Redondo beach Pier & harbor
There are the Santa Monica Mountains, across the Santa Monica Bay, in the background. This place still feels like home to me. I lived in Redondo Beach, Calif., most of my adult life, for 30 years. It is where I raised my daughter. Over the years we lived there, we watched big Pacific storms wash ashore fishing boats permanently anchored out in the bay, and partially destroy earlier piers standing on wooden pilings; on the end of one pier was a dinner-house restaurant, Castagnola’s, washed over by huge waves.
The first Redondo pier, 1889-1915, was built to facilitate delivery of timber and oil from ships to trains. It was destroyed by a storm. The second pier, 1895-1929, built nearby, in front of the Hotel Redondo, was V-shaped and had a railroad track on one prong. It was destroyed by a storm.
In those years, Redondo served as the Port of Los Angeles. It was a bustling harbor where passenger trains and Henry Huntington’s Big Red Electric (trolley) Cars brought people to enjoy superb saltwater fishing, shops, restaurants, the world’s largest saltwater plunge and poking around in the mounds of moonstones on the beach. These natural mounds of gemstones are said to have been five to six feet deep and 40 to 50 feet wide. They’re not there now, and I’ve never been able to find out what became of them.
Back then, residents of inland cities such as Pasadena and Glendale summered in their beach bungalows lining the broad boulevards along the cliffs above the beach. The streets above Moonstone Beach where the Hotel Redondo stood bear the names of gemstones––Ruby, Diamond, Sapphire, Emerald, Beryl, Pearl, Garnet, Topaz, Carnelian…. The bungalows charmingly graced Catalina Avenue and Broadway when I first moved to Redondo. They disappeared in the 1980s when they were replaced by high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums.
Built on a bluff overlooking the Santa Monica Bay in 1889 with an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, each of 225 rooms “touched by sunlight at some time of the day,” the $250,000 Hotel Redondo embraced sweeping views of the Santa Monica Mountains along the Malibu coastline to the north, the 1,000-foot altitude Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south, and the vermillion sunsets to the west.
Alas, the gods smiled on Redondo in a roundabout way, saving the city from becoming an industrial port and keeping it for the beach people, the upwardly mobile and for families and children: The grand, red-turreted Hotel Redondo was done in by Prohibition, razed in 1926 and sold for $300 for scrapwood. Its near twin, the historic Hotel del Coronado, built on Coronado Island off San Diego in 1888, continues to host guests in grand style.
During Prohibition, the gambling ship Rex operated three miles off shore. As the Redondo harbor declined, the San Pedro harbor bustled, and San Pedro became the Port of Los Angeles.
In the stead of the Hotel Redondo, today jutting out over the harbor, high over the waves in water as green and clear as an emerald, stands the bustling horseshoe-shaped Redondo Pier, with its restaurants and shops. Built in the early 1990s on concrete pilings, the present pier has outlasted its predecessors lost in El Niño storms every few years.
Weather in Redondo is sunny and in the 70s F nearly every day — except in June, when the “June gloom” sea mist rolls in and hangs around. The steady salt breeze off the ocean wafts aromas of ice plant (a succulent planted to keep the cliffs from sliding), sea urchins and Mexican food.
A brief history of the Redondo Pier
A brief history of the City of Redondo Beach — This paints a colorful picture of what Southern California was like before the throngs arrived in the 1950s and ’60s.
The land on which the City of Redondo thrives was once Rancho San Pedro, part of a land grant the California (Mexico) government gave to the Juan José Dominguez family in 1784.
This picture is relaxing. It reminds me of Monterey. I lived there when I was stationed at Fort Ord. The fort no longer exists. It is sinking into the Pacific. I went back in 2008 and was sad to see that happening. However, I enjoyed being stationed there. My room at the brand new barracks built for us looked out onto the Pacific and every morning I would get up and see the ocean. It was a wonderful time.
Thank you for sharing your memories of Santa Monica. I was never there but I can imagine its beauty and feel the essence of it being home for you.
Beautiful as Redondo, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Southern California are, Patricia, Monterey has a more dramatic, stunning beauty. I envy your getting up every morning and seeing the ocean.
