The readers’ guide to the Seven Wonders of Long Beach

Compilations of Seven Wonders is the oldest topic of what we now unfortunately call listicles, going back to antiquity when wonders were indeed wondrous and were reflective of truly magnificent accomplishments of mankind: the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the classic Seven Wonders (it was built between 2580–2560 B.C.) and the only one still extant.

There are lists of New Seven Wonders, Wonders of the Underwater World, Wonders of the Industrial World, Wonders of the Solar System. All are filled with spectacular items: The Great Barrier Reef, the Rings of Saturn, the Panama Canal, the Great Wall of China, the Hoover Dam.

What does Long Beach have to offer to add to these lists of natural and manmade superlatives?

Here, have a pickled egg.

But more about that in a bit.

We asked readers of the Long Beach Post as well as social media users on Facebook and Instagram, to submit their lists of the Seven Wonders of Long Beach and we received nearly 300 separate lists that included several hundred  different features of our town, including the Skinny House, Midget Town, a dozen different city parks, a couple of colleges, a smattering of murals, three tunnels (the closed ones at Cherry Avenue and the old Jergins Trust and the current one on Lakewood beneath the airport), two ranchos, three hospitals, the THUMS oil islands, the 7/Eleven on Pine Avenue, the Traffic Circle, the twisty tree at Whaley Park, the Gaytonia apartments, First Congregational and St. Anthony churches, Blair Field and Veterans Stadium and many, many more.

We round-filed wise-guy submissions like “I wonder how anyone can afford rent” and “I wonder where my tax dollars are going.” But thanks for those, anyway.

OK, we’ve wasted enough of your time, let’s get to the list of the Seven Wonders of Long Beach, in reverse order. The suspense builds.

The new Pacific Visions wing at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Photos courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific / Pacific Visions / EHDD / Clark Construction / Photography by Tom Bonne.

7. The Aquarium of the Pacific: Really? This is No. 7? What more does its president Jerry Schubel have to do? The Aquarium, which opened in 1998, has more than 11,000 animals representing more than 500 species from the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It’s got penguins, otters, sharks, lorikeets, sea dragons. And it just opened a fabulously cetaceous structure called Pacific Visions devoted to a large degree to mankind’s treatment of our planet and its seas.

Squirrel! On the hiking trail at El Dorado Nature Center. Courtesy photo.

6. El Dorado Nature Center: You’ll find some solace and quiet away from the troubles of the city in this 105-acre oasis on the city’s east side. The 50-year-old Nature Center features two miles of dirt trails and a quarter-mile paved trail around a pair of lakes and a stream. You’ll see turtles and foxes, raccoons and owls. In these days when undeveloped land is greedily gobbled up by high-rises, the Nature Center is a true wonder. Still, what a great spot for a stadium!

The bar at the legendary Joe Jost’s. Photo by John Robinson.

5. Joe Jost’s: This 95-year-old establishment is the only Long Beach Wonder that serves frosty schooners of beer and pickled eggs, and it’s the most venerable of the city’s institutions. You can travel anywhere in the world and find someone wearing a Joe Jost’s T-shirt, and its Joe’s Special sandwich is, curiously, the best thing you’ll ever have. Besides the pickled egg, the recipe for which everyone claims to know, though they don’t. The place hasn’t changed much over the decades, and it’s had a role in such films as “True Confessions” and “The Bodyguard.”

A staple of wonders lists, the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. Courtesy photo.

4. The Walter Pyramid: What’s a Seven Wonders list without a pyramid? The 18-story-high, 4,000-seat Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach is home to the school’s world-champion men’s volleyball team and other athletic teams. It’s one of only three pyramid structures in the U.S., with the other ones in Memphis and Las Vegas. The Long Beach version is the only one that isn’t a gaudy casino or a Bass Pro Shops megastore.

Naples Canal in Long Beach. Courtesy photo.

3. The Naples canals: Certainly one of the city’s most prestigious and expensive neighborhoods, with median listing prices over $1.5 million. It achieves “wonder” status by the fact that it was carved out of the marshlands of the Bixby Slough in the 1920s by developer Arthur Person. The canals wind around Naples’ three islands and are the site of the neighborhood’s annual Christmas Boat Parade. If things keep going the way they are with climate change, this wonder is the odds-on favorite to become a former wonder of Long Beach. From sloughs you come and to sloughs you shall return.

The historic Villa Riviera in Downtown Long Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.

2. The Villa Riviera: This civic icon out-icons the iconic Queen Mary. Built in 1929 at the corner of Alamitos avenue and Ocean Boulevard, the mishmash of styles (you can call it Chateauesque, Gothic-Renaissance, or, as its architect Richard King termed it, Tudor-Gothic) gives the 16-story building a unique and almost unanimously admired look. The 30 or so gargoyles perched along its upper floors succeeded in protecting the building from the ravages of the 1933 earthquake. It was home to a lot of significant people, including Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge (who owned the building for a few minutes), and the Navy’s top brass during World War II.

The Queen Mary as seen from above Downtown. Photo by Brian Addison.

1. The Queen Mary: Well, what are you gonna do? Of course the elegant ocean liner that’s only sailed to Long Beach once, in 1967, and where it’s been ever since, was bound to be our readers’ favorite wonder of Long Beach. Drawbacks? Sure, there’ve been a few. For one, it’s horrifyingly haunted. And, like any floating vessel, from an inflatable Zodiac to mighty aircraft carriers, it’s been a money pit, but a beautiful one and it’s still a glorious reminder of the elegant trans-Atlantic cruises of a long bygone era, and it’s stuffed with beautiful and nicely preserved Art Deco trappings.

 

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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