A San Pedro port-side fixture is making its way back, reopening in phases now that construction work on a town square has been completed by the Port of Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Maritime Museum — located in the picturesque 1940 ferry building at the foot of Sixth Street and Harbor Boulevard — has partially opened after being closed for 18 months. The museum, a San Pedro cornerstone since 1980, closed to the public in February 2020 for the construction of the area that will also connect to the future waterfront development. A month later, the coronavirus arrived and just about everything else joined them in shuttering their doors.
The museum reopened its doors to the public for the first time late last week. Ongoing hours will be from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.
For now, just the first floor and ramp display area (where an exhibit of the Harbor Area’s Japanese history will now be) are open while the top floor continues to undergo renovations.
A grand opening to unveil the redone top floor and a public celebration are expected sometime in the spring, said museum Director Marifrances Trivelli.
“We’re just excited to be open again,” Trivelli said.
Plans for that upper story include a mini art gallery featuring images of tall ships and a row of windows looking out on what was the town’s former ferry route to Terminal Island. The upper floor will showcase how the harbor has changed since the Vincent Thomas Bridge opened in the 1960s, replacing the ferry.
There also will be a refreshed lighthouse lens exhibit with historic footage of the Angels Gate Lighthouse.
New lighting, including dimmable features to highlight exhibits, has been added, and a children’s area and conference room also will return.
During the museum’s closure, the gift shop also was upgraded with electronic bar coding so payments are quicker and contactless.
A fire suppression system was added to the north side of the building and some of the structure’s sewer issues were fixed.
The staff remained working inside the building during most of the closure, Trivelli said, carrying out inventories and assessing artifacts. Two exhibits and some artifacts had to be packed up and moved to temporary storage.
Museum archivist Derek Spinel also spent the downtime working on the facility’s online photo collection. Before, patrons would have to come to facility to do research, but now photos of the town’s port, canneries, shipyards and local businesses are available online and free for personal use.
The tower clock on the outside of the building stopped in March 2020, about a week before government agencies declared a lockdown for the pandemic. While plans were made to repair the giant, 1942 clock — stalled at 10:17 — in May or June of 2020, construction for the town square in front of the building made the clock repair work impossible to do.
But the paperwork is complete and repairs will begin as soon as the vendor, Tick Tock Tony, can schedule it. The 12-foot clock features bronze hour markers and 6-foot-long wooden hands. Visible for blocks, it originally was installed as part of what was the Municipal Ferry Building.
Admission to the museum, 600 Sampson Way, is a recommended donation of $5 for those 18 year of age or older.
A new surface parking lot connected to the town square remains closed for now but nearby street parking is available and a trolley service is available on weekends.