Maureen Megowan's Blog


Hermosa Beach Aquarium History

In the late 1940's and the 1950's, Hermosa Beach had, what at that time, was considered a state of the art Marine Aquarium - as reported in an article in the Daily Breeze in August 2006 by Andrea Sudano, the aquarium consisted of "giant glass-fronted tanks of the Ocean Aquarium just south of the pier and west of The Strand. Hermosa Beach's own mini Sea World stood just south of the pier where Shumacher Plaza now is -- or as the Daily Breeze put it in 1956: "Just walk to the foot of Pier Avenue and turn your feet to the right before they get wet. In front of you is a large gray building housing numerous specimen from the sea next door. It's the Ocean Aquarium." The original operator and owner A.D McBride opened the aquarium in 1947.

The large blue building was round, so visitors could walk in a circle along the building's edges. The underwater zoo drew about 1.8 million visitors, including more than 25,000 group tours from the Boy Scouts and other youth and school organizations. At the time of its opening, it was considered one of the largest and most modern aquariums in the country.

Being next to the ocean, fresh sea water for the tanks was easily available. The warm local waters were too warm for many of the fish, however, so refrigeration equipment was needed to cool the water. 

One particular stunt gained a huge amount of publicity when Redondo Beach resident Deo Fisher broke the world’s record for most time spent underwater when she stayed under for 55 hours and 39 minutes in a porpoise tank as a publicity stunt. Many television programs at the time showed some of the sea creatures that made their home there. The aquarium also had daily shows of trained seals and the daily feeding of the animals drew large crowds. Long-time Hermosa Beach residents reminisce about buying three sardines for a nickel and feeding what was billed as the “fattest seal in the world”.  Winnie the Whale--very much deceased--was also on display but smelled of formaldehyde.

Picture of Hermosa Beach Aquarium from the 1950's - photo by Ron Felsing

"While Marineland of the Pacific entertained tourists on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for more than 30 years, the Ocean Aquarium wasn't nearly as lucky. By all accounts, the facility enjoyed barely a 10-year run. An apparent squabble between McBride and the city over a 40-year lease calling for the development of a new pier caused both parties to hire lawyers in January 1956."  In 1957, the Aquarium was sold to Fred Thomas Salatino and a partner. 

"According to a Breeze article, the city was offered the aquarium's land and several nearby parcels for $85,000 in June 1958, and bought the land several years later.  After the fish were shipped out, the underwater zoo apparently sat vacant for some time. Demolition on the structure began March 19, 1962, to make way for a parking lot."

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Comment balloon 0 commentsMaureen Megowan • July 24 2016 12:05PM


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