Though hopelessly broken and firmly at rest, the cement ship Palo Alto has become an important legacy whose value has not decreased today. As the colorful chapters of her past resonate through her hull she is protected as a historic resource, a recreation destination and a habitat for wildlife.
A Ship of Stone
Plans for a concrete shipping fleet were born in the course of the WWI war effort when steel was in short supply. As fate would have it, the $1.5 million dollar order for the Palo Alto came in 1918, less than six months before the end of the war.After her launch the Palo Alto sat solemnly at anchor in Oakland, California, an oil tanker without a cargo. Then, in 1924, without ceremony, she was sold as scrap for the price of $18,750.
All Aboard for Fun
Humbly under tow, the Palo Alto began her final voyage to Seacliff Beach in 1930. Ambitious plans were underway to develop the ship into an entertainment resort which would include a ballroom, restaurant, swimming pool and arcade.
Once again the Palo Alto fell victim to poor timing. Opening to great fanfare in the midst of the Great Depression, the resort failed within two years. In February of 1936 the ship was sold to the State for one dollar.
Living at Last
Today beneath the surface and between the tides, the Palo Alto is a habitat for wildlife. As a rocky island in a sea of sand, the ship offers refuge for animals that require a hard substrate for a home. With old age the Palo Alto is perhaps, at its best - a sanctuary for wildlife whose price is invaluable.
[Photo captions: top to bottom, left to right]:
A cement ship in the making, Oakland, CA, 1919 · Launch of the Palo Alto on May 29, 1919 · The Palo Alto underway, a rare sight · The Palo Alto arrives at Seacliff Beach, January, 1930