In the early 1900s, the Peninsula in Long Beach was little more than a windswept stretch of grass, salt and sand, with a few scattered homes built in the first few years of the century for use as summer or weekend cottages for moneyed families in Los Angeles and Pasadena.
Nearby Belmont Shore was beginning to sprout, with developers trolling for Inland Empire residents by naming a series of avenues after IE and Orange County cities: Corona, Covina, LaVerne, Glendora, Santa Ana and Claremont.
Springing up in the middle of the peninsula, at the foot of what’s now 62nd Place, was the magnificent (for the time) Alamitos Bay Pavilion, which would stand for a couple of decades as the jewel of the Peninsula and Belmont Shore.
The pavilion was erected by the Alamitos Bay Land Co. in 1903, about the time the first houses were springing up in the waterfront area. It was first an open-air structure and later enclosed and built up as a two-story building on wooden pilings, and it included a 700-foot private pier.
The area hadn’t yet been annexed by the growing city of Long Beach—that wouldn’t happen until 1926—but residents of Long Beach regularly visited the pavilion for dancing, dining and partying, as well as enjoying the occasional highball, which was forbidden in Long Beach even in those pre-Prohibition days. An ad for the Alamitos Bay Pavilion Cafe in 1911 poetically urged people to “Drink today and drown all sorrow/you can’t tell where you’ll be tomorrow./Tell all your friends with thanks from me/we have commercial lunch from noon to three.”
The building served as a pleasure palace for sunbathers and swimmers who could rent umbrellas and swimsuits and relax in one of the pavilion’s bathhouses, while in the evenings, it became a dance hall and restaurant. The Long Beach Sun, in 1930, looked back at the pavilion as a place where “a person could obtain a marvelous fish dinner while listening to dreamy dance music and the sedate shuffle of feet on the polished floor mingled with the crashing of the breakers against the piers below.”
In 1924, the pavilion was on its last legs. It added a skating rink, with a 10-cent admission and 40-cent skate rentals as somewhat of a last chance to make money at the venue. And, while that same year, Long Beach considered purchasing the pavilion for $50,000 as a de facto convention center, the deal fell through when the city couldn’t come up with the funds, even though the Chamber of Commerce had high hopes for acquiring the property. “The fact that the pavilion has bathhouses underneath it is an argument that will land many a convention,” said one chamber official. “Delegates can come out of their meetings and go right into the ocean without inconvenience.”
But both time and tide had taken their toll on the Alamitos Bay Pavilion. Its pier had been washed away in 1920 and the venue fell from favor rather rapidly in 1925. Still, it stood for another five years, more of an eyesore than a pleasure palace.
On the Fourth of July, 1930, the pavilion caught fire and was destroyed in the blaze. Whatever sadness attended the building’s destruction was merely nostalgic. More common was the glee of local homeowners along the burgeoning Peninsula.
The press reported that “residents of comfily and luxuriously furnished beachfront cottages along Seaside Walk in the Bay district east of 50th Place emitted loud ‘Hoorays’ at the broken-windowed eyesore getting out of their ocean-view’s life.”