Municipal Ferry Building
1941 – Derwood Irvin
Sixth Street at Harbor Boulevard – map
Finished in 1941 as a WPA project, San Pedro’s Municipal Ferry Building was one of the pair of terminals for the auto ferry service carrying passengers – lots of military personnel and cannery and shipyard workers – to and from Terminal Island.
The building was the work of architect Derwood Lydell Irvin, born in the early 1880s in Eagle Rock. After studying at Berkeley, Irvin was working for the Los Angeles Harbor Department when he got the assignment to design the ferry terminal buildings at Berths 84 (this one) and 234 (on Terminal Island, demolished in the early 1970s).
Since those two windows have been sealed up, this wall looks ripe for graffiti.
In 1963, the brand new Vincent Thomas Bridge, “San Pedro’s Golden Gate”, made the double-decked ferries – the Islander and the Ace – obsolete. After the Islander’s last run on November 14 of that year, the building became an overflow office for the Harbor Department.
With some re-design work by architects Pullman and Matthews, the old Streamline Moderne building with its five-story octagonal tower has been home to the L.A. Maritime Museum since 1979.
The 'Gosling', built in 1924.
The largest of its kind on the west coast, the museum has all the displays, equipment, and artifacts you’d expect and then some. You can see models of the United States Ships the Los Angeles, the Long Beach, and the San Pedro, in addition to a whole bunch more. Along with the ship’s bell on the museum’s lawn, the Los Angeles’s bridge can be found re-assembled inside.
Here’s a pair of shots looking through a museum back window out upon the Glenn M. Anderson Channel. The first shows the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the background, the second is of the tugboat “Angels Gate”, built in 1944.
At the museum you can watch the radio operators of the United Radio Amateur Club broadcast from the second floor. There’s also the model of the S.S. Poseidon, used in the 1972 movie The Poseidon Adventure. It was built, 1/48th to scale, using the original plans for the Queen Mary. I tried flipping it over to see how long Shelley Winters could hold her breath, but was stopped by security.
San Pedro’s Municipal Ferry Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
“Derwood Irvin: The Man Behind the Ferry Terminals” Channel Crossings Summer 2005 Vol. 2, No. 1
McKowen, Ken and Dahlynn Best of California’s Missions, Mansions, and Museums Wilderness Press 2006 Berkeley, CA
Up next: James H. Dodson Residence