suited to the purpose and they are astonished that a dock has not been built before.” The contractors carve the dock straight out of the hard serpentine stone that makes up Hunters Point.
1867: The drydock is completed
After 18 months, Von Schmidt and Hardy finish construction on the drydock. When it is done, the facility resembles a large, ship-shaped amphitheater. At 450 feet long, 24 feet deep, and 100 feet wide at the top, it is the largest stone dock in the world. The facility includes a steam pump that is driven by a flywheel. The flywheel measures 30 feet in diameter and rings in at a mere 15 tons. The total cost to the contractors is $350,000. On October 24, the dock opens with a live demonstration. The steamship Ajax is hauled in, and the dock empties of water in just under two hours.