Summer Special #5: Fort MacArthur and Korea

My last summer adventure (even though school had already started) was a mini hiking trip to Angels Gate Park in San Pedro.  The two most interesting things there are the Korean Friendship Bell and Battery Osgood-Farley, part of Fort MacArthur.  Plus there’s a spectacular view of the ocean.  Culture, history and an ocean view.  Yep, it has everything.

So why are these two seemingly very different attractions located in the same spot?  To answer that, we have to go back.  Way back, to the late 1800s.

Fort MacArthur

According to the Fort MacArthur Museum‘s website, the land the fort was built on started out as Spanish public landing and became “Government Land” in 1848.  It then became property of the U.S. War Department because of an Executive Order in 1888.  More land was added in 1897 and 1910 and the reservation was divided into three parts, Lower, Middle and Upper.  In 1914 the land was named Fort MacArthur after Lt. General Arthur MacArthur, who served in both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War and was the father of General Douglas MacArthur, who is most famous for his actions during and after WWII.

Fort MacArthur remained in use until 1977 when it was deemed to be surplus property.  The Middle section remains as the L.A. Air Force Base, according to the city of San Pedro‘s website.  The Upper and Lower sections were given to the City of Los Angeles, which turned the Lower into Cabrillo Marina and the Upper into Angels Gate Park, which is now home to both the Fort MacArthur Museum and Battery Osgood-Farley.

Battery Osgood-Farley.  Image from Fort MacArthur Museum's website.

Battery Osgood-Farley. Image from Fort MacArthur Museum’s website.

Battery Osgood-Farley was built from 1916-1919 as a single two-gun emplacement but treated as separate, thus the two names.  The Battery had 14 inch disappearing guns that were able to fire 1,560 pound projectiles 14 miles out.  Firing practice was rare though because of the damage it caused to nearby residences.  The Osgood gun was fired 116 times while the Farley gun was fired 121 times.  These guns were named surplus in 1944 and disposed of in 1946.  The Battery’s rooms were still used until 1974 and in 1976 it was placed on the Register of National Historical Places.

What makes this Battery special today is the fact that much of the buildings remain intact with doors, gates, electrical and plumbing services.  The museum’s website says that this Battery, “may be the best preserved example [of] modern age coastal defense gun emplacement in the United States today.”

Korean Friendship Bell

This bell, according to the city of San Pedro‘s website, was given to Los Angeles by the Republic of Korea to celebrate America’s bicentennial, honor Korean War veterans and to strengthen the friendship between America and Korea.  This is a bronze bell modeled after a bell built it 771 AD in South Korea named for King Songdok (or Seongdeok – I found different spellings on different sites) and can still be seen today.

The bell was made in Korea, costing $500,000, it weighs 17 tons, is 12 feet high and has a diameter of 7 1/2 feet.  It’s decorated with four figures: Goddess of Liberty and Korean spirits.  Each of the Korean spirits has a different symbol: Korean flag, rose of Sharon (Korea’s national flower), a branch of laurel (victory) and a dove (peace).  The bell is struck from the outside using a wooden log.

The pagoda-like structure that houses the bell was built on site by thirty craftsmen from Korea.  The pagoda cost $569,680 and took ten months to build.  It has twelve columns that represent the twelve zodiac animals at each one (from the Chinese zodiac).

The bell is rung four or five times a year (depending on which website you’re looking at).  San Pedro’s site lists: Fourth of July, August 15 (Korean Independence Day), New Year’s Eve and every September for Constitution WeekWikipedia lists another time: January 13, Korean American Day.

This video is of the ringing on Constitution Day, September 18, 2010.  Video by Eldarwoody.

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