Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ocean Center Building


        A new 14-story, 197-foot-tall downtown high-rise, the Ocean Center Building, opened in the closing days of 1929, built on the site of the old Pacific Electric depot station.  Designed by Raymond M. Kennedy who worked for  architects Meyer and Holler, the unusually shaped Spanish Renaissance style building was formed by an octagonal tower, surmounted by a pyramidal roofed penthouse which contained the elevator and ventilation equipment.  Originally there were 190 offices in the structure and garage space for 160 cars.  Located at the northwest corner of Ocean and Pine (110 West Ocean Boulevard), two sides of the building fronted on major streets, the third overlooked the ocean, and the fourth was bounded by the fifteen-foot-wide Ocean Way, leading to the Pike amusement zone.
        For fifteen years Walter Lowrie Porterfield (known as W. L.) had been battling to get his high-rise built.  He had crossed swords many of the powered elite in the city.  A moneyed man himself, Porterfield sold his interests in the Home Telephone Company in 1906 for a reported million dollars, which he vowed to spend  to develop Long Beach.  He was involved in the building of the Hotel Virginia, bid against Henry Huntington and the Pacific Electric for the electric rail line franchise for Long Beach,  he was a partner in the First National Bank, and as a member of  the school board was involved in a scandal related to a contract for school desks.  In 1910 he began to push for a new horseshoe shaped pier in Long Beach, on property he owned.  He also owned extremely desirable property adjacent to the Pine Avenue Pier and the Pike.  It was here he wanted to build his Porterfield (later called Ocean Center) building.  Finally, in 1928, everything seemed to be in place.
Built on the site of the Pacific Electric Depot
Groundbreaking of the $1,100,000 structure, took place on January 25, 1929.  Part of the city’s historic Pine Avenue Pier had to be demolished to make way for the new skyscraper. W.L. Porterfield, told the Sun newspaper (January 26, 1929) that the pier had to be removed because the abutments and part of the railings extended more than a foot over the city property line onto Porterfield’s property. Porterfield’s plans placed the building exactly to the property line so that “every inch of the valuable ground will be used.” The forepart of the pier also had to be torn down to move in building equipment. Porterfield added that the pier was already scheduled for removal to make room for a new breakwater and new Rainbow Pier, a pier Porterfield had been pushing since 1910.
In June 1930, the Ocean View miniature golf course opened in the Ocean Center Building. Occupying approximately 12,000 square feet, the course was ingeniously laid out to accommodate eighteen holes. There were real sand hazards, water holes and unusual curves and angles.  Fairways were covered with a type of woolen felt fabric, a precursor to today’s astro turf. Located on the Pine Avenue side of the building, the course had windows extending from floor to ceiling offering a three-sided view of the Pacific.
      Today the Ocean Center Building arcade on the lower level is the only original structure left of the Pike Amusement Zone which flourished on the beach in Long Beach  from 1902-1979.

     Porterfield, who died in 1948 at the age of 83, is buried at the Forest Lawn/Sunnyside Mausoleum.