Once separate, independent cities, the waterfront communities of San Pedro and Wilmington are today part of the City of Los Angeles and comprise one of the world’s largest import/export centers.
At the southern end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, San Pedro Bay was discovered by Juan Cabrillo on November 24, 1542. Cabrillo named the bay after St. Peter of Alexandria, whose ecclesiastical feast day fell on that same day. The Spaniards used the bay for the next century, but European settlement of the area did not begin in earnest until the late 1700’s, when Rancho San Pedro became the first of the many Spanish land grants from King Carlos of Spain to Juan Jose Dominguez, a retired Spanish soldier who came to California with Portola’s expedition. San Pedro and Wilmington were both part of that initial land grant in 1784.
The San Pedro Bay area thrived as immigrants came into the area to fish the coastline. It was a magnet for European immigrants for years, especially for seafarers and fishermen from Croatia, Portugal, Mexico, Italy, Ireland, Norway, and Greece. San Pedro was also once home to a Japanese community of about 3,000 who lived in a village in East San Pedro and pioneered albacore fishing out of San Pedro Bay and harvesting abalone off of the coastline. The immigrant populations established a viable fishing industry in San Pedro in the 1800’s and have remained a strong part of the area’s diverse cultural flavor.
In the late 1840’s, after Mexico’s defeat in the Mexican-American War, the area came under U.S. control.
In 1858, Phineas Banning acquired the land that would become Wilmington from Manuel Dominguez, an heir of Rancho San Pedro’s original concession holder Juan Jose Dominguez, to build a harbor for the city
of Los Angeles. The birth of the “modern” Los Angeles Harbor was guided by Banning, who in 1868, created Southern California’s first railroad, to transport goods from San Pedro Bay to Los Angeles. With the growth of the harbor, Los Angeles grew quickly, becoming a Southern California city. In 1906, Los Angeles annexed the Harbor Gateway, a long, narrow strip of land connecting the city to the northern border of Wilmington, and in 1909, the city consolidated with both Wilmington and San Pedro.
In 1932, oil was discovered in the Wilmington area, the third largest oil field in the continental United States, leading to the presence of a number of major refineries in the Wilmington area, many of them dating back to the original strike. Industry flourished in the area to support both the oil fields and harbor activity, and the San Pedro/Wilmington area transitioned from being dominated by the fishing industry, to become primarily a working class community within the City of Los Angeles.
The Harbor Area is the home to many landmarks and attractions. The Vincent Thomas Bridge, a 1,500 foot (457 m)-long suspension bridge links San Pedro with Terminal Island and Long Beach. Harbored in San Pedro Bay are the Battleship USS Iowa and the SS Lane Victory, a fully operational WW2 victory liner and National Historic Landmark. Nearby are the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, the “Ports O’ Call” venue with shopping, restaurants, fish markets, “Crafted” (a permanent craft marketplace housed inside historic World War II Naval Warehouse #10), the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and the Point Fermin Lighthouse.
The price of homes in Wilmington and San Pedro vary greatly from the homes at White Point and Point
Fermin which overlook Santa Catalina Island and the glorious Pacific, and small homes that were built to sustain dock workers, longshoremen, and the early immigrants who came to call the area home. Prices range from $200,000 to well over a million dollars, with the average price of single family homes in San
Pedro at $550,000 and $340,000 in Wilmington. Condos and townhomes average approximately $340,000 in San Pedro and $230,000 in Wilmington.
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