San Pedro was originally the territory of the Chumash and then the Tovigva tribes who called it “Chaaw." Juan Cabrillo discovered the area on November 24, 1542 which happened to be the Feast of St. Peter of Alexandria so naturally it was named San Pedro. We’re not sure when the pronunciation was anglicized to San PEE-dro, but it’s been pronounced this way for at least the last 100 years. San Pedro became part of first Spanish land grant in California and in 1754 Juan Jose Dominguez was the recipient of the land. He created several different ranchos and used the area to farm and raise cattle.
In 1848 the U.S. took control of the area and began to utilize and expand the harbor. Products began to come in through the harbor and were carried to their destination by horse drawn carriages. The first railroad system in California was established in San Pedro to create faster transport of goods to Los Angeles and further.
The late 1800’s San Pedro attracted the attention of the U.S. military who established a base at Ft. McArthur. Fishing, canning, ship building and long shoring all became growing industries and set the working class tone for the harbor area.
1874 the Pt. Fermin lighthouse was built.
The fishing industry grew rapidly in San Pedro and attracted fishermen from Japan, Italy and Croatia. Los Angeles County added the tuna to the official seal to honor the industry. It remains there today.
1903 San Pedro High School opened it’s doors.
1917 The White Point Hot Springs and Hotel was built where Royal Palms sits. There was a hotel, restaurant, boating area and salt water pool, the remnants of which can still be seen today on the left side of the drive down the hill. A massive storm in 1928 followed by the great depression caused the closure of the resort in the late 30’s.
The early 1920’s brought development of housing near the center of town and the harbor. Victorian, Craftsman and Spanish revival homes were built to house the growing number of people moving to San Pedro to work on the docks and support the fishing industry. The rest of San Pedro was empty fields or used to grow produce. Lima beans and tomatoes were common local crops.
1929 The earth started to move under a neighborhood of exclusive homes near where Pt. Fermin Park sits. The ground gave way destroying the homes, street and part of the park. Sunken City remains there today. The more recent landslide down the street on Paseo del Mar was similar in movement but luckily no homes were involved in that slide.
As the population grew, Vista del Oro started to be developed around Averill Park. The homes tended to be larger and the buyers had larger budgets. The workers lived in “the flats” and the business men, Doctors and Developers lived “on the hill.”
1932 the Cabrillo Beach Bath house was built.
Richard Neutra spent quite a bit of time in San Pedro and designed the Channel Heights Housing Project in 1943. It was located below Western and between Capitol and Westmont. It had over 600 mid century designed homes, a school and grocery store. Neutra’s boomerang chair was designed for that project. Unfortunately the project was demolished after the war when many left the area. Neutra also designed the Hacienda Hotel in 1955 where the Miraleste Canyon Estates now sit. It was an exclusive place that had a hotel, restaurant, 9 hole golf course and pool That too was demolished and sold to Marymount University who built the current units that exist there now as dorm rooms for students. Neutra designed a San Pedro home but gave credit to an apprentice in the early 50’s. This is a little known fact. The home has remained in the original owner’s family and is virtually unchanged.
San Pedro remained remote from other parts of Los Angeles with only 2 roads out and in until 1952 when the Harbor Freeway was connected.
South Shores was the next area to be developed for housing in the mid 50’s. The mid century style was in high demand and most of South Shores was built in the single level mid century design, the remainder were ranch style that came later. Development then spread down Western into North San Pedro in the late 60s and 70s.
Famous people from San Pedro:
Anna Fisher-NASA Astronaut, Misty Copeland-Ballerina, Mike Lookinland-Actor (Bobby Brady,) Patrick Muldoon- Actor, D.L. Hughley-Actor, Comedian, John Bettis-Academy Award winning Lyricist, Robert Towne-Acadamy Award Winning director, Tim Wrightman-Chicago Bears, Denise Austin-Fitness Personality, The Minutemen-Punk Band.
