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The History of Harbor City Elementary School

by Stan Poe

 In 1914 the town of Harbor City was created by two aspiring developers with grand ideas. The original plan included the dynamiting of the hill where the Unocal refinery now stands. That would have allowed the ocean to flood into the natural depression where Harbor Lake is located., thereby creating a port town, literally a "Harbor City". The main street was Belleporte which means "beautiful port". The street was to have been all commercial and had a median park in it with a flagpole where the flag was raised each morning accompanied by a cannon.

The paved streets ran East to West except for Belleporte and the lots were 300 feet deep , double normal city lots, so the homeowners could raise food in the back such as corn, celery, chickens etc. Most homes were small wooden structures with two bedrooms, a small living room and dining room, with a comfortable porch across the front for sitting outside. The one exception was a very large two story mansion at the end of Belleporte where Harbor City Park is. The whole park and Bay Harbor Hospital area were used as a chinchilla farm.

The city was connected to the outside world by the big red streetcars that ran down Vermont from the harbor to Los Angeles.

The town was an immediate success and so many people moved here that a school was necessary, so in 1915 construction was begun on a building at 1508 West 254th Street At the present corner of President Avenue and 254th , a beautiful one story Italian Renaissance auditorium was constructed which also doubled as a town meeting hall. To the East, the school itself was built. It was a one story, Italian style structure with twin towers. Each tower held statues of pigs reading books. There was a grand courtyard with broad verandas off of each classroom. There were trees and a garden in the center. At the back of the garden stood a structure which housed the restrooms. This building still exists and is all that remains of the original school which was torn down in the 1970s in the name of "progress". The official opening of the school was on February 16th, 1916.

The remainder of the block was filled with homes, and a church stood where rooms 25 through 28 are now located. This church burned down on March 10th, 1940. The Reverend Mounts lived in a cottage where room 22 is located, and church was conducted there for a while.

After World War I, the money ran out for further development of the town of Harbor City and Los Angeles was trying to acquire all the area that it could to keep an open line to the port of San Pedro, so the town was annexed by L.A. and the great plans to bring the Harbor to Belleporte vanished. The town continued to grow however, and more and more children came to Harbor City School, so the school needed to grow too. The principal, Mrs. Creech, went door to door and convinced homeowners to sell their places to the school. Eventually all but two lots on the block were acquired. To accommodate students, bungalows were brought in, which explains why few of the buildings match. The old buildings were eventually closed and torn down and new ones constructed.

The first new building was the auditorium which contained the teacher's lunchroom. The cafeteria was a later addition. The old cafeteria was a two room wooden structure located where the parking lot is now. The present office was a classroom which was altered to serve new purposes. 

Through the years, Harbor City has served the community well, an on this occasion of it's 80th anniversary, we can look back fondly (and forward expectantly) to future generations of students. 



*The illustration below, drawn by Stan Poe, was the former auditorium on the corner of W. 254th St. and President Ave.


About the Author

This historical article was written in 1996 by Stan Poe, an alumni educator at Harbor City Elementary. Mr. Poe is a respected architectural historian who has written several books about the history of Naples, California and surrounding areas.

More about Mr. Poe and his many accomplishments:

Stanley Poe: Sound and Spaces Architecture Presenter by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra

Stan Poe: Preserving the City's Heritage One Building at a Time by the Long Beach Post