Hercules plant, circa 1985. View is towards Rodeo.

Hercules began as the California Powder Works company town in 1881. Named after Hercules, the legendary Greek hero known for his strength, the town thrived through three transferals of ownership and five wars. The potent and explosive black powder produced in Hercules was first used by Allied forces in World War I. In 1917, after the U.S. had enteredthe war, the Hercules plant became the largest producer of TNT in the country.

From San Pablo Avenue, the view looks over empty workers homes and open fields towards the Bay, September 1981.

During the 1960’s, the plant made the transition from the production of black powder to fertilizer. Because buffer zones were no longer needed for dynamite production, the company decided to create a new city on the land outside of the plant. (These buffer zones are still evidenced by the various groves of Eucalyptus trees seen around the City. This non-native trees were planted due to their ability to grow fast andprovide a modicum of protection in the event of an explosion at the plant.)

Empty workers homes on original sites, taken September 1981.

After two years of working with consultants and holding public meetings, a general plan for a city of 22,000 residents was adopted by the City Council in 1972. The plant was sold to Valley Fertilizer, 1976 and closed permanently in 1977 due to economic factors. It remained idle until 1979 when it was purchased by a group of investors called Hercules Properties, Ltd.

A multitude of development options are now being considered for the historic waterfront property. Meanwhile, the City of Hercules has grown up around the site and is creating its own legacy as a legendary city in its own right.


1900 City of Hercules is incorporated
1975 First housing development opens
1978 The “City Newsletter is not a very exciting name”, is renamed the Herculean
Hercules Elementary School opens
Woodfield Park, named after the late Mayor Gene Woodfield, is opened
1979 “Movies Under The Stars” are a regular summer Monday night feature in Woodfield Park
First Cultural Festival.  The June Herculean reports: “On April 14, Woodfield Park came alive with the sound of and the delicious odors of Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, and Soul food….A special thanks goes to Mr. and Mrs. Dori Sheets and Apolinario Fias of …Violet Street who allowed the City to hook up to the electric outlets in their homes so those people selling food could have electricity…..”
Ohlone Elementary School opens
1980 Hercules Civic Arts Association sponsors “Victorian Crafts Faire”, begins 19 year history
1981 Refugio Valley Park dedicated
The Sister City Association asks City Council to consider naming the lake in Refugio Valley Park “Lake Tennogawa” meaning Emperor River or Imperial Water as this is the name of a park in Tsushima with a like similar in appearance. No Council action is taken.
Sycamore Avenue Mural completed
Totem Pole is erected in Woodfield Park
Tsushima-Hercules Friendship Bridge dedicated in Refugio Valley Park
Historic Homes District is formed
1982 Sycamore Place opens to businesses
1983 Ohlone Community Center opens
Creekside Center opens to businesses
1984 Lucky Supermarket opens in Creekside Shopping Center
1985 Planning begins for Hercules Community Swim Center complex
Post Office opens in Hercules in Creekside Center
1986 Bio-Rad Corporate Headquarters moves to North Shore Business Park
First traffic signal at the intersection of San Pablo and Sycamore Avenue.
From Spring 1986 Herculean: “Mayor Russ Perkins christens the light pole with a dose of champagne.”
Groundbreaking at Civic Center for City Hall
Foxboro Park completed
1991 Hercules Community Swim Center opens
1992 Refugio Valley First Station opens
1994 Tsushima, Japan donates over $3,000 to Sister City Grove, in the Heritage Garden
Concession stand opens at Community Swim Center
1995 Caltrans begins I-80 retrofit project above Sycamore Avenue
Hanna Ranch Elementary School opens
2001 Highway 4 westbound lanes widening project ribbon cutting
Hercules Middle High School opens
2002 Skateboard Park opens in Woodfield Park
2003 Home Depot Opens
2004 Hercules Elementary School renamed Lupine Hills School