New temporary interactive installation brings history to North Long Beach one step at a time

Walk along Atlantic Avenue near Jordan High School and you’ll find out more about the first inhabitants of this region. Continue toward Houghton Park and you may discover its namesake’s connection to the infamous Donner Party.

Don’t forget to look down and bring up your phone’s camera app to get the full experience of the newly installed For the Record project.

The brainchild of We Are The Next founder Katie Keaotamai, For the Record is an interactive timeline of North Long Beach’s history.

The idea was to create a space where locals could learn the real history about their neighborhood, Keaotamai told community members during a kickoff event Monday afternoon.

It includes 30 decals about 40 to 60 feet apart from each other. It begins in front of the high school with the year 1200 when the Tongva tribe lived in the land and ends in front of the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library with the year 2016, when the library opened.

We Are The Next founder Katie Keaotamai leads a walk that features 30 decals along Atlantic Avenue that showcase North Long Beach’s history. The decals are part of the For The Record interactive installation project that kicked off Monday, November 18, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

“Our main goal is to engage the student population here,” said Sarah Locke, executive director of Long Beach Heritage.

Long Beach Heritage will help maintain the physical timeline for the next couple of months. It will still be available permanently online at lbtimeline.com.

The project took two years to complete with the financial help of City Fabrick and 9th District Councilmember Rex Richardson, who represents the area. Each decal cost $45 to make.

“We are really excited about the point in time we are in Long Beach,” Richardson said.

Richardson said the timeline not only reveals narratives oftentimes left untold by history’s winners but it showcases the unique stories Long Beach has, including the current “Uptown Renaissance” of North Long Beach.

A community member uses her Android phone’s photo app to bring up more information from one of 30 decals along Atlantic Avenue that showcase North Long Beach’s history. The decals are part of the For The Record interactive installation project that kicked off Monday, November 18, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Keaotamai said when a community’s history is unknown, or doesn’t have a famed architect attached to it, landmarks can be overlooked and bulldozed.

Buildings are typically designated historic if a famous person lived there, if it has a certain design, aesthetic appearance and if it has archaeological significance. Projects like For the Record can be another way to designate a landmark, Keaotamai said.

Currently, less than 5% of the city’s landmarks are associated with anyone who is not a white man, Keaotamai said. The city has 17 historic districts with over half of them existing in the southernmost portions of the city.

For the first time ever, North Long Beach received a historic designation earlier this year when the Grant neighborhood received its historic district status.

Community members look at one of 30 decals along Atlantic Avenue that showcase North Long Beach’s history. The decals are part of the For The Record interactive installation project that kicked off Monday, November 18, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

Longtime Coolidge Triangle resident Kitty Guzman called the timeline fascinating.

“I’ve always wondered about those names,” Guzman said. “How did they begin?”

The most interesting decal for her? How Long Beach got its name.

Long Beach Heritage will hold another For the Record walk on Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. in front of Jordan High School, at 6500 Atlantic Ave. To see the timeline online click here.

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Stephanie Rivera is the immigration and diversity reporter for the Long Beach Post. Growing up as one of six kids in the working-class immigrant suburb of South Gate, she was taught the importance of civic engagement and to show compassion for others. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015. An avid Harry Potter fan, Stephanie now lives in Bixby Knolls with her boyfriend and their bearded dragon, Austin.
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