East Bay Business Times - Interview with Dean McLeod Friday, October 26, 2007
Bay Point originally was an unincorporated lumber town - to the west of the current community - that grew up around the Smith Lumber Co. The company, which used its waterfront locale to ship products worldwide, enjoyed a booming business after the 1906 earthquake, but fell on hard times during the Great Depression and eventually closed its doors.
The Chamber of Commerce, searching for a way to restore the community, renamed it Port Chicago in 1931 in hopes of rekindling its industrial heyday. During World War II, the U.S. Navy built a base to be used for munitions loading of ships operating in the Pacific. That base grew in strategic importance during the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
Using eminent domain, in 1968 the Navy spent $15 million to take over the town of Port Chicago to create a two-mile buffer zone around the base. Thirty-five hundred residents were displaced and scattered throughout Contra Costa County. Some of them found their way to an unincorporated area east of the Concord Naval Weapons Station known as West Pittsburg, where the chief industries were oil and chemical companies. In 1993, trying to change its image, community members petitioned to change its name to Bay Point, the name of the original school district formed in 1857.
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