Mare Island

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Mare Island
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Aerial photo of the southern part of Mare Island
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Mare Island
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Mare Island
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Mare Island
Location Northern California
Coordinates 38°05′43″N122°16′41″W / 38.095254°N 122.278004°W / 38.095254; -122.278004 Coordinates: 38°05′43″N122°16′41″W / 38.095254°N 122.278004°W / 38.095254; -122.278004
Adjacent bodies of water San Francisco Bay
StateFlag of California.svg  California
County Solano
City Vallejo

Mare Island is a peninsula in the United States in the city of Vallejo, California, about 23 miles (37 km) northeast of San Francisco. The Napa River forms its eastern side as it enters the Carquinez Strait juncture with the east side of San Pablo Bay. Mare Island is considered[ by whom? ] a peninsula because no full body of water separates this or several other named "islands" from the mainland. Instead, a series of small sloughs cause seasonal water-flows among the so-called islands. Mare Island is the largest of these at about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long and a mile wide.



Goats graze on Mare Island in 2011. Goats on Hillside (5716780374).png
Goats graze on Mare Island in 2011.

In 1775, Spanish explorer Perez Ayala was the first European to land on what would become Mare Island – he named it Isla de la Plana. This area was part of Rancho Suscol, deeded to General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo in 1844. It became a waypoint for early settlers. In 1835, whilst traversing the Carquinez Strait, a crude ferry transporting men and livestock capsized in a squall. Among the livestock feared lost in the wreckage was the prized white mare of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the Mexican Commandante for Northern California. Several days later, General Vallejo's mare was found on the island, having swum ashore. Grateful for the fortunate turn of events, he renamed the island to Isla de la Yegua, Spanish for Mare Island, in her honor. It is shown, labeled "Mare Island", on an 1850 survey map of the San Francisco Bay area made by Cadwalader Ringgold [1] and an 1854 map of the area by Henry Lange. [2] In 1892, development of the Mare Island Golf Club began, making it the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi.


On November 6, 1850, two months after California was admitted to statehood, President Fillmore reserved Mare Island for government use.

On January 15, 1852, Secretary of the Navy William Alexander Graham ordered a Naval Commission to select a site for a Naval Yard on the Pacific Coast. Commodore D. Sloat along with Commodore C. Ringgold, Simon F. Blunt and William P.S. Sanger (former overseer of construction of Drydock Number One, Norfolk Naval Shipyard) were appointed to the commission. On July 13, 1852, Sloat recommended the island [3] across the Napa River from the settlement of Vallejo, as it was "free from ocean gales and from floods and freshets." The Navy Department acted favorably on Commodore Sloat's recommendations and Mare Island was purchased for use as a naval shipyard in July 1853 at a cost of $83,410. On September 16, 1854, Mare Island became the first permanent U.S. naval installation on the west coast, with Commodore David Farragut, as Mare Island's first commander.

For over a century, Mare Island hosted the Navy's Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The growing size and number of the country's naval fleet was making older facilities obsolete and led to increased building and refitting of shipyards nationally. In 1872, the U.S. Public Works Department commenced construction of a 508-foot (155 m) drydock on the island, setting it on a foundation of cut granite blocks. The work was completed in 1891. A second drydock was begun in 1899, a concrete structure 740 feet (230 m) long set on wooden piles; it was completed in 1910. By 1941 a third drydock had been completed and drydock number four was under construction. The ammunition depot and submarine repair base were modern, fireproof buildings. A million dollar, three-way vehicle causeway to Vallejo replaced a ferry service. [4]

Before World War II, Mare Island had been in a continual state of up-building. By 1941, new projects included improvements to the central power plant, a new pattern storage building, a large foundry, machine shop, magazine building, paint shop, new administration building, and a huge storehouse. The yard was expected to be able to repair and paint six to eight large naval vessels at a time. Several finger piers had recently[ when? ] been built, as well as a new shipbuilding wharf, adding one 500-foot (150 m) and a 750-foot (230 m) berth. It employed 5593 workers at the beginning of 1939, and rapidly increased to 18,500 by May 1941, with a monthly payroll of $3.5 million. In 1941, the drafting department had expanded to three buildings accommodating over 400 naval architects, engineers and draftsmen. The hospital had 584 beds. [5] During World War II, the shipyard employed up to 50,000 workers. [6]

