Oceanside Pier — Through the Years

Oceanside Pier — 2008

Oceanside was founded in 1883. Just five years later, in 1888, the construction of Oceanside’s first wharf began at the foot of Couts Street (now Wisconsin Street). It was largely paid for by subscription, by pledges, by people hoping to make a buck. Promoters of the wharf felt Oceanside could rival San Francisco or Los Angeles—if the city had a wharf. Work started but slowed almost immediately. There were lawsuits, unpaid subscriptions, delays and damage from storms. In December of 1888 a huge storm tore away several planks from the pier and washed lumber down the coast. Records are not clear, but the all-wooden pier, the southernmost oceanfront wharf in the state, continued to be built. By August of 1889 Oceanside asked citizens to raise a final $4,000 and promised completion of the wharf in 40 days. No one seems to know if the pier actually met its goal of extending out more than 1,200 feet into the blue Pacific. It is known that winter storms first reduced the wharf to a length of 940 feet before a storm in January of 1891 destroyed all but 300 feet of the pier.

Oceanside’s Wharf Wrecked by Heavy Seas —A New Iron Pier Will Replace the Old  StructureBy Telegraph to the Times

Oceanside (Cal.,) Jan. 1—[By the Associated Press] The heavy west wind which prevailed on Tuesday night swept the wharf ashore, with the exception of about 300 feet. Work was commenced on it May 12, 1888, and suspended August 13, 1888. The wharf was out 940 feet. A new company is to be formed and an iron pier to be built. —Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1891

Melchior Pieper, owner of the South Pacific Hotel, gathered and saved much of the loose lumber that was left from the storms. He had it piled up behind his hotel and soon began to campaign for a new pier be built near Third Street, the site of his hotel. In 1894 that second pier was built. It was partly constructed from the lumber of the original pier but it was given iron pilings and extended out only 400 feet. It soon acquired the affectionate name “Little Iron Wharf.” The pier was lengthened in 1896 and a proposal was made for lengthening it in 1900 but a new storm damaged much of the pier in 1902.

Pier number three emerged in 1903. This pier was nearly 1,300 feet long and supported by steel railway rails purchased from the Southern California Railway Company. In 1908, lights came to the pier when the Oceanside Electric Company offered to light the pier free for one year.  Eventually that pier would also succumb to winter storms.

Oceanside Pier —1920

A $100,000 bond issue in 1926 paid for the fourth pier. It was made of wood and concrete and extended out 1,900 feet. It was dedicated on July 4, 1927, amid a three-day celebration that attracted over 20,000 people to Oceanside. The pier and its productive fishing waters quickly became a favorite haunt for anglers.

Angler Fails To Land Fish —Oceanside Business Man Pulled from Pier

Large Catch Wins in Fight For Freedom — Rescuers Save Fisherman from Drowning

Oceanside, July 17—When a big fish, hooked off the end of the Oceanside pier about 6:30 o’clock last evening, decided he did not like fishermen and did not want to leave his happy home in the waters of the Pacific, he came very near making one less fisherman instead of one less fish.

C.A.Peddicord, Oceanside business man, intent upon catching a large fish, bought brand-new fishing tackle, baited the hook with a pound and a half mackerel, and proceeded to wait. He caught it all right, but the fish objected to being taken from the water and proceeded to throw Peddicord over the railing of the pier, break his leg, land him in the deep water, and leave him to flounder desperately to keep afloat until he was saved by Cal Young coming to his rescue in a skiff and getting him aboard. Just before the skiff arrived to avert a drowning tragedy, Jim Donnell, popular high school graduate of this year, made a quick dash for a life preserver near by and threw it to the struggling man. He could not reach it, however, but the appearance of a man below the pier encouraged the drowning man just enough that he continued to fight to keep above water until he was rescued. Peddicord had fished more or less for years, but had never caught a big fish. He got the heavy tackle with the intention of getting the thrill of the big-fish catch. As he waited for the fish to bite, he received instructions about how to set his drag, not too heavy, he was told, and learned how to hold the rod. He waited and waited but the fish seemed unconcerned so he tightened up his drag a few turns and thought it would be easier to slip the pole under his leg and be ready for business if any surprise came.

