Once known as Saline City, Drawbridge is now the last ghost town left in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sitting along a stretch of railroad, six miles to the south of downtown Fremont and a couple miles north of the tiny town of Alviso, little remains of this small but once thriving settlement. Founded in 1876 and originally a rustic hunting outpost, by the 1880s Drawbridge was receiving hundreds of visitors a week and at its apex in the 1920s, despite having no roads, was visited by ten passenger trains a day. At this time over 90 buildings stood within its limits, split by religion into two neighborhoods: the Roman Catholics predominately in the south of town and the Protestants to the north. Considered a true ghost town after the last holdout vacated the area in 1979, due to increased looting and vandalism brought on by continuous erroneous reporting describing it as abandoned, Drawbridge has been slowly succumbing to the elements and sinking into the marshlands ever since. It is now officially part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge and as such is illegal to visit.
The first color photos here were taken in January of 2012, and the second two handfuls (the black-and-white and nighttime shots) on two trips I took out there in early and late August 2019. When I match my memories up with these photos taken so far apart in years, what’s most clear is that Drawbridge is sinking and falling to pieces, and out of sight, silently slipping away. Buildings I walked through in 2012 are now gone, and most of the structures still standing lean precariously, indicating it’s only a matter of time before they’ll be reduced to planks in the pickleweed. I may or may not head out this way again, but either way, I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to see these last markers of an obscure, little-known bit of local history, before the marshland takes them all.
Photos taken January 9, 2012, August 3, 2019, and August 30, 2019