In 1969, the Navy transferred its (Vietnam War) Brown Water Navy Riverine Training Forces from Coronado, California, to Mare Island. Swift Boats (Patrol Craft Fast-PCF), and PBRs (Patrol Boat, River) conducted boat operations throughout the currently named Napa-Sonoma Marshes State Wildlife Area, on the north and west portions of Mare Island. Mare Island Naval Base was deactivated during the 1995 cycle of US base closures, but the U.S. Navy Reserves still have access to the water portions of the State Wildlife Area for any riverine warfare training being conducted from their new base in Sacramento, California.

The USS Guitarro, a Sturgeon-class submarine, SSN-665, was constructed at Mare Island between December 9, 1964, and July 27, 1968. On May 15, 1969, while still under construction and tied to the pier, the Guitarro was flooded and sank when construction crews mismanaged testing procedures. It took three days to raise her and many months to salvage her.

During the latter years of Mare Island's military use, U.S. Marines were trained for Security Management and Security Force Operations, including; F.A.S.T. (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Team), Security Guards, and Security Force Reaction Forces. In the 1970s Navy technical training schools included those for Data Systems Technicians (DSs), Firecontrol Technicians (FTs), Communications Technicians (CTs) and nuclear power ratings of many types.

Restoration and reuse

Politician George Miller on Mare Island in 2011. George Miller (5611213581).jpg
Politician George Miller on Mare Island in 2011.

In 1993 Congress approved the findings of the Base Realignment and Closure report, leading to the closure of Mare Island Naval Shipyard. [7] The shipyard had long been the economic engine of the city of Vallejo, employing 10,000 workers after reductions in 1988. When Congress ordered the base closure, the shipyard employed 5,800 workers.[ citation needed ]

The vision of rebuilding Mare Island as a vital place where people lived and worked was a key goal in the base conversion planning process undertaken by the city of Vallejo in the early 1990s. After the base was recommended for closure in 1993, the City undertook an extensive community-based reuse planning process, which resulted in a Final Reuse Plan that was approved by the Vallejo City Council in 1994. The Final Reuse Plan laid out the general vision for the Island's redevelopment. The Reuse Plan was the basis for the Mare Island Specific Plan, which was approved in 1999 and amended in 2005 and 2007. The Mare Island Specific Plan designated land uses and established development standards for identified reuse areas and provided an implementation program to guide all subsequent planning activities. [8]

Preservation of many of Mare Island's 661 structures and other cultural resources was an additional factor in the planning process. As the oldest shipyard and naval facility on the West Coast, the shipyard earned a National Historic Landmark designation by the federal government in 1975. In 1979 California listed the entire naval base as a State Historical Landmark. In 1999 the city of Vallejo added Mare Island to the National Register of Historic Districts with 42 individual city landmarks.

Finally, as with any restoration of an industrial, brownfield landscape, both city and government agencies required environmental reviews, toxic substance removal, and soil remediation.

In 1998, Vallejo contracted with Lennar Mare Island LLC (LMI) to develop 650 acres (263 ha) of the eastern portion of Mare Island into a multi-use community. LMI contracted the Sausalito-based SWA Group to provide a Master Development Plan for Vallejo, additional historical research and landscape architectural services.

The Specific Plan included a variety of land uses, including a university district, an industrial zone, historic core, and residential neighborhoods. In addition, 78% of the island was set aside for wildlife habitat and wetlands, parkland and open space, and dredge ponds. [9] In 2007, LMI finished construction on the residential neighborhoods. Farragut Village, with 277 homes, was the first completed neighborhood. Additional neighborhoods include Coral Sea and Kirkland Isle II. Mare Island's Specific Plan calls for a total of 1,400 homes and condos, plus 7,000,000 square feet (650,000 m2) of commercial, retail, entertainment, and industrial space. [10]

Mare Island's residents petitioned LMI and the City of Vallejo to eliminate the dredge ponds, whose role had been to collect silt, drainage, and storm water from the Napa River and the Bay, and instead restore that acreage to wetlands. The city and the developer agreed, and in January 2006, the land use plan was amended to add the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve. An advisory board was appointed by the city to restore the 215-acre (0.87 km2) site into publicly accessible parkland. [11]

