A Town With a Lot of History
SS Lane Victory
The Lane Victory is a World War II-era Merchant Marine vessel built in 1945 in San Pedro. Today she is a museum on the LA Waterfront and open for tours. Click here to learn more at www.LaneVictory.org
Pt. Fermin Lighthouse
The Pt. Fermin Lighthouse, built in 1874, was the first navigational light into San Pedro Bay, although local interests began petitioning the U.S. government for such a light beginning in 1854.
The lighthouse was designed in Stick Style Victorian, a style used in six lighthouses along the California coast. Pt. Fermin’s first lighthouse keepers were women, Mary and Ella Smith.
In 2002, the lighthouse was restored, retrofitted, and rehabilitated for public access with funds from the City of Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles, and the State of California. The lighthouse was opened to the public on November 1, 2003 under the management of the Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Los Angeles. Volunteers from the Point Fermin Lighthouse Society serve as tour guides and help to keep the lighthouse open to the public.
The Pt. Fermin Lighthouse is located in Pt. Fermin Park at the foot of Gaffey Street.
Angel’s Gate Park and Korean Friendship Bell
Angel’s Gate Park is located on what was formerly the Upper Reservation of Ft. MacArthur. The fort was named in honor of Lt. General Arthur MacArthur, Civil War Medal of Honor recipient and father of General Douglas MacArthur.
By 1919 the government had constructed the fort’s main armament of four 14-inch rifles mounted on disappearing carriages and eight 12-inch mortars mounted in massive concrete emplacements. These protected the harbor from potential enemy attack. More firepower was added throughout the years.
Today you can see parts of the old wooden barracks that housed defense personnel and trainees following World War I.
Overlooking the ocean is the Korean Friendship Bell, a gift from the people of Korea to the people of the United States to commemorate the American Bicentennial in 1976. This huge bell us patterned after one cast in 771 that is still on view in Korea today.
The bell, weighing 17 tons, is rung from the outside with a wooden log. The ornate pagoda-like pavilion housing the bell was constructed by 30 artisans flown in from Korea who resided on site during its construction.
The Korean Friendship Bell is located in Angel’s Gate Park at 3601 S. Gaffey Street.
Los Angeles Maritime Museum
The Los Angeles Maritime Museum is housed in the former cross-channel ferry building that served as the western terminus of the service between San Pedro and Terminal Island.
The building, built in 1941, was a WPA public works project. It is Streamline Moderne architecture, which was still popular at the time of its construction and served as the base for a car ferry that served the many Naval personnel, cannery workers, fishermen, and others who wanted the quickest way across the channel. The alternative, since the Vincent Thomas Bridge had not yet been built, was a long and generally slow route through San Pedro, Wilmington, and Long Beach.
When the bridge was completed in 1963, the ferry stopped operating and the building became offices for the Harbor Department. It has now been restored and houses a variety of exhibits, model ships, and marine-related artifacts.
The Los Angeles Maritime Museum is located at the foot of Sixth Street on the waterfront in San Pedro.
Downtown San Pedro Historic Harbor District
Just above the old Ferry Building, toward Downtown San Pedro, is a structure officially named the City of Los Angeles Municipal Office Building. But everyone knows it as San Pedro City Hall. San Pedro is actually a part of the City of LosAngeles.
Construction began on this building in 1927 and was completed in the fall 1928. This seven-story Bueax Arts edifice has both Neoclassical and Baroque characteristics. At 112 feet high, it is the tallest and one of the most recognizable structures in San Pedro. It is built of steel frame, brick and molded stone. The seventh floor housed a jail that was nicknamed, "7th Heaven."
The sixth floor housed a beautiful wood paneled courtroom. A fire station occupied the ground floor basement, but was converted to a garage. Today that space is a fire station museum that is open on Saturdays. The building has recently been renovated and retrofitted. Today, many L.A. City entities, as well as the Councilperson of the 15th District, occupy many of the offices.
San Pedro City Hall is located at the corner of Beacon and 7th Streets, Downtown.
Up the street is the 7th Street Village shopping district. This cluster of shops, restaurants, taverns, galleries, and studios is among the most cosmopolitan and international in town. A wide range of cuisines are featured in the various establishments here, ranging from Hungarian to British.
A block north is the Historic 6th Street Downtown area. These blocks are home to shops, restaurants, and the Warner Grand Theatre, a magnificent Art Deco era movie house that now hosts a wide variety of entertainment, from live theater to concerts. It is the home base of the Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival held each spring.
Banning Residence Museum
The Banning Residence Museum (pictured above) is a carefully preserved 23-room residence built in 1864 for Gen. Phineas Banning, founder of Wilmington. He built the elegant structure to demonstrate his confidence in the future of the community.
The residence is an outstanding example of domestic Greek Revival architecture in Southern California with 18 rooms open to the public.
On the grounds of the residence, which is in the midst of a 20-acre park, are also the Stagecoach, Barn and Gardens.
The Banning Residence Museum is located at 401 East M Street in Wilmington. Visit the website at www.TheBanningMuseum.org
California played a bigger role in the Civil War than many people realize. Drum Barracks kept California in the Union, served to protect much o the Southwest, and secured the territory that is now Arizona and New Mexico for the United States.
The Drum Barracks Civil War Museum is housed in the last remaining wooden building of Drum Barracks, named after Adjutant General Richard Coulter Drum, head of the Department of the Pacific. This facility served as the Union Army headquarters in the Southwest (Southern California and the Arizona Territory) from 1861-1871. Drum Barracks, which was first called Camp Drum, served as the main staging, training, and supply base for military operations in the Southwest, and occupied approximately 60 acres of land with an additional 37 acres near the harbor.
Drum Barracks offers tours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10 and 11:30 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Visits are only by tour.)
The Museum is located at 1052 Banning Blvd. in Wilmington.
Julia Morgan: San Pedro's Hearst Castle Connection
The noted architect, who was instrumental in the development of William Randolph Hearst's magnificent ranch in San Simeon, California. She also designed a series of local YWCA buildings, including the Harbor Area YWCA at 437 West 9th Street, Downtown, and it is still in use by the Y today.
The noted poet and novelist Charles Bukowski lived in San Pedro from 1978 until his death in 1994, producing some of his best writing.
There are rumors that he must have certainly frequented the bars around town. (Some, in particular, claim that he must have been a regular at those along Pacific Avenue.) Although he had a reputation as a lifelong drinker, there’s no reliable evidence that he continued that lifestyle once he moved to San Pedro.
In fact, his wife, Linda, owned a health food restaurant and Mr. Bukowski credited her with adding 10 years to his life by her regimen of healthy menus.
That’s not to say he became a teetotaler; he just changed his preferences from hard liquor, apparently, to wine and beer, which he drank at home, Mrs. Bukowski said.
The late poet is buried in Green Hills Cemetery, just across the city limits from San Pedro in Rancho Palos Verdes, plot number 875 in the Ocean View Section.