San Pedro is a community within the City of Los Angeles, California. Formerly a separate city, it consolidated with Los Angeles in 1909. The Port of Los Angeles, a major international seaport, is partially located within San Pedro. The district has grown from being dominated by the fishing industry to become primarily a working class community within the City of Los Angeles.
The site, at the southern end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, on the west side of San Pedro Bay, was used by Spanish ships starting in the 1540s. The peninsula, including all of San Pedro, was the homeland of the Tongva-Gabrieleño Native American people for thousands of years. In other areas of the Los Angeles Basin archeological sites date back 8,000–15,000 years. The Tongva believe they have been here since the beginning of time. Once called the "lords of the ocean," due to their mastery of oceangoing canoes (Ti'ats), many Tongva villages covered the coastline. The Tongva lived in a virtual paradise, until colonization. Their first contact with Europeans in 1542 with João Cabrilho (Juan Cabrillo), the Portuguese explorer who also was the first to write of them. Chowigna and Suangna were two Tongva settlements of many in the peninsula area, which was also a departure point for their rancherias on the Channel Islands. Legend has it that the Native Americans blessed the land of Palos Verdes, making it the most beautiful place on Earth. The Tongva called the San Pedro area "Chaaw".
Origin of name
San Pedro was named for St. Peter of Alexandria, a fourth-century bishop in Alexandria, Egypt. His feast day is November 24 on the local ecclesiastical calendar of Spain, the day on which Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo discovered the bay in 1542 which would be known as San Pedro. Santa Catalina Island, named after Catherine of Alexandria, was claimed for the Spanish Empire the next day, on her feast day, November 25. In 1602–1603, Sebastián Vizcaíno (1548–1624) officially surveyed and mapped the California coastline, including San Pedro Bay, for New Spain. The anglicized pronunciation, popularized by the English-speaking people of Midwestern America, is "San-pee-dro".
European settlement began in 1769 as part of an effort to populate California, although trade restrictions encouraged more smuggling than regular business. Rancho San Pedro is the site of the first Spanish land grant in Alta California, New Spain. The land was granted in 1784 by King Carlos III to Juan Jose Dominguez, a retired Spanish soldier who came to California with the Gaspar de Portolà expedition.
Under United States control after 1848, when the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American war, the harbor was greatly improved and expanded under the guidance of Phineas Banning and John Gately Downey, the seventh governor of California after the Free Harbor Fight. In 1868 Banning created the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad, Southern California's first railroad and used it to transport goods from San Pedro Bay to Los Angeles which soon became a major city in Southern California.
United States Navy Battle Fleet home port 1919–1940
In 1888, the War Department took control of a tract of land next to the bay and added to it in 1897 and 1910. This became Fort MacArthur in 1914 and was a coastal defense site for many years. Woodrow Wilson transferred 200 United States Navy ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1919 when tension arose between the United States and Japan over the fate of China. San Diego Bay was considered too shallow for the largest ships, so the battleships anchored in San Pedro Bay on August 9, 1919. Local availability of fuel oil minimized transportation costs, and consistently good weather allowed frequent gunnery exercises off the nearby Channel Islands of California. The heavy cruisers of the Scouting Force were transferred from the Atlantic to San Pedro in response to the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria. By 1934, 14 battleships, two aircraft carriers, 14 cruisers, and 16 support ships were based at San Pedro. On April 1, 1940, the Pacific Fleet battleships sailed to Hawaii for annual fleet exercises. The battleships remained in the Hawaiian Islands to deter Japanese aggression until the attack on Pearl Harbor. The fleet post office, supply depot, fuel depot, degaussing range, ECM repair facility, and naval training schools for small craft, fire fighters, merchant ship communications, and anti-submarine attack remained at San Pedro through World War II; but the battle fleet never returned.
Appropriately, San Pedro was selected as the final home-port of the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61). The Iowa now serves as a museum ship and memorial recognizing "the positive contributions of this battleship and its crew at critical moments in American history".
Los Angeles consolidation
In 1906, the City of 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 larger city consolidated with Wilmington and with San Pedro.