In 2009, Alstom moved its train maintenance facility from Oakland to Mare Island. [12]

Location in films and television


Mare Island is accessed by State Route 37 on its north side, as well as by Interstate 80 via the Wichels Causeway [15] (popularly the Mare Island Causeway) and Tennessee Street. The causeway also has rails embedded in the roadway to allow access for trains. The San Francisco Bay Ferry provides year-round weekday and weekend service, and service on select holidays, between Mare Island, Vallejo, and the San Francisco Ferry Building or Pier 41 terminals.

Mare Island is the location of Touro University California, the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Office, [16] and the administrative offices of the Vallejo City Unified School District. [17]


This region experiences warm (but not hot) and dry summers, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Mare Island has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Vallejo, California City in California, United States

Vallejo is a waterfront city in Solano County, California, located in the North Bay subregion of the San Francisco Bay Area. Vallejo is geographically the closest North Bay city to the inner East Bay, so it is sometimes associated with that region. Its population was 115,942 at the 2010 census. It is the tenth most populous city in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the largest in Solano County.

Mare Island Naval Shipyard United States historic place

The Mare Island Naval Shipyard (MINSY) was the first United States Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean. It is located 25 miles northeast of San Francisco in Vallejo, California. The Napa River goes through the Mare Island Strait and separates the peninsula shipyard from the main portion of the city of Vallejo. MINSY made a name for itself as the premier US West Coast submarine port as well as serving as the controlling force in San Francisco Bay Area shipbuilding efforts during World War II.

John D. Sloat Military Governor of California

John Drake Sloat was a commodore in the United States Navy who, in 1846, claimed California for the United States.

Treasure Island, San Francisco Landform and neighborhood in San Francisco, California, United States

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Bayview–Hunters Point, San Francisco Neighborhood in San Francisco, California, United States

Bayview–Hunters Point is the San Francisco, California, neighborhood combining the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods in the southeastern corner of the city. The decommissioned Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is located within its boundaries and Candlestick Park, which was demolished in 2015, was on the southern edge. Due to the South East location, the two neighborhoods are often merged. Bayview–Hunter's Point has been labeled as San Francisco's "Most Isolated Neighborhood".

Hunters Point Naval Shipyard

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Naval Air Station Alameda

Naval Air Station Alameda was a United States Navy Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, on San Francisco Bay.

Napa Sonoma Marsh

The Napa Sonoma Marsh is a wetland at the northern edge of San Pablo Bay, which is a northern arm of the San Francisco Bay in California, United States. This marsh has an area of 48,000 acres (194 km2), of which 13,000 acres (53 km2) are abandoned salt evaporation ponds. The United States Government has designated 13,000 acres (53 km2) in the Napa Sonoma Marsh as the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Mare Island Strait

The Mare Island Strait is a channel at 38.10°N 122.265°W in the San Pablo Bay separating Mare Island and the mainland in Vallejo, California in Solano County. The strait was formerly used by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard until its closure in 1995. The strait is the mouth of the Napa River and is used for both recreational and freight boating. The Vallejo Ferry Terminal and its commuter ferry service to San Francisco are located on the strait.

Treasure Island Development

The Treasure Island Development is a 405-acre (164 ha) major redevelopment project under construction on Treasure Island and parts of Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Oakland, within San Francisco city limits. The Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) is a nonprofit organization formed to oversee the economic development of the former naval station. Treasure Island's development was set to break ground during mid-2012. However, on April 12, 2013, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the deal has collapsed, with the Chinese investors from China Development Bank and China Railway Construction Corporation withdrawing from the project. The Treasure Island Project is now being developed by a joint venture between Lennar Corporation and Kenwood Investments. The development is expected to cost US$1.5 billion .

