A dispatch from the Marina del Rey Historical Society

By Howard Wenger

An aerial view of Marina del Rey in 1964 shows the Sheraton hotel (center), construction of Fisherman’s Village (upper left), the future site of the California Yacht club (lower right) and temporary seawalls in place during construction of the breakwater (upper right)

An aerial view of Marina del Rey in 1964 shows the Sheraton hotel (center), construction of Fisherman’s Village (upper left), the future site of the California Yacht club (lower right) and temporary seawalls in place during construction of the breakwater (upper right)

The initial vision of a man named Moye L. Wicks was to build a large shipping harbor in the wetlands of West Los Angeles. Lack of funds, bad weather and no breakwater kept his dream from becoming a reality and, although part of his vision ended up south in Long Beach, the idea of a marina for L.A. remained just that — an idea.

After 75 years and various starts and stops, the dredging of Marina del Rey — at that time the largest man-made small craft harbor in the country — was completed in May 1962. Winter, however, would bring yet more challenges. Violent storms on Feb. 9 and 10, 1963, sent nine-foot swells into the channel, destroying boats and docks.

The Army Corps of Engineers later installed seawalls across the channel near Fisherman’s Village to prevent any further damage, but this would be just a temporary fix. At and Army Corps facility in Vicksburg, Miss., a large-scale model of the marina was constructed in order to simulate wave action so that a barrier could be designed and developed for the marina. Eight months after what became known as “the surge” nearly destroyed the marina, funding was acquired to fix the problem. In October 1963, construction began on the breakwater, with rocks from a quarry on Catalina Island shipped to the marina’s entrance.

The marina breakwater was completed January of 1965, with a formal dedication to follow on April 10. That means Marina del Rey will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015. A committee has already begun meeting monthly to discuss celebrations next April 10 and other special events throughout the year.

To see photos of the dredging and “the surge,” visit the Marina del Rey Historical Society, now located in Fisherman’s Village at 13737 Fiji Way, Ste. C3. Open noon to 4 p.m. daily, with validation for two hours free parking. Call (310) 701-1073.

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