The Carquinez Bridge opened on May 21, 1927. Here are some vintage images from the era and a 2011 Nilda Rego column on the origin of the bridge.
How the Carquinez Bridge came to be
By Nilda Rego
Nov. 13, 2011
Aven J. Hanford may have been in his early 20s, but he already owned three rather successful grocery stores, one in Vallejo, one in Oakland and the third in Alameda.
However, there was a problem. Hanford trucked his own merchandise, buying from a farmer or a jobber and delivering the products to his stores. It would take him a full day to get from the Vallejo store to the other two. Not only was his time consumed, but the long, arduous trip was wearing out his truck.
It was 1917. There were no bridges. Hanford bought a barge and would go across the Carquinez Strait in his truck, taking along a few passengers to help defray the costs.
Also traveling the same route day after day was Oscar H. Klatt, a young salesman for a San Francisco wholesale grocery company. The two met and determined to find a better way to get from Vallejo to other East Bay cities.
They came up with the idea of a ferry and started the Rodeo-Vallejo Ferry Company, which was a good idea, except for the fact there was a war going on. All the shipyards were way too busy to build a ferry. So if the two couldn’t get a new boat, what about a used one? Hanford heard of a little steamer called the Issaquah that ferried people around Lake Washington near Seattle.
Hanford went up to Seattle, bought the Issaquah and had it refurbished. Then he hired a crew, and even though he had no seafaring experience, he took command of the ferry. It was a harrowing trip. Hanford sailed the Issaquah through a fierce storm with a crew that was close to mutiny. But he made it.
It was a very popular ferry. Hanford gave up the grocery business. The company bought more boats. But there were always long lines of cars waiting to board. Sometimes, people had to wait for three hours, and the lines kept getting longer.
Hanford and Klatt realized a bridge was the answer. Then they heard that someone else was seeking a franchise to build a bridge across the Carquinez Strait. Hanford went looking for a lawyer and found A.F. Bray, of Martinez, who later became the presiding justice of the District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Bray suggested that Hanford ask the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors for a franchise because, according to the law, the governing county was the one situated on the “left bank descending the stream or arm of the Bay.” Hanford and Klatt got the franchise and organized the American Bridge Company. Hanford became the president of the company. The stock sold rapidly. However, both Hanford and Klatt had to mortgage their homes and all their personal property to add to the earnings of the ferry company for the construction fund.
Construction on the Carquinez Bridge started in February 1923 and was completed in May 1927. Hanford never got to see the completion of his project. He died at the age of 40 at his home in Berkeley.
His obituary in the Oakland Tribune reported “His death was caused by a brain hemorrhage due to overwork.” Klatt took over Hanford’s job as president to complete the bridge.