This year, the beloved “Cement Ship” at Seacliff State Beach, the S.S. Palo Alto, marks 100 years in the water — and 90 years off the coast of Aptos. She was built by the SF Shipbuilding Company at the US Navel Shipyard on Government Island, costing $1.5 million to build.
Launched in May 1919 and arriving in Aptos in January 1930. The S.S. Palo Alto is one of a few cement ships built during World War I and the Great Depression. It has been a popular attraction for visitors since it was retired in its current home.
The original plan was to turn the ship and the pier into an amusement and fishing ship. A dance floor on the main deck was created, a cafe in the superstructure of the ship, a 4-foot-deep heated swimming pool and a series of carnival type concessions on the aft deck.
The ship’s dancehall was called The Rainbow Ballroom. Open on Saturday nights, guests danced under the stars to the music of Ed Rookledge and his orchestra.
The S.S. Palo Alto has weathered many storms since it arrival in Aptos. It has been bought, sold, transferred several times. In one of the early transactions, in 1936, it sold for $1 dollar to the California Division of Parks! The only voyage it has ever taken was in 1921, when she sailed across the San Francisco Bay to the Hunter’s Point dry dock.
The ship has gone from oil tanker, to entertainment ship, to a fishing pier. Eventually, the deteriorating ship was closed to foot traffic in 2000. Winter storms in 2016 and 2017 turned the stern of the ship over onto its side and damaged the far end of the pier.
Still beloved, the S.S. Palo Alto today is a haven for wildlife above and below the water line, and has begun a new life as a thriving habitat. She will live out the rest of her days as an artificial reef and a symbol of Aptos History.
S.S. Palo Alto Centennial Celebration
Saturday, June 1 • 10 am-2 pm.
Come out and celebrate the treasured and beleaguered icon of Aptos hits the century mark! Revisit the last 100 years through the eyes — portholes, if you prefer — of the S.S. Palo Alto with music, history reenactments, vintage music and dancing, children’s activities, arts and crafts, food and the unveiling of a commemorative historic plaque. Event is free; parking is $10.
Seacliff State Beach 201 State Park Drive, Aptos. For more info: www.thatsmypark.org
Seacliff Street Fair
In conjunction with celebratory activities at Seacliff State Beach, there will be an inaugural Seacliff Cement Ship Street Fair. Fun at the top of the cliff, fun at the bottom!
Commemorate our local floating icon and feature kid-friendly activities, local vendors of crafts, history, ice cream, pizza, food trucks, live entertainment by Doug Hofkins the Surfing Magician, and music by the Steven Graves Band and West Coast Americana Roots Band.
Seacliff Street Fair: Saturday, June 1st 11:30am – 4pm., Center Street, Seacliff.