Review by Hui-Lan H. Titangos, Technical Services Librarian, Santa Cruz Public Library
Librarian Alverda Orlando, an authoritative historian on Davenport, California, and Robert W. Piwarzyk, a
lime industry historian and retired engineer, collaborated, along with several plant personnel and area
residents, to compile a history of the Davenport Cement Plant, one of the few remaining plants in California.
Unlike some books devoted to company history, Davenport Cement Centennial is focused not on any
bigger-than-life founders, or their insightful thinking and exemplary endeavors, but on a single and simple
point: how events evolved as a continuing history. It narrates how the plant was conceived in 1903,
when William Dingee, owner of the Standard Portland Cement Company, saw the potential of the significant
limestone and shale deposits in the Ben Lomond Mountains. Together with his partner Irving Bachman, he
purchased property twelve miles northwest of the city of Santa Cruz and constructed the second largest cement
plant in the nation. A few months later San Francisco was hit by the devastating 1906 earthquake and
This historical backdrop has predestined the fate of the Davenport plant ever since. To respond to the sudden
overwhelming demand for cement and concrete, the construction of the Davenport plant was completed one year
ahead of schedule. In late 1906, the plant started with limited operations. By 1910, its annual
production rose to 1.4 million barrels, an amount not exceeded until World War II. The importance of
Davenport Cement has by no means been diminishing. On the contrary, its presence has been felt
throughout the state of California, from the building of the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House (1932) to
Golden Gate Bridge (1937); from Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to Oakland-Alameda Coliseum (1966) from the
Stanford Medical Center to the expansion of San Francisco International Airport, not to mention countless
private homes built in California's cities and suburbs, all of which have used Davenport cement for their
Davenport Cement Centennial utilizes friendly graphs and illustrations to denote the timeline by which
it has left its footprints on the history of California in general, and the San Francisco Greater Bay Area in
particular. The sidebar in the chapter, Building for Future Regeneration, uses clear and easy-to-
understand English to explain what cement is and what types of cement Davenport produces.
For specialized readers, Davenport Cement Centennial is an interesting study which follows a century
of innovative cement manufacturing. It shows how and from where limestone was quarried; what mill
processes were involved in homogenizing the raw materials, calcinating those in the kilns, and further
handling in the finish mill. Transportation of the limestone to the plant and shipment of the product
is also included. However, the book does not dwell exclusively on technology, but focuses on the
community behind the plant, the people who made natural resources and technologies work, and their small but
complete society. The Davenport residents and cement plant workers built the one-room Pacific School
(1906), Crocker Hospital in 1910, a two-cell jail in 1914, and the St. Vincent de Paul church in 1915.
Davenport Cement Centennial is a must read for both the general as well as specialized
audiences, for both adult and young readers.
Review by Chris Watson for the Santa Cruz Sentinel on January 28, 2007
Cementing a bond with Davenport
Davenport - that sweet little town on the North Coast - was built soon after the Portland Cement Co. opened
the second largest cement plant in the U.S. there.
The neighbors haven't been too keen on the noise and dust kicked up by the company, but there've been pluses.
Not only did Davenport cement help build the Pearl Harbor dry docks, the Panama Canal, the San Francisco
Opera House, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Oakland Coliseum and BART, but the company, in the last couple of
decades, has provided community support by establishing an endowment fund for Bonny Doon School and aiding
the victims of 9/11 and the Indonesian tsunami.
This history - and more tidbits - can be found in the book "Davenport Cement Centennial: Honoring Our Past,
Building the Future," sub-sub-titled, "The Story of the Davenport Cement Plant and the Important Part It Has
Played and Continues to Play in California's History"
Created with the help of Cemex employees, Pacific School, Bonny Doon School, the Davenport Resource Service
Center, UCSC Special Collections and the San Francisco Public Library, the book was written by Alverda
Orlando and Bob Piwarzyk, with publishing support from Trisa Endicott and Hilary Haycock.