Hayward (; formerly, Haywards, Haywards Station, and Haywood) is a city located in Alameda County, California in the East Bay subregion of the San Francisco Bay Area. With a population at the 2010 census of 144,186, Hayward is the sixth largest city in the Bay Area and the third largest in Alameda County. Hayward was ranked as the 37th most populous municipality in California. It is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont Metropolitan Statistical Area by the US Census. It is located primarily between Castro Valley and Union City, and lies at the eastern terminus of the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. The city was devastated early in its history by the namesake 1868 Hayward earthquake. From the early 20th century until the beginning of the 1980s, Hayward's economy was dominated by its (now defunct) food canning and salt production industries.
In the 19th century, the land that is now Hayward became part of Rancho San Lorenzo, a Spanish land grant to Guillermo Castro in 1841. The site of his home was on the former El Camino Viejo, or Castro Street (now Mission Boulevard) between C and D Streets, but the structure was severely damaged in the 1868 Hayward earthquake, with the Hayward Fault running directly under its location. Most of the city's structures were destroyed in the earthquake, the last major earthquake on the fault. In 1930, that site was chosen for the construction of the City Hall, which served the city until 1969.
Hayward was originally known as "Hayward's", then as "Haywood", later as "Haywards", and eventually as "Hayward". There is some disagreement as to how it was named. Most historians believe it was named for William Dutton Hayward, who opened a hotel there in 1852. The U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System states the city was named after Alvinza Hayward, a millionaire from the California Gold Rush. Regardless of which Hayward the area was named for, the name was changed to "Haywood" when the post office was first established in 1860.
Castro emigrated to Chile with most of his family in 1864, after he lost his land in a card game. His name survives in the community of Castro Valley, located in the valley next to Hayward, which Castro used to pasture his cattle. The ranch was split up and sold to various locals, William Hayward among them. William Hayward's fortunes took a turn for the grander when he constructed a resort hotel, which eventually grew to a hundred rooms. The surrounding area came to be called "Hayward's" after the hotel.
William Hayward eventually became the road commissioner for Alameda County. He used his authority to influence the construction of roads in his own favor. He was also an Alameda County supervisor. In 1876, a town was chartered by the State of California under the name of "Haywards". The name of the post office was then able to change because of the loss of the apostrophe before the "s". This change occurred in 1880. It remained "Haywards" until 1910 when the "s" was officially dropped. William Hayward died in 1891.
Hayward grew steadily throughout the late 19th century, with an economy based on agriculture and tourism. Important crops were tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, cherries, and apricots. Chicken and pigeon raising also played important roles in the economy. A rail line between Oakland and San Jose, the South Pacific Coast Railroad, was established, but was destroyed in 1868 earthquake. the Hayward shore of the Bay was developed into extensive salt evaporation ponds, and was one of the most productive areas in the world, with Leslie Salt one of the largest companies.
During the 1930s, the Harry Rowell Rodeo Ranch, now within the bounds of Castro Valley, drew rodeo cowboys from across the continent, and western movie actors such as Slim Pickens and others from Hollywood.
Prior to World War II, Hayward had a high concentration of Japanese Americans, who were subject to the Japanese-American internment during the war. The war brought an economic and population boom to the area, as factories opened to manufacture war material. Many of the workers stayed after the end of the war. Two suburban tract housing pioneers, Oliver Rousseau and David D. Bohannon, were prominent builders of postwar housing in the area.
The city's downtown area was slated for redevelopment in 2012 and 2013, with landscaping, new businesses opening up, and older ones getting facade upgrades.