The Navy took us to Calif. Our first apartment had a patio over a three car garage, with a view of the whole Santa Monica Bay coastline; but, interestingly, we moved there in June — totally new to SoCal. I looked out over the ocean each day and saw the sea mist, having retreated early in the morning, sitting out on the horizon. I got up one morning in October, and, lo, there were the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu to the north and out to the southwest, Catalina Island. My first view. It’s as if at certain times of the year they set them out there for all to see. 🙂
Thanks! And I didn’t know Fort Ord was gone.
Yes, my dear. It is sinking into the Pacific Ocean, and I feel so bad about that. That was my first duty station in the United States and the last duty station before I volunteered to come to Europe and landed in Frankfurt, Germany In October 1974.
Amazing for me was the early mornings at Ord. They were cold, even in July/ August, but by 10 am the sun was high and it was hot. I learned at Ord to always take a jacket with me in the evening because the temperature would drop dramatically because of the Pacific.
Reading this post made me look back and see that I have been allowed to travel to many places within the United States and also here in Europe. Sometimes I am not fully conscious of what a blessing that is, but reading your post made me aware of how wonderful it is as I re-connected with Ft. Ord and thought, Oh yes, I remember when….
Your articles revived the memories that I have of California and its beauty.
Yes, ah those jacket nights. I do miss it all, too, Patricia. I think I wrote somewhere that homes on the western side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula are sliding, too. They have to sometimes weekly replace portions of Palos Verdes Drive West, that runs along there, because parts of the road slide leaving a gap between that section and the next. And the repaired road is very bumpy. You have to drive really slow.
You are so blessed to have traveled so much and now to be in Europe.
That ramp down to the beach could be the ramp down to one of the main beaches (Beacon Island Beach) in Plettenberg Bay! Extraordinary! The mountains though in Plettenberg Bay are off to the left looking toward the sea called the Tsitsikama mountains. Yours look as if they are more in front of you looking to the sea … from the pier I guess.
What happy memories Carol! I can imagine Kellie yelling at you more Mom more! Even today I perform in the waves if the family is watching – e.g. overdramatise a tumbling in the waves! (am not suggesting you did/do the same, really!) Thanks for sharing this with us!
Yes, Susan, from your photos, Plettenberg Bay reminds me much of that area around Redondo Beach. The mountains to the north, the Santa Monica Mtns., where Malibu is, form part of the mountains surrounding L.A., forming the L.A. basin. It’s like a bowl with three sides, the fourth open to the ocean. Consequently, the smog — the sea breeze blows the smog up against the mountains and it can’t get out, especially because commonly there’s an inversion layer over the basin — cold air on top of warm air, like a lid. The American Indians called the L.A. basin “the valley of smoke.”
To the south in my photo is the Palos Verdes Peninsula, with San Pedro and Long Beach, both pretty flat, south of that. The peninsula juts out into the ocean, with stunning views from the cliffs. The land above the ocean is constantly sliding, so houses slide and they have to keep repaving the road — daily, weekly, monthly.
Thanks for the info about Plettenberg Bay. I like to know. Fascinating.
I haven’t swum in the ocean in a long time, and I miss it; though I think at this stage of my life even the gentlest waves might knock me down.
OK, and about Kellie: When her kids were little she’d take them to Disneyland or some amusement park and say to her companions, “Here, you watch the kids. I’m going to get on this ride.” 🙂 She hasn’t changed much.
YUP… Good old Redondo Beach, where we were neighbors and never knew it… I don’t think… unless you were my client at the B of A in Palos Verdes Estates. I’ll bet I wouldn’t recognize Redondo any more since I left in 1976 when Heather was 15 months old. I loved riding my bike along the Strand down to Venice and back. Prior to Heather’s arrival I spent a great deal of time on the beach body-surfing. It was a fun time. Beautiful post that brought back LOTS of memories.
Yes, I miss Redondo, Gwynn. Too bad we never met there, that we know of. I never banked at the B of A in PV. Redondo has changed a lot since you were there, as I noted in the story. When I went back in the late ’90s, it had changed much in the few years since I left — even more people and traffic, and a new demographic of Yuppies, those who could afford to live there.
You know, we rented our apt. on Camino de las Colinas for $135/mo. — 2 bedrooms with a patio over a 3-car garage and a sweeping view like the one above — from PV to Point Dume. On winter and spring nights when the waves were big I could hear them pounding on the shore.
Ah, me. Whatever happened to those days.
I was air mattress surfing in Hermosa one time riding wave after wave, while Kellie, 3 or 4 years old, stood on the shore calling “Do it again! Do it again, Mom!” 🙂