Any history of transportation in Oakland is simply incomplete without discussing Henry J. Kaiser. As one of the most influential business tycoons in the area, Kaiser invested much of his wealth into making the city an industrial hub of the coast. This pin location goes to Henry J. Kaiser’s family home, though his lasting professional influence is felt throughout Oakland, from the street names to the health services offered to local Oaklanders. His influence extends into areas that could almost be considered invisible, as his shipping business was a major economic driver of the area after WWII.
Right as the war was starting in the 1940s, the shipping business on the West went into overdrive to keep up with the military demand for ships. They mostly built cargo ships or ‘Liberty ships’ that would carry supply to soldiers across the seas. The shipyards needed labor to function so thousands of workers coming from different parts of the U.S. and around the world came to the Bay Area for promising work. The work force was made up of poor whites and blacks from the southern part of the United States, Latinos and Mexican Americans from places like Texas or New Mexico. The four shipyards owned by Kaiser were spread along the Bay Area coast so workers lived in Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco and other cities of the Bay Area.
In order to be close to his operations, Kaiser built this pale pink and white home, then moved his family out to Oakland after already living at the location of his construction company in Washington state. One of the special features of the home is the purple and gold stained-glass front door that was allegedly made from the bottoms of champagne bottles popped to celebrate the takeoff of Kaiser’s first ships in Richmond. The house has seen visitors like President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.
The Kaiser family lived in the house until the mid-1940s when they moved into a much larger, 16,000 square foot mansion in Lafayette.
After their departure the property was used as a hospice facility and then sold to a few different owners throughout the decades. In 2004 Jay and Marlies Patterson purchased the then decrepit house and spent two years restoring the home. With their advocacy, the home was given the protection as an official Oakland historical landmark.