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Blog: The Story of Captain Owen O'Neill

Many streets are named after people. Some of them we are generally familiar with, such as Roosevelt, or Hopkins. However in Belmont there is a street that runs east to west near Safeway, which is split by El Camino continuing to Highway 101, called O’Neill Avenue. Most people have no idea who the street is named after. Here’s the story:

Captain Owen O’Neill, was an Englishman and a seafarer. He literally was the Captain of his own ship. O’Neill sailed regularly between England and San Francisco transporting passengers and goods on journeys that would take months at a time since in those days there was no Panama Canal. This required O’Neill to traverse the southern tip of South America, known as Cape Horn.

Upon retiring from his long oceanic ventures, he settled in Belmont. There he built a house and dock at the edge of San Francisco Bay to transport people back and forth between Belmont and San Francisco. He also built some rustic shelters which he rented out to duck hunters.

The house he built for his family was along what became Old County Road near the corner of his namesake street.

The area near the marshes became known as Shantytown since most of the folks were fairly poor.

Eventually, as the Peninsula's population grew and more room was needed for more homes and businesses, Highway 101 had to be widened. This spelled doom for Shantytown, so the fire department decided to burn it down.

Today the O’Neill name still remains both as a street name as well as the slough in Belmont.  Next time you are in Belmont on or near O’Neill Ave, you will know the story.

Everything else is just history.

Some of the photos used in this blog are courtesy of the Local History Room, Redwood City's best-kept secret. The Local History Collection covers all aspects of Redwood City's development, from the 1850s to the present day, with particular emphasis on businesses, public schools, civic organizations, city agencies, and early family histories. The Local History Room is not affiliated with the Redwood City Public Library, but it is inside it. 

Dan Calic

About the Author: Dan Calic

A product of Goodwin (JFK), Henry Ford, Roosevelt, Sequoia High and Canada College, Dan has deep Redwood City roots. He’s witnessed Redwood City transform from a sleepy peninsula town into a thriving high-tech hub.
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