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LONG BEACH BUILT TO LAST:THESE TWELVE INSTITUTIONS HAVE SHAPED OUR CITY’S CULTURE FOR 75+ YEARS

By Kathryn Wells

Photo Submitted by

The Historical Society of Long Beach



As a Long Beach resident for over 12 years, I’ve come to cherish the city’s rich history and vibrant culture. Writing this article has been an incredible opportunity to delve deeper into the fascinating stories behind some of our most enduring landmarks and has only strengthened my love for our amazing city. These places and organizations have not only stood the test of time but have also woven themselves into the fabric of the community, each with its own unique story to tell.


Join me on a journey through time as we uncover the hidden gems of Long Beach that have stood strong for over 75 years!


Art Theater

2025 E. Fourth St, 90814

Did you know the Art Theater on 4th Street has been a Long Beach staple since 1924? Originally built as a silent movie house, it has weathered earthquakes, economic downturns, and even the advent of television. Today, it boasts an eclectic mix of indie films and cult classics, preserving the charm of its vintage neon marquee and Art Deco interior. Catch a late-night showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and step back in time! This theater has been a go-to for my friends and me, offering a perfect mix of nostalgia and unique experiences.


Long Beach Airport

4100 Donald Douglas Dr, 90808

Opened in 1941, Long Beach Airport (LGB) has played a crucial role in Southern California's aviation history. During World War II, it served as a base for military operations. Today, it stands out with its streamlined modernist terminal and outdoor garden, offering travelers a unique blend of convenience and mid-century style. Recent upgrades have further enhanced LGB's appeal, including the addition of new concourses, improved passenger amenities, and eco-friendly initiatives. These changes have not gone unnoticed, as LGB has received numerous accolades, including being named one of the top ten airports in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler. Passing through LGB always feels special, a reminder of the seamless blend of history and progress that defines Long Beach.


Municipal Band

Since 1909, the Long Beach Municipal Band has been serenading residents with free concerts in the park. As the longest-running, municipally-supported band in the U.S., it has provided the soundtrack to countless summer evenings. Picture yourself lounging on the grass, ice cream in hand, as the band plays everything from patriotic anthems to contemporary hits. It’s a tradition that never gets old! These concerts have been a delightful way for my family and me to enjoy summer nights, creating lasting memories under the stars.


Bembridge House

953 Park Circle, 90813 

The Bembridge House, built in 1906, is a Victorian gem in the heart of Long Beach. This beautifully preserved Queen Anne-style home offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the early 20th century. Tours of the house reveal intricate woodwork, stained glass, and period furnishings. It’s a must-see for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. Exploring Bembridge House has always been a fascinating dive into the past, offering a tangible connection to the history that shaped our city.


Colorado Lagoon

5119 E. Colorado St, 90814

A natural gem in Long Beach, Colorado Lagoon has been a beloved recreation spot since the 1920s. Since moving to Belmont Heights from LA, it’s become my favorite spot in the city. I've built countless memories here with my child, from splashing in the water to exploring nature and enjoying peaceful walks with friends.


The lagoon is currently undergoing exciting restoration efforts to improve water quality and expand native habitats. New walking trails and enhanced picnic areas are being added, making each visit a new adventure. These upgrades ensure Colorado Lagoon remains a cherished escape for future generations, blending nature and community in the heart of Long Beach.


Villa Riviera

800 E. Ocean Blvd, 90802

The iconic Villa Riviera, built in 1929, is one of Long Beach’s most recognizable buildings. This Gothic Revival tower was once the tallest building in Southern California and served as a luxurious apartment hotel. Its green copper roof and ornate detailing make it a standout on the city’s skyline. Recently, I had the opportunity to work on a project with a resident there, giving me a glimpse into the building's stunning interior. It’s just as impressive inside as it is on the outside, with its beautifully preserved architectural details and a palpable sense of history. Villa Riviera continues to be a cherished landmark, embodying the elegance and resilience of Long Beach.


Joe Jost's

2803 E. Anaheim St, 90804

Joe Jost's has been a Long Beach institution since it was founded in 1924. Known as one of the oldest continuously operated taverns west of the Mississippi River, Joe Jost's is famous for its ice-cold beer, pickled eggs, and classic pub atmosphere. Stepping into Joe Jost's is like taking a step back in time, where you can enjoy a game of pool and feel the history of countless stories and friendships made over the decades. It's a beloved local hangout that embodies the spirit of Long Beach, offering a taste of the city's past in every visit.


Farmers & Merchants Bank

302 Pine Ave, 90802 

Founded in 1907, Farmers & Merchants Bank has been a financial cornerstone for over a century. Its iconic building on Pine Avenue, with its grand columns and intricate architectural details, reflects a bygone era. The bank's commitment to customer service and community support has ensured its lasting presence in the city. Step inside and you’ll feel like you’re entering a time capsule, complete with original teller windows and vault doors.


Naples 

Inspired by its Italian namesake, the picturesque neighborhood of Naples was established in 1903. With its charming canals and gondola rides, it offers a unique slice of Europe right here in Long Beach. The annual Naples Island Holiday Boat Parade, which started in 1946, is a festive tradition that lights up the waterways each December. Stroll along the canals and you might feel like you’ve been transported to Venice.


First Congregational Church

241 Cedar Ave, 90802 

Established in 1888, the First Congregational Church is Long Beach's oldest church. Its stunning Gothic Revival architecture and vibrant stained glass windows are a testament to the city's rich spiritual heritage. The church has been a pillar of the community, offering solace and support through times of change and growth. Attend a service or community event and soak in the serene beauty of this historic sanctuary.


Bixby Park

130 Cherry Ave, 90802 

One of the city's oldest parks, Bixby Park, was created in 1903 and named after one of Long Beach's founding families. It has evolved from a quiet green space to a bustling community hub, hosting events, farmers markets, and recreational activities. The historic bandshell is a nostalgic reminder of its early days as a center for public gatherings. Pack a picnic and enjoy the park’s timeless charm.


Ranchos Los Cerritos

4600 Virginia Rd, 90807

Ranchos Los Cerritos, dating back to 1844, is a historic adobe home and gardens that showcase California’s ranching history. The sprawling estate offers tours, educational programs, and events that transport visitors to the days of Spanish land grants and cattle ranches. Stroll through the lush gardens and imagine the lives of the families who called this place home.

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