Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 8, 2020

Travel Close to Home: Old Harbor Buildings

One common theme at Under Western Skies is that one’s local vicinity has “travel destinations” worth visiting.

We all know that, because we take visitors to see them, wherever it is we live.

In the current (well justified) stay-at-home environment, our “vicinities” are narrowing.

In many parts of the world, “vicinity” means inside one’s own dwelling, perhaps with the exception of seeking medical care or food.

Just before social distancing guidance in the Los Angeles area tightened to a more stringent set of rules, we went for a walk in what few people might consider a picturesque portion of the Port of L.A. Parks and beaches were closed, eliminating some of our favorite casual walks. It is, however, sparsely populated, providing innate “distancing.”

Who — after all —wants to walk through a “neighborhood” that looks like this?

Warehouse One Brad Nixon 8157 680

As it happens, we do (or did, and will again).

It’s interesting, if not exactly one of California’s garden spots.

As I wrote in a previous post, that big concrete building is L.A. Municipal Warehouse One.

Warehouse one Brad Nixon 5735 680

Built in 1917, having outlived its prime value in the era of containerized freight, Warehouse One is mostly empty. It is, however, on the National Register of Historic Places, and has a fascinating history. Follow the link above to learn more.

Surrounding Warehouse One, all along Signal Street and further upchannel, are a number of even more tatterdemalion structures, like this one, directly across the street from the warehouse.

Transit sheds Brad Nixon 5706 680

That vast concrete barn, more than 1,000 feet long, contains what are called transit sheds. When the transit shed structure was built in about 1917, the numerous spaces served as transfer points for individual shipping companies whose goods came out of or went into Warehouse One. From there, they’d be loaded onto ships in the East Channel on the opposite side of the building, or put aboard trains or (mostly horse-drawn) vehicles. In the photo above, you can still see the rails that formerly carried trainloads of freight in and out of the sheds.

Although the building shows a century’s worth of exposure to salt air, it retains the designer’s architectural detailing: fluting on the door jambs, pilasters flanking multipaned windows, repeated over and over.

Transit sheds MCU Brad Nixon 5698 680

Commerce still comes and goes from the sheds, although now via internal combustion engine rather than rail or horse-drawn wagons.

Just beyond the sheds, to the north, is another industrial survivor: Berth 57.

Berth 57 Brad Nixon 8131 680

Built in the early 1920s to house freight in- or outbound to the berth on the East Channel (left of the photo), the corrugated metal cladding gives the old structure a derelict appearance, but it’s there to protect the underlying concrete building from the very elements that are rusting the painted metal.

Again, at least a few stylistic fillips: a concrete cornice is still visible.

Still sound, no mere derelict, Berth 57 has a future. It’s to be the headquarters of AltaSea, a public-private oceanic research and development organization. Here’s how the architects envision Berth 57’s reincarnation.

AltaSea Dangermond Keane

We’re by the Port, Let’s Get Some Fish

A few hundred yards farther north is a historic site, although the present structure dates from only 1951: The Los Angeles Wholesale Fish Market.

MV S8139-LR Muni Wholesale Fish Mkt 680

There’s been a fish market there along the main channel since about 1915, during the boom days of tuna and mackerel fishing and canning in the port.

Where Are the Fishing Boats?

Next stop, SP Slip, a long channel that’s a mooring for fishing boats and the occasional tugboat.

SP Slip tugs Brad Nixon 8270 680

The photographer’s standing on what would’ve been mud flats in 1852, where an entrepreneur named Augustus Timm established a wharf to unload one of the principal cargoes then arriving not only in Los Angeles, but at ports all along the southern California coast: lumber. San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and other growing settlements needed large quantities of lumber not available in the arid environment.

Later, Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) built a ship-to-rail terminal and the former Timm’s Landing was converted to its current configuration. Today, it’s the home of some of the port’s fishing fleet. The railroad no longer runs there, but it’s still known as the SP Slip.

Here, at least, the picturesque. Fishing buoys and piles of netting:

Fishing buoys Brad Nixon 8269 680

Crab traps:

Lobster traps Brad Nixon 8155 680

Boats equipped with fishing gear all but incomprehensible to this landlubber.

SP fishing boats Brad Nixon 8150 680

Forward … to the Moderne

At the head of the channel is a building that houses the Los Angeles Maritime Institute and a restaurant.

Fishermens Coop Brad Nixon 8267 680

Judging from the style — a hint of Art Moderne — it’s apparently nearly 100 years old, but I’ve been unable to date it accurately. It was originally the headquarters of the port’s Fishermen’s Co-op, and has outlived its founding organization.

In one week since the most recent harbor walk, the scope of our rambles has shrunk, but that’s why we have memory, after all. Meanwhile, we’re all planning for the first place we’ll go once we see one another through. Wash your hands. Stay in touch with people.

Visiting the Neighborhood

This walk visited a rather out-of-the-way portion of Los Angeles, far from the beaches, theme parks, downtown or Hollywood. It’s along the western edge of the port, in San Pedro. Drive south from downtown on the Harbor Freeway, exit onto Gaffey Street and consult your map from there.

This arial view shows the southern end of the walk, looking south.

Port LA south 680

Here’s some detail of our approximately two-mile walk.

Places mentioned in this post in red.

SP harbor map 680

Leave a comment when you need more detailed directions. For the time being, I’m sticking closer to home.

© Brad Nixon 2020. LA Fish Warehouse photo © M. Vincent 2020, used by kind permission. AltaSea Berth 57 elevation © Dangermond Keane Architecture. Aerial view © AltaSea, retrieved 4/8/20 from Map © Google with my emendations.


  1. Liked by 1 person

    • GP: One thing at a time! (But it would be nice, wouldn’t it?) Carry on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice pictures of the port of Los Angeles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Always something interesting to see at the port.


  3. Another venue I would certainly have missed but for your promenades! Merci.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the generous appreciation. Always something to see!


Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: