Hercules was a company town built to house workers at a large 19th century gun power and dynamite factory. California Powder Works opened a plant in what was then a remote location in 1881. Company housing was built near the plant and the town was incorporated as Hercules in 1900 with a population of 279. 59 workers were killed in explosions at the plant over the years including 24 in a single blast in 1908. Suburban Bay Area development had gradually enveloped Hercules by the 1960s. In 1964 the plant stopped making explosives and started producing fertilizer. In the late 1970s the plant closed permanently. In 1966 an oil refinery was built on the waterfront in Hercules near the site of the explosives plant. That refinery closed in 1995. Today Hercules is a mix of large, disconnected, new housing developments. There is no real town center and almost all of the older homes and buildings in the city have been torn down.
The "historic town center" neighborhood is comprised almost entirely of new buildings in a new urbanist design. A few structures associated with the explosives plant have been preserved but seem to have been forgotten about and lay slightly outside of the new "Waterfront District" development. The actual waterfront where the oil refinery once stood is still undeveloped and mostly cut off from the rest of town by a busy railroad line. Much of the waterfront where the refinery was is fenced off and remnants of the refinery can be seen in a few places. I kind of liked the "historic town center" development. I'm a sucker for most new urbanist designs if they're done well. It's unfortunate that Hercules didn't have a better comprehensive plan or fewer competing plans in the 1970s, 80s and 90s though. It will be interesting to see what if any steps are taken to reconnect the town with it's now unused waterfront in the future. It will also be interesting to see what if anything will be done to reconnect the town with the very few historic structures that survive.
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