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Construction and Development of the Harbor

Berth 240- view of Main Channel taken from Immigration Station
Berth 240 - View of Main Channel taken from Immigration Station

While city officials were primarily concerned with port infrastructure and how to encourage and utilize regional economic development, they also understood the importance of developing a port of global prominence. This was reflected in additional improvements to the Harbor between 1911 and 1912. During that period, the first 8,500-foot section of the breakwater was completed, and the Main Channel was widened to 800 feet and dredged to a depth of 30 feet to accommodate the largest vessels of that era. Concurrently, Southern Pacific Railroad completed its first major wharf in San Pedro, allowing railcars to efficiently load and unload goods simultaneously.

Berth 240- looking easterly from the turn in the Timm's Point Viaduct
Berth 240 - Looking easterly from the turn in the
Timm's Point Viaduct

In 1914, the City of Los Angeles completed one of many large municipal terminals in the Harbor, and in 1917, the Port constructed its first bonded warehouse to store goods. In 1923, the City of Los Angeles passed a harbor improvement bond measure that resulted in the construction of additional wharves to meet the demands of increased imports and exports. By 1929, in an effort to streamline the railroad portion of shipping in the Harbor, various railroad companies consolidated their operations under the title of the Harbor Belt Line Railroad.

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Despite a weak economy, the Harbor Commission continued to make improvements during the Depression years, including a new breakwater extension, completed by 1937, and new cargo and passenger terminals. The federal government's Works Progress Administration helped the Port finance passenger and freight terminals, as well as wharf and other improvements.

Following World War II, the Los Angeles Harbor District launched a broad restoration program. Many of the facilities in the Harbor required maintenance that had been delayed during the war years. Although the adjacent Long Beach Harbor conducted its own improvements while battling subsidence (the "sinking" of the land from many years of oil extraction), the Los Angeles Harbor District improved a number of its buildings and removed many temporary wartime buildings.

View looking east from a ship docked at Berth 191 - the launching S.S. Council Bluffs Victory
Looking east from a ship docked at Berth 191

In recent years, the advent of containerization resulted in dramatic changes at the Port. Because of this new mode of shipping, the Port, like major new and old harbors, modernized facilities to meet the needs of the new geometry required by containerization. In addition to the new (container size and shape driven) configurations, larger cranes and concrete wharves (replacing timber) were required to handle the dramatically increased weight of cargo containers. Other major Harbor improvements included deepening the main channel to accommodate the larger container vessels entering the bay, purchasing land to expand terminals, and replacing older wharves that could not bear the increased weight of newer containers. (View modern photos of the Port of Los Angeles.)