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Richmond City, Contra Costa County, CA

Nystrom Neighborhood Report [1]

The Nystrom neighborhood is part of a larger area historically known as Southside, located toward the shoreline, on the southern side of the city of Richmond. The Nystrom neighborhood forms the large north-west corner of an expanded area also known today as the Coronado neighborhood within Southside. Coronado is bordered by Ohio Avenue to the north, the 23rd Street at the east, Wright Avenue to the south, and South 10th Street, now Harbor Way, at the west. The Coronado neighborhood also includes the original Griffin Watrous Addition Tract. The Coronado neighborhood is ringed by the following neighborhoods: Santa Fe to the west, City Center to the north, Cortez/Stege on the east, and Marina Bay, an area of light industry, research and development, and newer residential to the south.

The area's place name was taken from that of the local property owner, John Richard Nystrom.

Like the Nystrom neighborhood, other streets and places in Richmond take their names from those of local landowners of the late 1800s, such as Nichol Avenue named for John Nicholl, Stege Landing named for Edith Stege and C.C. Stege, and Tewksbury Avenue named for E.S. Tewksbury.

The Nystrom neighborhood developed from grain fields and dairy farms of the late 19th century, specifically the Nystrom farm, and evolved into a predominantly residential enclave. According to Sanborn maps, the Nystrom farm, centerpiece of the present Nystrom neighborhood, was comprised of a house that was surrounded by open land and an orchard north of the house. In 1908 Nystrom donated land on South 13th Street near his home for a new school upon which the Nystrom Elementary school was built. The school was later moved to the location of the existing Nystrom School, originally the site of the Nystrom family home. The neighborhood remains home to early education facilities. The predominant use in the area is residential, dominated by single-family homes, with numerous duplexes and apartments.

Nystrom Village was a 102-unit public housing project constructed in a garden setting at the start of World War II. The village is still extant and intact. Richmond played a significant part in the World War II home front. The four Kaiser Shipyards produced 747 ships, more than any other shipyard complex in the country. As workers from across the nation migrated to secure defense jobs in California, Richmond grew from 24,000 residents to over 100,000 in a few short years. Richmond has World War II era buildings and sites that have retained their historic integrity, and former home front sites that have been converted to new uses. Structures remaining from the World War II period, include two child development centers, a fire station, war workers' housing and the Kaiser Field Hospital. The Field Hospital was used for health care for shipyard workers. It remains a symbol of Kaiser's efforts to boost worker productivity and the pre-paid health plan that became Kaiser Permanente. The Maritime and Ruth C. Powers Child Development Centers were originally built to serve families working in Richmond's home front industries and have been in continuous use as daycare facilities since the war. With some housing for war workers still intact, the Nystrom neighborhood retains much of its WWII-era appearance and feeling.

Many homes from the early Richmond era also remain in the Nystrom neighborhood. These residences cannot be classified as agricultural, but they are not truly urban in character either. The architecture of the houses is semi-rural having been inspired by the Victorian farmhouse model. Nonetheless, the majority of housing can be characterized as development dating to World War II and post-war infill housing. In the mid-1960s a number of modest multi-family housing units were constructed in the area. The neighborhood also has a number of ecclesiastical buildings. There is no commercial center within the Nystrom neighborhood boundaries, but Southside has long been considered to be one of Richmond's most advantageous residential areas due to easy walking distances to the downtown area, the abundance of bus stops and proximity to work, schools and other facilities.

Though subdivided since 1903, Richmond remained only sparsely developed prior to World War II. Most of the city lots were uniformly partitioned. The Nystrom neighborhood is defined by a rigorous gridiron street pattern. The only deviation in the grid pattern appears at the large parcel of land bordered by Virginia and Florida Avenues, South 10th (now Harbor Way) and South 12th Streets, the location of Nystrom School. Here the uniform pattern of blocks is interrupted. Although both Maine Avenue and South 11th Street continue on either side of the block, neither bisects it. This parcel roughly corresponds to the old Nystrom orchard. One of the distinguished features of the Nystrom Addition Tract was that rear alleys bisected each block. The alleys were not common to all blocks and streets in this part of Richmond, but appear to have been consistent in the Nystrom blocks.

Topographically, the neighborhood has always been flat with the southern border trailing off into the marsh lands of the pre-settlement era. Early maps specify these areas as "mud flats." For many years the lack of storm drains created major flooding problems in this area. Storm drains were constructed in most parts of the neighborhood in the late 1960s, however, periodic problems still occur in some streets. Historically a sparse landscape, the area is lacking in street trees. Lightly populated until the late 1930s, the neighborhood underwent dramatic change during the WWII era.

Within the Nystrom neighborhood there is a mix of residential, commercial, and ecclesiastical building types with the majority of the residential structures within a concentrated area north of Cutting Boulevard. The majority of housing in the Nystrom neighborhood can be characterized as development dating to World War II and post-war infill housing. Nonetheless, many homes from the early Richmond period are Victorian residences that were once semi-rural; vernacular examples carried out in revival styles modified by farmhouse influences, and often with Gothic or Classical revival influences. Prevailing wartime and postwar architectural trends depended on the unornamented, machine-inspired aesthetic of European modernism, which became known as the International style. With its clean lines, boxy volumes, and emphasis on horizontality, this architectural idiom, in a vernacular interpretation, is found throughout the study area. Some examples in the study area are Fire Station No. 7, 1331 Cutting Boulevard, Nystrom Village, the day care centers, the church at Florida Avenue and South 15th Street, Nystrom School, and a number of residential multi-unit buildings similar to the building at 1201-1207 Maine which dates to 1960.

Almost all the historic residential buildings within the neighborhood are of wood-frame construction. Early residential buildings are generally two stories with gabled roofs, front and rear yards, and traditional materials. Later one- and two-story buildings, constructed in the postwar era, often employ flat roofs, modern materials, exterior stucco, aluminum window framing, carports, exterior stairs, and the same general stripped down style.

Within the Nystrom neighborhood there is a mix of building types and architectural styles. Many resources related to this context remain within the Nystrom tract.

  1. National Park Service, Richmond, California; prepared by Architectural Resources Group, Nystrom Neighborhood Report, 2004, www.nps.gov, accessed August, 2015.

Street Names
11th Street South • 12th Street South • 13th Street South • 15th Street South • 16th Street South • 9th Street South • Cutting Boulevard • Florida Avenue • Harbour Way South • Maine Avenue • Marina Way South • Ohio Avenue • Virginia Avenue