The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Crockett, California (known to locals as Sugar City) can be a hard place to figure.

At a glance you might take it for a Rust Belt community of the Midwest, sitting on the shore of one of America’s great rivers.

There’s a factory, the big old brick C&H Sugar refinery that sits on the edge of the Carquinez Strait, there are the old residences, side by side on narrow streets and there’s the small downtown district.

Crockett could be a small factory town in Ohio or, given the waterfront location, a little fishing town in Maine; but it’s neither.  Crockett is San Francisco Bay Area – eclectic, a little Boho, and unlike the heartland, more blue than red.

It’s an afterthought of a place that you only know is there because of C&H.  If it weren’t for that brick refinery that momentarily fills your eastbound windshield before you swing north over the bridge you wouldn’t even know the place exists.

C&H Sugar Refinery, Crockett CA.

The town takes its name from old Judge Joseph Bryant Crockett, a California Supreme Court Justice. Thomas Edwards Sr bought 1800 acres from Crockett in 1866 and started the town with a home and a general store.

In 1906, Crockett became a company town for the California and Hawaiian Sugar Company (C&H), which built a refinery on the bank of the Carquinez Strait. The plant refined raw sugar shipped from Hawaii.

Like most company towns, Crockett’s economy and community relied on the local plant, in this case, C&H.

Sugar City’s boom time came during the mid-twentieth century. By the 1960’s profits from the refinery fell and with it the town’s fortunes; boom was turning to bust.

Starting in 1993, the refinery went through three ownership changes and now belongs to American Sugar Refining. Hawaiian sugar is no longer shipped to Crockett. The plant now refines sugar shipped in from Australia, the Philippines and Nicaragua.

Below, views of the C&H Refinery

Tanker cars in a freight train hurtle through the C&H yard.

C&H office building

The C&H circulatory system











Crockett still retains some of the flavor of a company town. Just across the street from the brick C&H Office Building, a sign bearing the name of the Sugar Workers Union hangs on the old IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) Hall, built in 1897. Today the IOOF Hall is home to a model railroad club.


Old Crockett railway station.


14 thoughts on “Monthly Monochrome: Sugar City

  1. lexandneek says:

    Enjoyed seeing the photos and reading your blogpost. Didn’t know such a place existed. Fascinating history! – Neek

    1. Paulie says:

      Hello Neek,
      It’s one of the few places in the Bay Area that actually has an away from the suburbs, small town feel.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Cool photos and fascinating story! Who knew? 😊 …so many little details around us that we miss.

    1. Paulie says:

      Good morning Lisa,
      Crockett is one of those places that the local paper terms “a hidden gem,” with a “close knit community.” On a Sunday it attracts a lot of bicyclists. It’s a stop on the way to regional parks and another, even smaller town further down the road.
      Once my wife and I are able to downsize I’d like to move to Crockett.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  3. David says:

    An interesting and nicely told story.

    1. David says:

      Fat finger hit enter too soon. Wanted to add also some very nice photos and processing.

      1. Paulie says:

        Thank you David, for both comments. I’ve launched comments prematurely myself.

  4. Must visit Crockett. Thank you.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you for stopping by Michael.
      Crockett is very tiny. There is a cafe and a sandwich shop if you want a quick bite. I’ve been to neither. They’re on the same block as Toots Tavern, which I haven’t been to either.
      To make a longer day of it there is a regional park nearby, about a 5 minute drive east out of town; The Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline.

      1. Have to go.

  5. eden baylee says:

    Ok Paul,

    I was beginning to feel bad I had come off so judgy about your candy-eating habits, but now … you’re thinking of moving to a place known as Sugar City with its own sugar refinery? 🤣🤣🤣

    Your photographs are great though. 😀


    1. Paulie says:

      Well, yeah I’d like to move there. It’s almost like being away from the S.F. Metro area.

      And Crockett is just that much closer to the Jelly Belly factory. 🤣🤣🤣

  6. Enjoyed reading this bit of history of a town that I have never heard of. What drew my attention were the photographs of the factory. You definitely captured the gritty, mechanical essence of it. I am especially keen about our country’s industrial past and the relics left behind. Great work!

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you very much. High praise as I’ve very much enjoyed your work.
      I was looking for a gothic look in the editing process.

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