1542: Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the "Bay of Smokes." Little did he know that the desolate tidal flats would be transformed into one of the largest, busiest and most successful man-made harbors in the world. Tidal flats and marshes remained pristine for more than 200 years largely because Europe was concentrating its New World colonization on America's East Coast.
1771: Spanish explorers established a mission 40 miles inland from San Pedro. Mission monks were first traders to use the harbor. The Spanish prohibited settlers from conducting business with other countries, restricting their trade to two ships a year carrying goods from Spain's House of Trades. Despite restrictions, San Pedro prospered.
1805: The Leila Byrd was the First American trading ship to call at San Pedro, bringing sugar, textiles and household goods in exchange for otter pelts and provisions.
1822: Independent Mexican government lifted oppressive restrictions. San Pedro became a robust commercial center and an attractive home for new settlers.
1848: California under American control. Business in San Pedro harbor booming and it became evident the harbor needed to be expanded to accommodate increasing cargo volume for a growing Los Angeles population.
1850: Phineas Banning began the first of a lifetime of ventures that earned him the name, "Father of Los Angeles Harbor." Ventures included a freight and passenger transportation business and the founding of Wilmington, adjacent to the wharf he built to serve his business empire. Among other achievements, Banning provided valuable assistance to the Union cause during the Civil War and, as a state senator, introduced the first railroad bill to the California legislature.
1869: Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad began service between the bay and Los Angeles. This 21-mile stretch of track was the first railroad in Southern California and marked the beginning of a new era of development for the harbor area.
1871: Main Channel dredged to -10 feet. Breakwater built between Rattlesnake Island (now Terminal Island) and Deadman's Island (formerly located near Terminal Island).
1885: Commerce in San Pedro skyrocketing. Port handling 500,000 tons of import and export cargo annually.
1897: Great free-harbor fight settled. Rear Admiral John C. Walker recommended that port development continue in San Pedro, dashing plans for port development further up the coast and setting the stage for the modern era of the Port of Los Angeles.
1906: City of Los Angeles annexed a 16-mile strip of land on the outskirts of San Pedro and Wilmington -- two harbor towns that three years later would join the City of Los Angeles.
1907: Port of Los Angeles officially founded with the creation of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners.
1911-12: First 8500-foot section of the breakwater completed. Main Channel widened to 800 feet and dredged to -30 feet. Southern Pacific Railroad completed its first major wharf in San Pedro.
1914: Panama Canal opened. As the nearest major American port northwest of the Panama Canal, the Port of Los Angeles became the natural port-of-call for most transpacific and coastal users.
1920s: Dynamic growth for the Port, marked by a boom in petroleum, lumber and citrus trade. For the first time in history, Los Angeles surpassed San Francisco as the West Coast's busiest seaport and ranked second only to New York in foreign export tonnage.
1937: Construction of the 18,500-foot-long extension of the middle breakwater completed. World War II: Shipbuilding quickly became the Port's prime economic activity with shipyards collectively employing more than 90,000 workers. Post World War II: Cargo containers adopted into commercial use, changing the industry forever.
1959: Matson Navigation Company's Hawaiian Merchant made its first shipment of 20 cargo containers, marking the beginning of the containerized cargo revolution. Car carriers also became common during this period.
1960s: By this time it was financially infeasible, and in many cases impossible, for large ships to pass through the Panama Canal. One viable and economical solution was the creation of a landbridge from the Port of Los Angeles to destinations throughout the U.S. via trucks and trains.
1963: Grand opening of World Cruise Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles (passenger and cargo terminals at Berth 93), designed by AIA award-winning architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. Fickett received the 1963 International First Honor Architectural Design Award for his innovative design, which was awarded by an international panel of judges for the most outstanding and prolific structure.
1983: Port completed dredging of the Main Channel to -45 feet.
1985: Port handled 1 million containers in a year for the first time. Four years later, container traffic exceeded 2 million containers.
