THE WONDER OF US ALL: We asked readers last week to help us create a list of the Seven Wonders of Long Beach, and a good indicator of the abundance of wonders in this town is the number and depth of the nominations we received.
Even the second team is pretty marvelous: Wonder Nos. 8-14 could be a starting line-up in most towns:
8. The Long Beach Bike Path
9. Long Beach Airport
10. The Nature Center at El Dorado Park
11. The Aquarium of the Pacific
12. Rancho Los Cerritos
13. The THUMS Oil Islands
14. The Belmont Pier
Great places, all of them and, to be somewhat frank, we would've put some of them on our personal Seven Wonders of Long Beach list.
1. The Queen Mary: Voter/reader and former councilman from the Fightin' 5th District Les Robbins called this choice "an awesome no-brainer." And he's correct, as usual. The Queen invokes a gorgeous and romantic era when ship travel was evocative of the styles of London and Paris, in contrast with today's luxury ships which are more evocative of Vegas and Branson.
2. Naples: Once it was the worst place to live hereabouts. Nothing but swamp and marsh at the mouth of the mighty San Gabriel River. In 1903, the visionary Arthur Parson built the three islands of Naples and went all Italianate on the territory, turning it into one of the cooler neighborhoods and waterways in all of Southern California.
3. The Villa Riviera: Nothing says Long Beach like the towering Gothic Revivalist hotel-turned-condos standing guard at what was once the southeast corner of Long Beach, at Alamitos Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. The 1929 building took a star turn in its early days when Joseph M. Schenck of Twentieth Century Fox bought the hotel for his ex-wife and silent-film star Norma Talmadge to operate. She didn't show much talent or enthusiasm for the job and it was sold within a year.
4. The Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach: What's a Seven Wonders list without a pyramid? Nothing. Opened in 1994, the Pyramid is the youngest of Long Beach's Seven Wonders. Our own little bit o' Giza is one of only three in the U.S. The others are the Luxor in Las Vegas and the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tenn.
5. Rancho Los Alamitos: The Long Beach pioneering Bixby family donated this homeplace of the once-sprawling rancho to the city in 1967.
6. The Port of Long Beach: Like our Naples neighborhood, the Port of Long Beach arose from a marshy mess, this one at Long Beach's western creek, the Los Angeles River. Its transformation into a wonder began in 1911 on 800 acres. It grew like crazy, with a million tons of cargo moving through the young port by the end of the 1920s. Today, the Port of Long Beach covers 3,200 acres and is the second busiest container port in the nation. It's the only one of our Seven Wonders that you can't see in a day.
7. Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden: Did we say Rancho Los Alamitos was the city's finest oasis? We were wrong. You should've stopped us. It's actually this beautiful and crazily serene spot hidden away (to the extent you can hide 1.3 acres) on the Cal State Long Beach campus. The garden, featuring world-class koi and a brilliant Zig-Zag Bridge, was designed by the campus' landscape master plan architect Ed Lovell, who visited gardens in Japan, including Tokyo's Imperial Gardens, before designing the garden. It was dedicated in 1981.