“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Pier Into The Past

History of the Cal Poly Research Pier

Pier Into The Past Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, October 5, 2013
1. Pier Into The Past Marker
Unocal Vice President Mark Smith
(right) presents Cal Poly President Baker
(left) with a check representing the estimated value of the new Cal Poly pier.
(upper right);
(lower row of photos, left to right) Late 1870s Harford Pier; 1914 Pacific Coast Railway Pier constructions; A thankful telegraph to Union Oil 1942; Collapsing Union Oil Pier during 1883 storm; 1984 Reconstruction of Unocal Pier; Grateful acceptance of new facility in 2001; Rainbow show during dedication ceremony.
Inscription. Cal Poly’s Pier has undergone change throughout its history, shifting purpose from industrial use to a center for marine research & education.
For thousands of years the Chumash Native Americans made their home on the Central Coast, including the Avila Beach area.

1867 The town of Avila is established when the Miguel Avila family subdivides Rancho San Miguelito.

1873 John Harford erects the Harford Pier, to facilitate shipping and trading on the Central Coast.

1908 Present day Avila Pier is constructed.

1908 Union Oil and other companies begin building the largest oil pipeline to date. Over 200 miles of oil pipeline is laid from the San Joaquin Valley to Avila. The first oil arrives at Port San Luis in March 1910.

1914 - 1922 The Pacific Coast Railway Co. builds a third pier in San Luis Obispo Bay for commercial shipping. Union Oil Co. of CA (later Unocal) leased the new pier and expands is operations. At this time, Avila becomes one of the largest crude oil shipping ports in the world.

1923 Harford Pier closes to oil shipping. All oil now ships via the Pacific Coast Railway Pier.

1929 The oil facility is abandoned during the Great Depression. 1400 feet of the Harford Pier is demolished to aid navigation in the
Pier Into The Past Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, October 5, 2013
2. Pier Into The Past Marker
1941 Union Oil acquires the Pacific Coast Railway pier and changes its name to the Union Oil Pier. The U.S. Naval fleet fuels the pier during the war years. Union Oil tanker Montebello is sunk by a torpedo near San Simeon, only hours after fueling at the port. Miraculously, no lives are lost.

1942 Lt. General Dwight D. Eisenhower sends Union Oil a telegraph thanking the employees for their efforts during WWII.

1954 The Port San Luis Harbor District is created to revitalize the Harford Pier and surrounding area.

1972 Sustainable goals for Port San Luis are set by the newly founded California Coastal Commission.

1983 A fierce March storm destroys the Union Oil Pier. Three employees are rescued from the collapsing pier by crew of the Paul Revere.

1984 -mid 1990s A modern steel and concrete pier is constructed in the old pier’s original footprints. The new pier extends over 3000 feet into San Luis Obispo Bay. The pier transports an average of 8 to 19 million barrels of oil products per year until Unocal concludes its oil operation at the pier.

2001 On a rainy November day, Unocal donates the pier to Cal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences. A beautiful rainbow breaks through the heavy clouds and descends on Avila Beach, an auspicious beginning to
A group of paddleboarders enjoying a day on the bay image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, October 5, 2013
3. A group of paddleboarders enjoying a day on the bay
Cal Ploy’s new research center.

Cal Poly

Center for Coastal Marine Sciences

Erected by Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences.
Location. 35° 10.681′ N, 120° 44.441′ W. Marker is in Avila Beach, California, in San Luis Obispo County. Marker is on Avila Beach Drive west of Ana Bay Road, on the left when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3254 Avila Beach Drive, Avila Beach CA 93424, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Point San Luis Light Station (approx. 1.7 miles away); Pacific Coast Railway (approx. 7.9 miles away); Carnegie City Library (approx. 8.3 miles away); De Anza Expedition 1775 - 1776 (approx. 8.3 miles away); Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (approx. 8.3 miles away); Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (approx. 8.3 miles away); Southern Pacific Water Tower (approx. 8.3 miles away); Chong's Candy Store (approx. 8.4 miles away).
Categories. Science & MedicineWaterways & Vessels
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 329 times since then and 20 times this year. Last updated on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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