San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Redwood City's Maritime Past Rediscovered


A short stroll along a long-forgotten waterway in Redwood City will reveal a plaque with the information that Diller’s Island once stood here, overlooking the port of Redwood City, where ships loaded lumber from the many sawmills in the area.  

Diller’s Island was once the site of Redwood City’s first schoolhouse, which was reached via a bridge from the port area.  The school is long gone, along with the old Indian burial ground which was still visible nearby.  However, remnants of the inhabitants still remain.

The island was probably named after J.V.Diller, owner of a general store which stood at 726 Main St.[1]

On a high point of the island, a railway track cuts through the weeds, running parallel to the shoreline.  The track was constructed about 1860 and remains today.  Near the tracks are two old houses, the earliest buildings in Redwood City.  The John Offerman House was built in 1857, and the John Dielmann house in 1874.[2]

During wet weather, unless one possesses a stout pair of boots, the island is inaccessible to the casual walker.  However, it may be viewed through binoculars from a high point at the end of Main Street.  In dry weather, when the tide is out, a crossing may be made on an elevated section near the train tracks. 

On arrival, you first come across an old white picket fence which may date back to the days of the schools.  A rusty gate still hangs from the hinges.  The houses are surrounded by lush vegetation, including several palms, indication of a once large garden here.

Although the area was at one time crowded with sea-going ships, it would be impossible to bring any large-draft ships in now.  In fact it would be unusual even to see anyone fishing for sculpin or croakers[3] along the creek, which is mostly filled in.  It is still a popular place to stroll, however, and well worth a visit to view some of Redwood City’s hidden history.

Margaret Melaney 3/27/2019




[1] Redwood City Voice, Aug. 8, 2016
[2] National Register of Historic Places https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/15000681.htm
[3] http://wiki.recfin.org/index.php/Category:Recreational_Fishing_Sites_San_Mateo_County_307

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