1986: Port opens the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, providing for the rapid transfer of containers from the Port's marine terminals to trains.
1994: Dredging for Pier 300/400 begins, the largest capital improvement undertaking of any U.S. seaport and the Port's most ambitious development project since its founding.
1996: The Los Angeles City Council designates the Vincent Thomas Bridge as the City of Los Angeles' Official Welcoming Monument.
1997: APL Limited's Global Gateway South opens. Considered to be one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced ocean and rail container terminals. The Terminal Island Container Transfer Facility is also completed, responding to the needs of Evergreen and NYK Line for on-dock intermodal capability. This 47-acre facility allows for the direct transfer of containers to and from ships and railcars.
1999: World's largest shipping line, Maersk Sealand, commits to be the Port's first customer at Pier 400. New partnership estimated to bring the Port $2 billion over a 25-year lease. APM Terminals (a division of Maersk) operates the facility.
2000: Completion of Pier 400 Dredging and Landfill Program, the largest such project in America, a significant milestone in positioning the Port to accommodate the tremendous growth in international trade well into the 21st century. Port of Los Angeles officially becomes the busiest port in North America, ranked by container volume.
2004: The Port of Los Angeles becomes the first port in the world to offer Alternative Maritime Power® (AMP®) to vessels. China Shipping's Xin Yang Zhou becomes the first ship in the world to plug-in to AMP® at Berth 100. The use of AMP® saves more than one ton of smog-forming NOx and 87 lbs. of particulate matter from being released into the air for every 24 hours that the ship is utilizing this electrical plug-in technology.
2006: Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach jointly release the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan. This historical plan aims to reduce emissions by 50 percent over the next five years. The Port of Los Angeles set itself as an environmental steward and model for ports around the globe.
2006: Port of Los Angeles moves an impressive 8.5 million TEUs - the first time any North American port had ever surpassed the 8 million-TEU threshold.
2007: The Port of Los Angeles celebrates its Centennial Celebration.
2009: Port of Los Angeles launches the landmark Clean Truck Program. Since implementation, the Clean Truck Program has removed more than 16,000 dirty-diesel trucks off the road, slashing harmful truck emissions by 90 percent.
2010: Port of Los Angeles Becomes First Port Worldwide to Offer Tariff Reduction for Zero-Emisison Vehicle Shipments. The “Zero Emission Vehicle Tariff Measure” is the first of its kind in the maritime industry and is available to any automobile manufacturer who imports through the Port of Los Angeles.
2011: Wilmington Waterfront Park officially opens to the public. Formerly known as the Harry Bridges Boulevard Buffer Project, Wilmington Waterfront Park, was designed to provide public open space between Port operations and adjacent residences in Wilmington, by widening of Harry Bridges Boulevard and constructing a new 30-acre buffer area between “C” Street and Harry Bridges Boulevard. The park was constructed on adjacent, vacant Port-owned property and offers never-seen-before views of the Wilmington waterfront.
2011: Remodel of the decades-old, 87-acre Cabrillo Way Marina, the largest LA Waterfront and non-terminal construction project at the Port of Los Angeles to date.
2012: Port comitts $2.2 million toward the restoration of the historic Angels Gate Lighthouse, originally built in 1913.
2013: Port completes its Main Channel Deepening Project, dredging the Main Channel to -53 feet.
2014: The Port of Los Angeles unveiled the new centerpiece of the LA Waterfront: Downtown Harbor, located on Harbor Boulevard, between 5th and 6th Streets in San Pedro. Situated at the foot of the San Pedro Historic Waterfront District, Downtown Harbor is a vibrant, public harbor and plaza that connects downtown San Pedro to the LA Waterfront.
2015: The largest container ship ever to call at a North American port, CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, arrives at the Port of Los Angeles. Among the largest in French shipping line CMA-CGM’s fleet, the vessel has a capacity of nearly 18,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) – about a third larger than the biggest container ships that have previously called at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex.