The Tiburon Naval Net Depot site, currently the Romberg Center, has a rich history. You can even spot remnants of a kiln by native Americans during the Spanish colonial era in the premises.
The site was commercially developed first by William Lynde and Howard Hough. They bought the property from Dr. Benjamin and Hilarita Lyford for $10,000 in 1877. They ran one of the largest Alaskan codfish canneries of the Pacific here until 1904 when they merged with Union Fish Company.
The Navy promptly snapped up this property along the eastern shore of the Tiburon peninsula in 1904 for the hefty sum of $80,000. It was particularly attractive to the Navy because it had a port deep enough to wharf battleships.
The Navy built and ran the first Naval coaling station in the Pacific coast until 1930 when most ships converted to oil. The highlight came in 1908 when Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet, consisting of sixteen battleships plus support vessels, docked here to refuel before continuing on its famous cruise around the world.
During the Depression, the Navy loaned the site to the state of California.The first nautical training school in California was inaugurated here and remained until 1940 when the school moved to Vallejo. The school became the California Maritime Academy and it trained officers for the country's merchant fleet until the beginning of WWII.
During the 1930s part of the property was used as the staging ground for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. The construction company of John Roebling and Sons set up their operations here in 1933 and were responsible for spinning the cables for the Golden Gate Bridge.
As the scepter of war loomed large, the Navy re-appropriated the property and created the Naval Net Depot to produce the submarine nets that would protect all of the important ports of the West coast. Over 100,000 tons of netting were produced here during the war. Their biggest assignment was to create and install the 7 miles of iron netting to be stretched from Sausalito to the San Francisco Marina to protect the bay from torpedoes and submarines.
The site continued to expand during the war with the purchase of land from the John Roebling's Sons Company. The Floating Drydock Training Center Annex was built in 1942 and it was used to train thousands of officers and men for overseas ship repair in the Pacific front. This additional nineteen-acre site, home of to a second naval base in Tiburon Peninsula, is currently the site of Paradise Park.
The Naval Net Depot continued to be used until after the Korean War and it officially closed its doors in 1958. The property transferred from the Navy to the Department of Commerce at that point.
The site then starts a new era as a research center. It housed National Maritime Fisheries Service's Southwest Fisheries Center as well as Minerals Management Technology Center. During the 60s the navy intended to revert the site to military purposes to test missiles, but due to public outcry, it's designated as a marine research facility known as the Tiburon Marin Laboratory.
In 1975, the Federal Government declared the former Navy Net Depot a surplus property. San Francisco State University submitted a proposal to develop a field station and marine laboratory site dedicated to the study of San Francisco Bay. In 1978 The Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies was established here by Paul F. Romberg, the then president of SF State.
Today, all that is left of the Navy's presence is a three-acre site used for instrument testing. The net depot site houses the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies operated by San Francisco State University. The former Floating Dry Dock Training Center Annex is now Paradise Beach County Park, and the part of the base west of Paradise Drive became Tiburon Upland Nature Reserve.