San Pedro is rich with history from the Sepulveda ranch and abalone farming to today with the Paseo del Mar landslide. We have compiled the following from historical plaques placed throughout our neighborhood by L.A. City and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy and from resources at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society.
The Catalina Channel, about 25 miles wide and close to 500 fathoms deep (about 3,000 feet), separates Santa Catalina Island from the mainland. This part of the Pacific Ocean was first visited by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, sailing under the Spanish flag. Today, it is part of the coastal shipping route of California.
The Gabrielino Indians living in this locality, on occasion, commuted to Santa Catalina Island where they visited and traded with the Gabrielino Indians living there.
In winter, whales may be observed as they migrate to Baja California, where they mate and bear their young. In the spring, they can be seen again as they return to northern waters for the summer.
Named in 1914 after Lt. Gerneral Arthur MacArthur, father of General Douglas MacArthur, Fort MacArthur became a military installation in 1888. Battery Osgood-Farley and Battery John Barlow and Saxton, two coastal defense gun emplacements, are on the National Register of Historic Places. From 1954-1974, Fort MacArthur served as part of the Nike surface-to-air defense system. The Upper Reservation, in the Palisades, was transferred to the City of Los Angeles in 1977. The City turned the former fort into a city park in 1982.
ROYAL PALMS COUNTY BEACH
Royal Palms County Beach was originally developed as the Royal Palms Recreation Center by Roman Sepulveda from his share of the original Rancho Palos Verdes land grant. In 1908, Sepulveda installed an outdoor, terrazo dance floor at the foot of the cliff and adorned it with a grove of palm trees. Along the base of the cliff, he built two fireplaces and seating out of local stone, making this a very popular place until the beginning of World War II. During World War II, the area was taken over by the United States military for security reasons. After the war, it was leased to the Hedley family for their famous beachcomber industry, in which the family scoured the shore for useful debris to be sold for decorating purposes.
In 1960, the area was aquired by the State of California. It was operated as Royal Palms State Beach by the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles until 1995, when it was deeded to the county by the state. The area is popular for picnicking, surfing, scuba diving, ocean related research and other recreational activities.
In 1929, the 600 block of Paseo Del Mar near the end of Pacific Avenue began moving toward the sea. Movement was slow and continued until the mid 1930s. Due to the slow movement, most of the houses were relocated inland.
This area of land, which juts out into the sea to form a point more than 100 feet above sea level, has been called both “White Point” and “White’s Point”. The origin of the name is disputed. One version is that it was named for a sailor named White, who jumped ship and swam to shore at this spot, thus “White’s Point”. Another version is that sailors used the cliff face as a landmark, because it’s altamira shale appears white, and that they named it “White Point”. A third opinion is that it was named after Senator Stephen White, who led the political fight for development of the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. The area was officially termed “White Point” in lease agreements signed around the turn of the century by the owner, Roman Sepulveda. The San Pedro Bay Historical Society, therefore, favors “White Point”, based on this authenticated documentation.
Abalone fisheries were begun by 12 Issei Japanese fishermen about 1895. Divers harvested the mollusks at fishing grounds from the islands of Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, down to Santa Catalina Island. They lived on the shore at White Point in a modest shed built for them by Roman Sepulveda, owner of the land. The fisheries became a thriving harvesting and canning industry, with fishermen selling their delicacies to domestic and far east markets. Not only was abalone a popular sea food, the shells were shipped to Philadelphia and made into buttons. The industry thrived until 1908 when a combination of restrictive laws and exhausted abalone beds caused a decline in the industry.
WHITE POINT BLUFF PARK
The White Point fountain is a relic of the one-time White Point sulphur springs spa complex “White Point Hotel” which was built on the shore below the cliff sometime in the 1910’s and was demolished in the 1930’s. Made of concrete, it stood at the center of the hot springs building complex near the sea wall and outdoor salt water pool. Around the base of the fountain were flower beds which were part of the lavish gardens maintained by Roman Sepulveda. Years of battering by storm waves damaged the fountain. Concerned authorities moved it to the top of the cliff in 1982, where it awaited reconstruction and integration into an interpretive center.
In 1988 improvements to the park were approved including picnic tables, a playground area, scenic viewpoints, restrooms and landscaping.
WHITE POINT NIKE MISSLE SITE
Between the 1940s and 1970 the Department of Defense established coastal defense facilities. Built in the early 1950s the White Point Nike Missile site was one of many such sites ringing the Los Angeles Basin manned by National Guard units. Originally a site for the Nike Ajax missile it was later upgraded with a Nike-Hercules missile which had the capability of being armed with a nuclear warhead. The site, along with the land, was deactivated by the United States Military about 1974. It was then transferred to the City and the County of Los Angeles in 1978 for recreational purposes.
The property remained closed for 25 years until the 1990s, San Pedrans convinced the City of Los Angeles that the best use of the abandoned and neglected parcel was as natural open space. In 2000, the park was officially dedicated. To reduce costs for the city, the community—working with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy—developed a plan to restore and manage the park. In just the first few years volunteers donated thousands of hours to clean, restore and maintain the preserve.
Thank you to the City of Los Angeles and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy for historical background.
On June 30, 1926, the 6.9 acres south of Paseo del Mar owned by the Wilder family was donated to the City of Los Angeles in lieu of back taxes owed on the property. The deed contained the clause “to be used for a public park and for no other purpose.” It then became part of Point Fermin Park. The addition has also been referred to as “Wilder’s Annex”.