The Free Harbor Contest was a political battle waged for a decade (1890-1899) between the City of Los Angeles and Collins P. Huntington of the Southern Pacific to determine the location and control of a much needed harbor.

The battle started in 1890 because Los Angeles wanted to develop a harbor at San Pedro. This turned into a huge mess because Huntington wanted to monopolize the transportation industry in the area. Huntington was so determined to have the city's harbor under his control, going as far as to create a 1 mile long jetty into Santa Monica Bay where his Southern Pacific owned much of the land known as Port Los Angeles. However, Huntington had little local support of his views. Allied against him were the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Times, downtown landowners and then United States senator Stephen White. The group managed to arrange a report by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine if San Pedro or Santa Monica Bay would be more sutable for a deep-sea harbor.

The Army Corps report was sent to Congress where a investigation board was already created and chose San Pedro. Even with his many political connections, and friends in the Senate, Huntington could not stop the vote for federal money to build the needed breakwater from passing. When it did in 1899 there was quite a celebration and shortly thereafter, construction began and Port Los Angeles was gone.


Pitt, Dale/Leonard. Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City & County

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