By Kathy Chouteau
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt testified remotely this morning before the U.S. Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands (NPFPL) regarding the congressman’s bill—the Rosie the Riveter National Historic Site Expansion Act (H.R. 1117).
The legislation looks to add Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond to the existing Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park to help complete the narrative on the city’s wartime efforts.
The next steps for the legislation, which has already passed as an amendment out of the House, would be for the Senate to take up that legislation—specifically, the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House in February 2021—for it to become law, per Congressman DeSaulnier’s office. The legislative hearing was described by the office as “a key procedural step in passing the bill into law.”
In expanding the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park to encompass Nystrom Elementary School, visitors will be afforded a more complete glimpse at life on the WWII-era Richmond Home Front and the school’s pivotal role in that story.
The legislation would add the one school structure at 230 Harbour Way South in Richmond to the existing Historical Park. The Park Service, which would not own or maintain the site, would be able to post signs at the site sharing the school’s WWII Home Front history and its significance to the park. Including the school as part of the Historical Park “will help the Park Service interpret and share this history with visitors,” said Congressman DeSaulnier in his testimony.
The congressman emphasized that the communities of Richmond and West Contra Costa “played a pivotal role in our nation’s efforts in World War II” and that “we owe it to their families and their history to continue to write the history of the Home Front to share their stories.”
Richmond’s Nystrom Elementary, located just north of the historical park, was built in 1942 to serve the inflow of school-age children of workers who arrived en masse to work at the Kaiser Shipyards. The school was created as part of a planned development that includes the Maritime Child Development Center and the Nystrom Housing Area.
While, per the congressman’s office, the child development center has previously been preserved as one facet of the park, the housing area has been scheduled for future preservation and redevelopment by the City of Richmond.
Mayor Butt said in his testimony before the committee that it is vital to add Nystrom Elementary to the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park “to showcase the important history in this community and to properly honor the service of all those who assisted in the war effort.”
The mayor also underscored that HR 117 “would allow for the future addition of other sites to the park which are similarly determined to be nationally significant in showcasing the WWII Home Front story in Richmond.”
Mayor Butt is the founding member of the Rosie the Riveter Trust, the official nonprofit partner of the Historical Park, and serves on its Board of Directors. Betty Reid Soskin, a Richmond resident and the oldest U.S. national park ranger, was also scheduled to testify today, but was unable to join the proceedings.
Watch a video of today’s legislative hearing here.