Thursday, May 12, 2011

A world-class Exposition

An aerial shot of the Pacific Southwest Exposition taken Aug. 11, 1928. The picture is taken looking southwest toward Terminal Island; the bascule or "jack-knife" bridge can be seen in the background. In the foreground, beyond the parking lot (accessed from Seventh Street) is the main entrance, with the Avenue of Nations at top left, the Pool of Reflections at center, and the mammoth Palace of Industry, complete with its Muezzin Tower, at rear center. Beyond that is the Exposition's amusement zone.
Civic leaders meet on the Seventh Street Peninsula to
plan the Pacific Southwest Exposition. This sandy spot
was the location of the fair and is now Pier C -- a bustling
container cargo terminal.

Sometime in 1926, a group of civic leaders gathered on the Seventh Street Peninsula, a sandy spot just north of the oldest parts of the Port of Long Beach. In later years the peninsula would be the site of a Procter & Gamble factory and today it's the SSA/Matson container terminal on Pier C. But these civic leaders weren't planning a new pier or cargo processing facility, they were planning a festival.

As we plan our 100th Birthday Party on June 25 (be sure to come! -- click here for more information), we're looking back at one of the biggest events ever put on at the Port of Long Beach -- the Pacific Southwest Exposition of 1928.

In addition to well-known Long Beach names like Charles A. Buffum and William F. Prisk, the exposition's board included four current or soon-to-become Harbor Commissioners: Harvey C. Fremming, Nelson McCook, Irwin M. Stevens and John F. Craig, who owned Craig Shipyard, the first business at the Port of Long Beach.

One of the Moorish covered walkways lining the Garden Court, just
inside the Exposition entrance.
The Exposition opened July 27, 1928.  As it was described in the book Long Beach Art Deco by John. W. Thomas, Suzanne Tarbell Cooper and J. Christopher Launi, "There were exhibits devoted to the control of the prairie dog, a miniature German cathedral, methods for growing hair and methods to keep it from growing, motor cars, machinery, and Krishnamurti's method of happiness. There were races and water sports and opera singers and, of course, sandwiches, sodas, and various treats available to revive flagging energies."

As described on KenBlog, a website dedicated to World's Fairs and other expositions, the Pacific Southwest Exposition was designed to resemble a Tunisian city, with two courtyards overlooked by the Palace of Industry's Muezzin Tower, from which an Arab issued calls to prayer each day.

Other buildings included the Palace of Fine Arts, the Palace of Education and Liberal Arts, the Palace of Textiles and Modes, the Palace of Transportation and the California Building. On the south side of the Exposition was the "Avenue of Nations" (on the left side of the picture at top), which featured exhibits from all over the world in appropriately styled buildings.

Like many World's Fair-type structures, the buildings weren't intended to be permanent; the palaces were constructed mostly of wood, covered with plaster and stucco, and many of the roofs were made of tightly stretched white canvas.  By the time the event closed in September it had, by most estimates, drawn just over a million people to the Long Beach waterfront.

For a wealth of information on the Pacific Southwest Exposition, including pictures and detailed descriptions of many of the individual buildings, we encourage you to visit KenBlog.

The Los Angeles Public Library also has an extensive collection of photographs of the exposition in its online archives. You can view them by clicking here.

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