San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railway

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Kofi S. Bonner is an American architect and planner who is known for the heading the redevelopment of the city of Emeryville, California. Mr. Bonner also has served as Deputy Executive Director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; Director of Community & Economic Development and Interim City Manager for the city of Oakland, California; and Chief Economic Policy Advisor to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. In 1998, Mr. Bonner became Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the Cleveland Browns football organization of the National Football League. In 2004, Bonner was hired by MBNA and then in 2006 became director of Urban Land for the Lennar Corporation. Currently he is Regional President at FivePoint, a position he assumed when his previous role as President in Lennar's Bay Area Urban division transitioned into FivePoint in July 2016. In this role, Mr. Bonner oversees all land acquisition and urban development activities for FivePoint in northern California including The San Francisco Shipyard and Candlestick Point, Treasure Island, and the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

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1898 Mare Island earthquake 1898 earthquake in Northern California, United States

The 1898 Mare Island earthquake occurred in Northern California on March 30 at 23:43 local time with a moment magnitude of 5.8–6.4 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII–IX (SevereViolent). Its area of perceptibility included much of northern and central California and western Nevada. Damage amounted to $350,000 and was most pronounced on Mare Island, a peninsula in northern San Francisco Bay. While relatively strong effects there were attributed to vulnerable buildings, moderate effects elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area consisted of damaged or partially collapsed structures, and there were media reports of a small tsunami and mostly mild aftershocks that followed.

Mare Island Naval Shipyard Airfield US Navy installation at Vallejo, California, United States

Mare Island Naval Shipyard Airfield was a post World War 1 US Navy airfield that opened in 1922 and closed in 1937. The airfield was built to support to USS Langley, the US Navy's first aircraft carrier. The Langley was converted to an aircraft carrier in 1920 at Mare Island Naval Shipyard from the collier USS Jupiter. The airfield was located at 13th Street & Flagship Drive in the City of Vallejo, California just west of the shipyard near San Pablo Bay. The airfield had a single unpaved runway for day use only. Common aircraft at the airfield were Vought FU, Vought VE-7 and Curtiss JN-4 Jenny. USS Langley could hold 36 planes, but need to remove planes to Mare Island Naval Shipyard Airfield when the ship was under repair. The Mare Island Naval Shipyard Airfield was also used for some training. [[The Mare Island Naval Shipyard Airfield closed as Naval Air Station Alameda was picked to be the Navy's main support base for aircraft carriers in San Francisco Bay.


  1. Ringgold, Cadwalader; Stuart, Fred D.; Everett, Chas.; Harrison (1850). "General Chart embracing Surveys of the Farallones Entrance to the Bay of San Francisco, Bays of San Francisco and San Pablo, Straits of Carquines and Suisun Bay, and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, to the Cities of Sacramento and San Joaquin, California". David Rumsey Map Collection. San Francisco Common Council. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  2. Lange, Henry (1854). "Bai San Francisco und Vereinigung des Sacramento mit dem San Joaquin". David Rumsey Map Collection. George Westermann. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  3. "Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine". A. Roman & Company. 28 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017 via Google Books.
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  5. Lott, A Long Line of Ships, pp. 209–37
  6. Kern, James & Vallejo and Naval Historical Museum Images of America: Vallejo. Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
  7. "City of Vallejo: Mare Island FAQs". City of Vallejo. 2012. Archived from the original on June 9, 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  8. City of Vallejo (2007). "Mare Island Specific Plan" . Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  9. "Mare Island Regional Taskforce Report Proposal Narrative" (PDF). 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 11, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  10. "Lennar: Mare Island History". 2012. Lennar Mare Island. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  11. Chris G. Denina (2006). "New Vision Sought for Mare Island". Vallejo Times Herald. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  12. Raskin-Zrihen, Rachel (25 October 2017). "Mare Island's Alstom snags game-changing contract, promises growth". The Times-Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  13. Cieply, Michael (April 18, 2012). "Filmmaker's Newest Work Is About ... Something". . The New York Times Company . Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  14. Saincome, Matt (May 13, 2015). "Robots Set to Collide at BattleBots 2015 Championship". . SF Weekly . Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  15. York, Jessica (14 February 2011). "Mare Island gets new rail service provider – The Mercury News". Mercury News. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  16. "Pacific Southwest Region". United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  17. "Home". Vallejo City Unified School District. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  18. "Mare Island, California Köppen Climate Classification (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase. Retrieved 28 October 2017.

Further reading