Road Trip: Exploring Old Alameda Naval Air Station
Some destinations are so close, but yet so far. One of those local places for me is right smack dab in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, the (former) Alameda Naval Air Station. The based closed for active military use in 1997, and for many years sat locked and dormant. The location is on the island of Alameda, which sits adjacent to the city of Oakland, with incredible views of San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay.
It has long been a curiosity, the former base sits in the flight path for the Oakland International Airport. I have flown over the old base many times. There are two jet runways, deep shipping berths, plus enormous warehouse structures and base housing on the property. It is a prime piece of underdeveloped real estate in a major metropolitan area. The location on Alameda makes the location desirable, yet also somewhat challenging to get to. There are only three ways onto the island, and traffic issues would be an impediment to any kind of rapid development of the land.
The reason for heading there, frankly, was to go drink beers. Faction Brewing occupies a cavernous former hanger where they have set up their brewing facility with large outdoor “beer garden” (without the garden), sporting a spectacular viewing of the San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. Like many a things that can happen on a road trip, we got sidetracked from beer drinking, and instead embarked on a driving exploration of the former base. It was a beautiful and hot October Saturday, and while most of the people who also found their way to the island were heading to Faction Brewing, Hanger One Vodka, though most of the other main areas were sparse. So, we headed down Monarch Road past the many food trucks until it came to an end. Beyond a fence appeared to look like an old airplane runway. So we drove on it until we could nearly reach the water. The temptation to hit the gas and let it rip was there, but instead opted to take it slow and experience the amazing views and ponder the history of this newly discovered land. It wasn’t actually part of any runway, but its location on the base, next to what appeared to be a deep-water port, was more likely in the past a disemarking area for sailors and heavy equipment.
Street names represent recognizable historic American sites; Midway, Lexington, Saratoga. Even a “Pan Am Way”. I learned that Pan American World Airways used the yacht harbor as the California terminal for China Clipper trans-Pacific flights beginning in 1935. The China Clipper terminal is designated California Historical Landmark. Also, on the island is the USS Hornet Museum, a museum ship, located on the southernmost pier of the old base.
There are many very large hanger / warehouse spaces that are getting a second life with entrepreneurial enterprises. Particularly adult beverages; Faction Brewing, Hanger One Vodka, Building 43 Winery, Rock Wall Wine Company to name a few. Even Google has warehouse on the island. Though there seems to be plenty of warehouse space available for budding entrepreneurs.
Long gone is the glorious guard station entry to the base. Those buildings are long gone. Today, much of the base housing units appear to be either abandoned, or utilized for low income residents. This goes too for some of the base office spaces.
But the views…. Totally amazing.