Break-bulk goods would arrive by steamship (far right) and
be unloaded into transit sheds, where they would be
transported by rail or truck to their destination, or
across to Warehouse No. 1 (far left) for long-term or
The six-story warehouse, containing half a million square feet, housed the majority of non-petroleum goods shipped into and out of the southern California markets. Transshipment of break-bulk cargo was a very different process from the current system of containerization. Break-bulk cargo required a series of labor- and space-intensive steps that in turn required certain buildings and facilities to ensure the most efficient and economical process. Raw or finished goods would be transported via train or truck from the distributor to the Port terminal.
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Cargo destined for international or West Coast markets arrived at the Port of Los Angeles from across the Southeast and Southwest, and via the Panama Canal from the entire Eastern Seaboard. If the goods arrived in sufficient quantity to justify immediate shipment, they would be loaded into one of the transit sheds directly adjacent to the wharves. When the ship arrived, the goods would be transferred manually from the transit sheds into the cargo hold of the ship. The same process in reverse would occur at the destination.
Some shippers used Warehouse No. 1 to stockpile
goods until the scheduled steamship arrived.
Operations of the municipal harbor facilities between 1918 and 1920 were overshadowed by wartime efforts of the Navy and by the Army quartermaster corps. During this period, the US Navy Submarine Base occupied the southern end of Berth 60. During World War I and through 1920 nearly two-thirds of Warehouse No. 1 was occupied by the Navy and used for classrooms, shops, and storage of commissary supplies. A Navy barracks was located on the warehouse roof along with two 4-inch guns.
Rails run the length of the interior,
for more efficient loading and unloading.
In 1920, the Navy reduced its presence to approximately 10% of the warehouse. The Port leased operations of the warehouse to the Union Terminal Warehouse Company, whose function was to coordinate between shipping companies and distributors. With the reopening of the Panama Canal in 1922, commerce at the Port jumped from 6.5 million tons of cargo in 1921-22, to nearly 19 million tons in 1922-23, to 26 ˝ million tons in 1923-24. Tonnage figures plateaued at this level for the next several decades.
The warehouse was fully returned to city operation by 1928. Warehouse No. 1 continued to serve its intended purpose, facilitating the storage and transshipment of raw materials and finished goods between the U.S. and more than 25 major international destinations. Exports during the period before World War II included petroleum products and machinery; canned fish, fruit, and vegetables; automobiles and parts; and raw materials such as cotton, steel, sodium borax, turpentine, asphalt, and kerosene. According to the 1933 Harbor Commissioners' report, "seventy-five percent of our imports are raw…products for manufacture here, indicating the growing importance of Los Angeles as a manufacturing center". The primary import materials included rubber, coffee, cocoa, hides and skins, spices and exotic oils, copper, lumber, jute, burlap, wool, and steel products. (View modern photos of Warehouse No. 1.)