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FLEET WEEK 2019
The San Pedro Public Market produced a series of banners illustrating the history and future of the LA Waterfront. Scroll through the gallery below and take a dive into some San Pedro history.
New archeological evidence indicates that indigenous peoples have occupied the Americas for the past 15,000 to 20,000 years. San Pedro Bay was the homeland of the Tongva and Shoshonean peoples. Their first encounter with Europeans—and the first Western record of the region—occurs in 1542, when Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo names the area “Bahia de Los Humos” or “Bay of Smokes” for the fires he observes along the coastline. Sixty years later, on November 26, Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno sails into Bahia de Los Humos and renames the bay “San Pedro” after the feast day of St. Peter of Alexandria.
In1888, the City of San Pedro is established. It remains an independent city until 1909 when it is consolidated with the City of Los Angeles. Following the historic Free Harbor Fight (in which Los Angeles is declared independent from the control of the Southern Pacific Railroad), the first rocks for the federal breakwater are poured into the bay, making the future Port of Los Angeles possible. For the next 25 years, the Port of Los Angeles, including the future site of the San Pedro Public Market, continues to evolve as a major shipping hub.
Directed by prolific filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille and starring Dustin Farnum, the very first feature-length film “The Squaw Man” is filmed in San Pedro’s harbor in 1914, followed by silent short films with budding Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. In the years to come, San Pedro’s vibrant waterfront location continues to be a popular filming site for award-winning titles such as “A Few Good Men,” “Chinatown,” “King Kong,” “The Big Lebowski,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Anchorman,” and many more.
A pioneer in tuna fish canning, Martin J. Bogdanovich founds the French Sardine Company on Terminal Island in 1917. He later rebrands his booming empire as StarKist, becoming California’s leader in the fish canning industry. Already recognized as the largest lumber importing port by volume, the Port of Los Angeles also becomes the tuna canning capital of the world. Over the next several decades, it will become the United States’ number one port by container volume and cargo value, earning the moniker “America’s Port.” Since 2000, the Port of Los Angeles has ranked as the number one container port in the nation, and today, continues to be the leading gateway for trade with Asia, receiving approximately 40 percent of all cargo imported into the United States.
In 1919, San Pedro becomes the home port for the largest ships in the United States Navy’s Battle Fleet. By 1934, an array of the nation’s top battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and support ships are based in San Pedro. In April of 1940, these vessels depart for Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as a show of strength in response to rising Japanese power. From 1941 to 1945, the United States Navy commissions the Port of Los Angeles to provide wartime support and shipbuilding capabilities, which becomes the Port’s prime economic industry. San Pedro Bay shipyards collectively employ more than 90,000 workers and produce thousands of war-time vessels at record pace. During World War II, Southwest Marine (formerly the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation) built approximately 40 destroyers and employed 6,000 workers at the height of production. Similarly, Todd Pacific Shipyard (the last shipbuilder operating at the Port of Los Angeles before its closure in 1989) built and repaired over 960 ships during this time.
Recognized as one of the great labor leaders in American history, seaman Harry Bridges forms the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) in 1937, improving the working conditions for longshoremen and profoundly changing the labor landscape in San Pedro. With his visionary leadership, Bridges revolutionizes the union and brings dignity and respect to all dock workers by opening its doors to all races, religions, and political leanings. The ILWU also ensures safe working conditions and negotiates paid holidays, vacation, healthcare benefits, and pensions in addition to taking public stands on workers’ rights around the world.
The San Pedro Fisherman’s Fiesta, a colorful extravaganza paying tribute to the Port of Los Angeles’ flourishing fishing industry, is first celebrated in 1946. The festive event—recognized as the largest televised parade after the Tournament of Roses—includes a blessing of the fishing fleet by Archbishop James Francis McIntyre, live musical performances, and a vibrant parade comprised of decorated fishing boats. Attendees include notable American figures like Ronald Reagan, Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown Sr., and Richard Nixon.
In 1963, the Vincent Thomas Bridge opens as the first bridge of its kind in the United States and today, remains the only suspension bridge in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Regarded as a local visionary, San Pedro Assemblyman Vincent Thomas lobbies for the bridge’s development and anticipates its necessity to facilitate the movement of goods across the harbor before the Port begins to boom in the 1970s. The bridge, slated to be called the “San Pedro-Terminal Island Bridge,” is renamed in honor of Thomas’ foresight and tireless efforts. Once called the “Bridge to Nowhere,” it now links San Pedro with Terminal Island and has become a vital connector for cargo movement in the Port.
In 2012, the retired Battleship USS IOWA arrives in the Port of Los Angeles, donated by the United States Navy as a permanent museum and memorial. Playing instrumental roles in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Cold War, the USS Iowa is the West Coast’s only battleship open to the public. The move pays homage to San Pedro’s rich maritime heritage and becomes a turning point for Los Angeles Waterfront tourism, establishing it as a celebration of the American spirit for generations to come. Today, the award-winning exhibit and tour includes the new National Museum of the Surface Navy—an effort to raise awareness of the importance of the United States Navy Surface Fleet’s role in international relations, free trade, humanitarian assistance, and technological innovation.
The San Pedro Public Market will open its doors in 2021, reestablishing the Los Angeles Waterfront as a world-class destination. The 42-acre development will feature a public promenade offering direct waterfront access; 6,000-seat outdoor amphitheater; vibrant market hall featuring artisan vendors; outdoor dining plaza comprised of repurposed shipping containers; thoughtfully curated collection of retail shopping experiences; playground and expansive recreational areas; 1,200 feet of courtesy boat slips; and calendar of year-round community events. Alongside innovative neighbors like AltaSea—an ocean institute bringing together the brightest in blue tech exploration, science, business, and education—the San Pedro Public Market will celebrate the city’s legendary history and the dynamic cultural fabric of its community.
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