L.A.’s port could have been in Santa Monica. Here’s how San Pedro won out
When you think about it, it doesn't make much sense for 1890s L.A. to put its port all the way in San Pedro. This is the story of how that came to be — and not the competing alternative, Santa Monica.
The Great Free Harbor battle pitted two California oligarchs and their loyalists against each other over where the federal government would choose to put its money toward L.A.’s first industrial port. It was like bearded, Victorian versions of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk racing each other into space, although space has enough room for them both; there never was going to be a San Pedro and a Santa Monica port.
The paradox of industrial Los Angeles County is that it prospered despite having no traditionally navigable river and no natural harbor. San Diego has a natural harbor. San Francisco has a peach of one. But Los Angeles just had beaches and cliffs and mud flats and marshes running from Point Dume in Malibu to below Long Beach. But L.A. never did let nature thwart its self-invention.
The SP wanted Santa Monica (Long Wharf), the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe wanted Redondo Beach, Los Angeles wanted San Pedro.
Only San Pedro made the most sense, especially now when we have far larger ships.
My guess. Cheaper land and closer workers. (Im at the LAT max for the month)
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