Along the Pacific Ocean in San Pedro lies the ruins of a lavish resort area that included a hot spring hotel, salt water swimming pools, an outside terrazzo dance floor and a Nike Missile launch site.
Welcome to White Point/Royal Palms…
…this dead fish tells only part of the story of this fascinating area overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
White Point Nature Preserve features 102 acres of restored coastal sage scrub habitat, hiking and handicap accessible trails overlooking the ocean and Catalina Island.
The Preserve is now home to the Nature Education Center, which opened in May 2010 and serves as a resource for students, families, and community groups from all over Los Angeles. The Nature Education Center is housed in a repurposed historic Cold War assembly building that was once part of LA-43.
Overlooking the ruins of where Ramon Sepulveda’s house once stood. Juan Capistrano Sepulveda and Jose Loreto Sepulveda, the two eldest sons of Don Jose Sepulveda, in 1834 were granted a judicial decree by Governor Jose Figueroa of 31,600 acres of Rancho San Pedro to the Sepulvedas (including the town of San Pedro), which was intended to settle the dispute between the Dominquez and Sepulveda families.
Between the turn of the 20th century and WWII, the White Point area of San Pedro was home to a thriving Japanese community of abalone fisherman and farmers. In 1899, 12 Japanese fisherman leased beach front property at White Point from Ramon Sepulveda, a descendant of Jose Dolores Sepulveda, the original Spanish land grant owner of San Pedro, with the intention of establishing an abalone and lobster fishery at the location.
Rusty & Invasive
These invasive snails can be found pretty much everywhere when hiking through the White Point Nature Preserve.
Walking along the many trails that wind there way through the preserve, you’ll eventually see them in the distance…
…the two large concrete batteries that were dug into the hillside during WWII.
Battery 127 was constructed on the reservation beginning in 1942 as a part of the Los Angeles Harbor Defenses modernization program. This was a standard 100 series battery containing two 16″ guns in thick casemated concrete emplacements.
The huge guns were mounted in July 1944 and the battery was accepted for service on September 11, 1944. The guns were scrapped after the end of the war in 1948, but the concrete casemates and bunker remain today.
The batteries are now welded shut.
The two huge concrete gun emplacements were built at a cost of over 1.2 million dollars.
The battery featured such improvements as both radar and optical fire control, substantial overhead protection, and two 16 inch 50 caliber Mark II naval guns. It had a range of over 26 miles and the fort now had the ability to cover the entire northern approach to the Los Angeles Harbor.
An identical battery of this design was built at the Bolsa Chica reservation, Battery 128 was intended to cover the southern approach but that battery was never armed before the war ended.
War Department General Order 51 issued on June 10, 1946 officially changed the name of the battery 127 to honor the memory of Colonel Paul Delmont Bunker. Colonel Bunker was a member of the organized reserve corps of the Coast Artillery at Fort MacArthur from 1937-1940
Not sure if this was a water cistern or an access point down into an underground bunker. Whatever it was, it was now completely sealed off by years of debris that has fallen into it.
This area of land, which juts out into the sea to form a point more than 100 feet above sea level, has been called both “White Point” and “White’s Point”. The origin of the name is disputed. One version is that it was named for a sailor named White, who jumped ship and swam to shore at this spot, thus “White’s Point”.
Another version is that sailors used the cliff face as a landmark, because it’s altamira shale appears white, and that they named it “White Point”. A third opinion is that it was named after Senator Stephen White, who led the political fight for development of the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. The area was officially termed “White Point” in lease agreements signed around the turn of the century by the owner, Roman Sepulveda. The San Pedro Bay Historical Society, therefore, favors “White Point”, based on this authenticated documentation.
A U.S. Army Nike Missile Site (LA-43) was built on the lower part of the reservation in 1954 to help protect Los Angeles from Soviet air attack.
More ruins of LA-43 dot the hillside…
…which include the old kennels where the dogs that were used to guard LA-43 would be boarded.
Between the 1940s and 1970 the Department of Defense established coastal defense facilities. Built in the early 1950s the White Point Nike Missile site was one of many such sites ringing the Los Angeles Basin manned by National Guard units.
Originally a site for the Nike Ajax missile it was later upgraded with a Nike-Hercules missile which had the capability of being armed with a nuclear warhead.
The site, along with the land, was deactivated by the United States Military about 1974. It was then transferred to the City and the County of Los Angeles in 1978 for recreational purposes.
The property remained closed for 25 years until the 1990’s, when the citizens of San Pedro convinced the City of LA that the best use of the abandoned and neglected parcel was as natural open space.
In 2000, the park was officially dedicated.
To reduce costs for the city, the community—working with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy—developed a plan to restore and manage the park.
It was so nice to see a site like this in such good shape.
Having the nature preserve as a neighbor has drastically reduced vandalism on the site. And while I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t go underground like I had at the heavily vandalized LA-88 or the completely restored SF-88 sites, I was happy that this particular site is at least being preserved and not being destroyed like so many other NIKE Sites have around the Los Angeles basin.
After exploring LA-43, it was time to head down to the beach which has its own amazing history to share. In 1898, then-owner Ramon Sepulveda built housing and leased land to 12 Japanese-American fishermen from Los Angeles who had discovered an abundance of abalone and other readily harvestable sea life in the area.
The fishing village thrived until about 1906 when outside anti-Japanese propaganda began to affect this industry. Restrictive laws concerning how much shellfish could be taken were also enacted when the once-rich supplies of shellfish were quickly depleted. Japanese fishermen subsequently moved from White Point to San Pedro, Terminal Island, and Wilmington.
In 1915, the discovery of a sulfur hot spring in the area by brothers Tojuro and Tajimi Tagami, led to the Tagami brothers developing a bathhouse together with Ramon Sepulveda.
The remains of the concrete walls of the White Point Hot Spring Hotel can still be seen today.
They built roads and dug out the hot spring and by 1925 the resort included a 50-room hotel, cabins, restaurant, sulfur baths, various salt water swimming pools, an enclosed boating area…
…a terrazzo dance floor…
…surrounded by stone fireplaces and carved stone benches, and a pier which ferried tourists to a nearby fishing barge.
During its heyday in the 1920s, the White Point Health Resort was one of the most popular beach resorts in Southern California, especially among Japanese-Americans. The resort thrived. Physicians would send patients to there for the curative powers of the hot springs.
Newlyweds would stay there for the beauty of the weather and location.
A variety of factors led to the resort’s demise. A huge storm battered the coast in 1928, damaging the concrete pool and some buildings. Then in 1933, the Long Beach earthquake caused the natural sulfur hot springs to stop flowing. Although the hotel continued to operate despite these set-backs, the Depression hurt the resort economically and the resort finally closed in the late 1930’s.
The final blow came in 1941 with Pearl Harbor and the rise of anti-Japanese hysteria. In February 1942, federal agents raided the surrounding community for security reasons and by April 1942 its residents had been moved to internment camps.
The federal government took over the area incorporating it into the nearby Fort MacArthur military defense complex. The resort’s buildings were demolished and fortifications were added to the shoreline and nearby hillside.
The state of California bought the beach area in 1960 and it became Royal Palms State Beach. In 1995, the land was deeded to the county and became Royal Palms County Beach.
In 1982, the fountain from the original resort which lied in ruins down on the beach…
…was moved to the upper level where it stands today.
In 1997 the site underwent a $2 million renovation with the addition of the children’s play area, picnic tables and new restrooms. Descendants of the original Tagami family that built White Point Health Resort were in attendance at the dedication. So if you’re ever in the area, look down, that terrazzo you see on the floor has quite a story to tell.