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San Pedro Harbor
SAN PEDRO HARBOR
Prior to the June 1903 understanding with President E. H. Harriman of the Southern Pacific, PE's Henry E. Huntington was actively in competition
with that carrier. Even in tiny San Pedro these rail giants were playing their game of power chess. SP had a virtual stranglehold on the San Pedro
waterfront; from Wilmington to the Southern Pacific Slip at the then entrance to the harbor, SP tracks were on the water side of PE's. How then to break this apparent monopoly?
Huntington did it by making what might be termed an end run. The key was his 14th St. and Crescent Ave. Lines. Although in early 1903 there was no
outer Harbor---merely dreary mud flats---Huntington sought and received from the County Board of Supervisors a 50-year franchise for wharfage privileges into the Outer Harbor in February, 1903. This franchise began at the extreme west end of the existing wharves and ran to the five-fathom curve, a distance of more than 1,000 feet. His new wharf, built in PE's name, would have cost more than a half million, enabling PE to get into active competition with SP and the Salt Lake Route(then entrenched on Terminal Island) for the lucrative sea freight traffic. Observers at that time noted that Huntington's location was apparently better situated than either of his rivals, thus thwarting their efforts to secure a monopoly
in the San Pedro area. Vessels of any tonnage would be able to land cargo
at the PE Wharf at rates to be set by the Supervisors.
The Board of Trustees of San Pedro granted PE a franchise enabling its cars
to gain easy access to the proposed wharf. The franchise extended along
14th St. from a point near Gaffey St. (then the northern city limits) to San
Pedro St. at the waterfront, thence to the proposed wharf.
The understanding with Harriman, the subsequent entry of SP as a minority
stockholder in PE, the establishing of the LAIU as a repository of previously acquired SP electric railway holdings and as a construction and operating ally of PE, negated the above wharf plans. The Outer Harbor was, of course,
brought into being although not precisely along the lines that had been agreed upon. The Harbor Belt Line RR. eliminated all thought of competition among rail carriers, and there the matter rested.
Another early-1903 plan at San Pedro was to see PE, SP and several prominent Eastern capitalists join in a gigantic enterprise to make the harbor town
a major seaside resort. It was planned to spend a million dollars constructing a hotel, a bath house, observatory and pavilion on a multi-acre site on Pt. Fermin. This, too, came to naught.
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