At one time, the city’s bayshore supported a booming industry in salt production. One of the largest producers of salt in the area was Oliver Salt Works. In the mid-1800’s a Swedish immigrant named Andrew Oleson came to the city where he bought many acres of land along the bay in what was then known as Mount Eden. He changed his last name to Oliver to distinguish himself from other Swedes with the same name and started his salt production business. By 1872, Andrew Oliver was harvesting 100 tons of salt per year in huge evaporation ponds along the shore.
The Oliver Salt Works continued to grow and by the 1920’s it was one of the largest salt producers in the area, harvesting 75k tons of salt annually. Much of the salt was used by the fishing industry in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
In 1927, the Oliver Salt Works was bought by the giant Leslie Salt Company. Andrew Oliver’s son, Alden, wanted to get into the family business but could not buy out his other family members and prevent the sale to Leslie. Alden went on to college and in 1936 he purchased another salt operation in partnership with his brother Adolph. It was a small operation of only 200 acres, compared to the 2,800 acres the family sold to Leslie.
The new business was just north of the original Oliver Salt Works and happened to be the site of the first salt company in the city started in 1854 by John Johnson. At the time the Olivers purchased the land, it had lain unused for several years. By 1938 the Oliver brothers had dredged the ponds and built a plant to process the crystalized salt, and produced 2,000 tons in their first year. The family continued to own and operate the business through the 1970’s and produced up to 9,000 tons of salt per year, mostly used for pickled brine and water softeners.
When Alden Oliver passed away in 1993, he left half of his estate to the city’s Historical Society. The $11 Million endowment was intended to ensure the historical society’s operations and legacy for generations to come.