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Former So-Cal Food Production Factories that are now Historic Buildings

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fish harbor LAPL
Terminal Island circa 1956. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Archive

1. Terminal Island Canneries 

Ever wondered how canned tuna became such a supermarket sensation? Thank San Pedro, or more specifically Terminal Island, a mostly man-made island sandwiched between San Pedro and Long Beach that was the birthplace of canned tuna as we know it today, including many of the the product’s familiar brands such as Star-Kist and Chicken of the Sea.

Chicken of the Sea Cannery, originally called Van Kamp Seafood, is considered to be responsible for canned tuna’s popularity after they made it possible to produce it on a mass scale.

Canner's Steam Plant. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine
Canner’s Steam Plant. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine

But in its heyday, Terminal Island was home to 16 seafood canneries, and these canneries made up the backbone of a thriving seafood industry in Southern California. While all of the original canneries are no longer in use, as a result of increased regulation, foreign competition and a waning tuna population, several of the buildings that once housed the industry have been named as historic buildings by the Los Angeles Conservancy. They include the Pan Pacific Fisheries Cannery, Chicken of the Sea Cannery, Star-Kist Tuna Cannery Main Plant as well as the steam plant that once fueled the canneries, Canner’s Steam Plant.

It is unclear how these buildings will be used in the future.

Today, Terminal Island is most notable for being home to a federal prison.

cannery workers
Cannery workers circa 1912. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Archive.
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Pan-Pacific Fisheries Cannery. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine.
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Star-Kist Tuna Cannery. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine
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Photo by Sally Egan

2. Claremont Packing House 

The citrus industry was instrumental in boosting both southern California’s economy and its allure in the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th.

The Claremont Packing House (originally called the College Heights Lemon Packing House) is the last remaining of the original citrus-processing plants that were built in the 1920’s along the Santa Fe Rail Corridor.

The Los Angeles Conservancy says that the space is now a “mixed-use facility that houses multiple restaurants, retail shops, and art galleries.”

3. James K. Hill & Sons Pickle Works Building 

Before the fetishization of artisanal pickles in L.A., the city of Angels was home to its very own pickle factory. Adjacent to the Los Angeles River and Sci-Arc, it is located in downtown L.A.’s arts district. The Los Angeles Conservancy notes it as a historic building because it is a rare example of a Victorian-era brick industrial building. Who knew?

In 2005 the Pickle Works Building became eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.