Hermosa Beach Pier

Los Angeles, California | C.1913

Photo Credit: Sam Aiken

Pristine beaches, barreling waves, and casual celebrity sightings are all things that make this Hollywood adjacent beach one of the most sought after in Los Angeles. Purchased by a developer in the early 1900s for a mere $35, what was once farmland would be transformed into an iconic boardwalk getaway with a few quirky characteristics. 

The most renowned feature of Hermosa Beach is its pier that stretches 1000 feet into the Pacific Ocean. Originally built of wooden planks it wouldn’t be long before the unforgiving Pacific would wash her away. In trying to avoid another parishing pier, the county decided on a more robust material for the second design, and today she still stands in her concrete glory.

Of course a pier alone would never attract the masses, so it was decided that Hermosa Beach needed a proper boardwalk to encourage visitors to promenade and stick around awhile. Along with the boardwalk came a flurry of restaurants, shops, theaters and bars trying to attract the new beachgoers and surfers who needed a break from the sun.

One of the more popular attractions was the aquarium. Situated just south of the pier and opened in 1947, its round construction and massive glass tanks made it one of the most state of the art aquariums in the world.  Visitors could easily catch an up close glimpse of all the wildlife that dwelled just beyond Hermosa Beach Pier. 

But it wasn’t all just peeking behind a looking glass. In exchange for a nickel patrons would receive a handful of sardine to feed the resident seals and Pierre the sea lion for his many tricks. Pierre was known to keep folks entertained by wearing funny hats, smoking cigarettes and even feigning an injury by “limping” on one fin. (We imagine Pierre got most of the sardines.) 

Then there was the prize attraction, Winnie the Whale. Legend has it you could smell him before you saw him as he wasn’t a live whale, but a derpy looking taxidermy with a sign that read “Winnie is a real whale” for all those who weren’t quite sure what they were looking at.  Winnie has since disappeared, destroyed when someone flicked a cigarette butt inside his mouth. But thanks to the loads of  formaldehyde we hear it was over pretty quickly.

Despite its popularity, it seems building the underwater sanctuary so close to the pier may have been detrimental. Ten years after its opening, the aquarium was closed due to a squabble with the city on land rights. Although some of the original highlights of the 40s and 50s have moved on, Hermosa Beach is still home to characters of all types, and the pier continues to brace itself against the Pacific as the local icon. 

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