The surprise arrived and he proceeded to reel in his fish and had it fairly up to the pier when it made a dart underneath. He leaned over to see what was happening down there when the fish gave a big lurch and Peddicord made a flip over the rail, the pole acting as a lever, the fish on the long end, he on the short. As he went over he grabbed for support, struck his leg on the cross beam of the pier, breaking his leg halfway between the ankle and the knee.

Just what kind of a fish it was that he caught is unknown. He had a regular jewfish outfit, but it is believed not to have been a jewfish that put on this surprise exhibition of fish ingenuity and activity. —Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1930

Oceanside Pier — 1935

 By the ’30s, barge fishing was also available from the pier. Anglers who craved a little more action than that found on the pier could take the water taxi out to the Oceanside by 1934, and the Glenn Mayne by 1938. In 1942 a terrible storm destroyed 385 feet of the pier; use of the pier was curtailed but World War II was now the main topic of concern and repairs to the pier would have to wait.

Four Missing in L.A. Storms —

While the Bay Area was recovering from the heavy storm, high seas were reported to have sheared off a 150-foot portion of the $100,000 Oceanside Pier north of San Diego. — Oakland Tribune, January 24, 1943

The war ended in 1945 and in 1946 voters once more went to the voting booth. They approved a bond issue for $175,000 and construction of Oceanside’s fifth pier began. The new pier was 1,943 feet long and at the time of construction it claimed to be the longest pier on the West Coast. City fathers also hoped it would last a little longer than most of the previous piers. Ceremonies included placement of a silver dollar on the last piling as symbol of a hoped-for 100-year life. It wouldn’t happen but the pier did last longer than any of its predecessors.

During the late ’40s and ’50s, before the harbor area was developed, saw the barge fishing that was headquartered on the pier resume in the forms of the Lazy Daze and the Morfun. The pier also served as home base for a number of Sportfishing boats including the Calypso. A 1953 report on Oceanside by the Fish and Game Department said that “No commercial fishing power boats operate here but 6 to 10 men fish from skiffs and deliver to a market at the Oceanside Pier… In 1952 three party boats and four charter boats operated here with two barges anchored off the town.”

Fire Destroys Cafe on Oceanside Pier

Oceanside (AP) — Fire hit the Oceanside Pier early today, destroying a landmark cafe which stood at the west end of the structure for more than 30 years. The flames and smoke were seen for a mile or more. The cause of the fire, confined to the Pier Cafe, was under investigation. — Long Beach Press-Courier, December 21, 1976

Oceanside Pier ruined by storm

Oceanside (AP) — Heaving seas caused $100,000 damage to the Municipal Pier, making it necessary to build another one, says the city projects engineer. The storm last Thursday destroyed 19 pilings at the end of the 1,900-foot pier, breaking off one section 30 feet by 40 feet in size. —Long Beach Press Telegram, April 22, 1976

New storms would come and new storms would do their dirty deeds. A 600-foot section of the pier’s end was destroyed by large waves in 1978 followed by an additional loss of 90 feet in 1982. Finally, after a fire on the pier, the pier sat in ill-repair for several years. The end was missing, there were few facilities, and many people began to question if it would ever regain its former size or glory, to sound dramatic.

Oceanside Pier — 1987

In 1985 the Coastal Conservancy became involved, helped organize local plans for a rebuilt pier, and gained a commitment for $1.0 million dollars from the WCB and the city. That money was followed by $4.5 million in additional funding in 1987 and a basically new pier opened in 1988. Today the pier is almost as good as new (although $200,000 was used for resurfacing and to repair loose bolts in 1997).

People who supported the pier

One of the most impressive sights of any pier I have visited on the coast are the thousands of wooden 2×4′s that line the sides of this pier from the beach to the seaward end; carved in each is the name of a person who contributed time or money to rebuild the pier. Too bad that more towns do not have similar maecenas to lend a helping hand.

           Oceanside Pier — 2010

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3 Responses to Oceanside Pier — Through the Years

  1. jack says:

    City counsel needs to approve funding to have the thousands of names reroutered on new boards.

  2. Dr.P says:

    Many people now assume the names carved into the wooden railing on the pier were sold to help build the pier. However, the money raised by each name carved went to help fund Oceanside’s Centennial Celebration in 1988.

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