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Sitting on a Dock by the Bay, Watching History Sail Away

October 26, 2012
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Loyal readers — you have a chance to see a piece of history! Behold the Alma, a scow schooner, which the being used to celebrate the Year of the Bay.

Built in 1891, the Alma was a scow schooner — these were the “flatbed trucks” of their day, hauling cargo around SF Bay. The Alma was built in Hunters Point, and it’s taking a trip back (both in time and space).

So RSVP and come to the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park at 10:30 on Thursday, November 1 to herald the Alma’s arrival.

RSVP: or 415-822-8410

More from the Year of the Bay:

On November 1, Alma will sail back to her birthplace at Hunters Point, bringing this historic scow schooner from San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park back to one of the Bay Area’s most dramatically changed historic waterfronts and communities, and closing a circle of history. We hope you will join us to welcome Alma and open the Year of the Bay — a year which brings the America’s Cup and the opening of a new span of the Bay Bridge — to all of the diverse communities of the Bay through voyages of the Alma, exhibitions, and an innovative humanities crowdsourcing project that will go live online November 1 at

The Year of the Bay crowdsourcing project is sponsored by Stanford University’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project is directed by Jon Christensen, former director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford, in collaboration with Historypin.

Here is a quick run down of the day’s events:

10:30 AM: Welcome the Alma and celebrate the opening of a new segment of the Bay Trail at the

EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park in San Francisco.

Noon: Lunch at the EcoCenter.

1-2 PM: Demonstration of the Year of the Bay crowdsourcing website to collect stories, photographs, and recollections about San Francisco Bay.

2-4:30 PM: Natural history walks at Heron’s Head Park and along the surrounding bayshore.

4:30-6:00 PM: Reception and toast to Year of the Bay at the EcoCenter at Heron’s Heads Park.

Please RSVP: or 415-822-8410 as space is limited.

Your humble crew from the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Stanford University, Historypin, the California Historical Society, Heyday Books, Literacy for Environmental Justice, and the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park eagerly await your reply.

And this being Burrito Justice, here is the article from the SF Call in 1891 announcing the launch of the Alma:

Captain John Hackey lived on 210 Steuart and Howard, right by the water like you’d expect.

Awww, the owner named it after his daughter Alma!

Not sure which J Peterson was papa though. John the Shipbuilder (red arrow) seems obvious, though I really don’t know what a “shipliner” or master mariner actually do (blue arrow).


524 Front seems like kind of a crappy neighborhood — hey, tenements!

605 4th seems nicer — (near South Park). Also — wine!


So it looks like John is our man?

Searching for Alma Peterson through the years — assuming she was born in 1890/1891 — we find a few references that might fit:

1900: Alma Peterson, Cakewalker!

(Doubt the picture is her, but who knows…)

1901: Grammar school graduation:

Hearst Elementary was at the corner of Fillmore and Herrman (now the site of the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers):

Looking at the 1900 directory, we see many potential J Petersons:

Lots of maritime related Petersons. None of the John’s really seem to fit though, right? I mean, I doubt a guy who built a boat would be a machinist in a boat building company (John W, 1916 Greenwich)? Maybe James and Joseph?

Joseph Peterson at 513 Hickory was within walking distance of Hearst Grammar School, though isn’t a master mariner the guy sailing the boat vs a boat builder? But Joseph Peterson (listed as Teamster in 1900 and 1891h always lived down in Butchertown right next to the Hunter’s Point Shipyard…

Anyway, our Alma Peterson of Hayes Valley may be a red herring. Sorry for the anticlimax, but hey, history.

But I leave you with one historical nugget — behold THE JANITRIX:

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 26, 2012 3:29 pm

    Maritime history FTW! Thanks for the tiny trip through time– wish my day job didn’t keep me far, far away from the cool happenings of Nov 1.
    I was a custodian for a brief time in high school; now I’m disappointed that I didn’t know about the janitrix title! We need more feminization of nouns in English, IMO: cakewalktrix!

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