We find a metered space and park under a brilliant blue sky, bright green leaves and luscious orange blooms.
The swift expansion of the Monterey fishing industry at the turn of the 20th century gave rise to the fish canning industry and the street that would be named Cannery Row. Frank Booth built the first cannery, a rudimentary salmon cannery near Fisherman’s Wharf. Cannery Row, however, would spring up farther out of town along Ocean View Avenue. On February 14, 1908 the Pacific Fish Company became the first major cannery on Ocean View Avenue.
Fishing and canning technology improved and prepared Monterey for the huge spike in demand for canned sardines brought about by World War I. The industry slowed during the Great Depression. World War II, however, revived the canning industry. (canneryrow.com)
After World War II the sardines disappeared from Monterey Bay, bringing economic ruin to Cannery Row.
The founding of the Cannery Row Company In 1976 began a revival of Cannery Row that transformed it from a street of burned and decrepit canneries to the number one visitor destination on California’s Central Coast. (canneryrow.com)
Clans, cultures, and canneries
During the 1500s some 10,000 Native Americans lived along the coast between San Francisco and Big Sur. The Ohlone people comprised 40 different tribes each one with its own name, leader, and language. They boiled acorns to prepare thick porridge and bread, hunted deer, elk, and bear, and fished for whales, sea lions, and otters.
The Spanish came to the area around 1542 searching for the mythical Northwest Passage connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In 1770 the first Spanish mission was established in Monterey near Cannery Row.
Fishermen from China arrived as early as 1814 to catch salmon. In the early 1850s they built stilted shanties against the coastal rocks. They tied up their flat-bottomed fishing boats at the back door. By 1853 some 600 fishermen were trolling the bay waters for salmon.
Portuguese whalers also arrived in the 1850s because of the abundance of humpback and gray whales. Blubber was used for lighting torches until kerosene replaced the need for whale oil.
In the early 1890s Japanese fishermen came to catch abalone. They introduced new techniques, insulated suits, and helmets to the diving process. Before their arrival the only way to collect abalone was to free dive in dangerous conditions in chilly water temperatures.
Italian fishermen from Sicily migrated here in the late 1800s. The overcrowded fishing conditions forced the Chinese to catch squid at night. In the early 1900s the Italians introduced the use of the lampara net named after the Italian word for lightening, “lampo”, because of its ability to quickly catch sardines. The strong round haul net revolutionized the fishing and canning industry and made Monterey the Sardine Capital of the World. (canneryrow.com)
Cannery row monument
Sculpted by Carmel artist Steven Whyte and unveiled on February 26, 2014, the monument pays homage to Cannery Row’s history. The $1,000,000 price tag was paid for through private donations. (seemonterey.com)
Author John Steinbeck sits at the top of the rock.
Born in Salinas, about 30 miles from Cannery Row, on February 27, 1902, Steinbeck lived in Pacific Grove with his first wife. Pacific Grove is next to Cannery Row and this area inspired much of the materials for his iconic books and characters, writing stories spiced with the vibrant tales of cannery characters and roughnecks he knew. (canneryrow.com)
Marine biologist Ed Ricketts sits toward the bottom.
Ed operated the Pacific Biological Laboratory at 800 Cannery Row. He met Steinbeck in 1930 and brought the author along with him to study the mysteries of the Great Tidal Pool at Asilomar Beach and on a voyage to the Sea of Cortez.
Ricketts was the inspiration for the character, Doc, in Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. (canneryrow.com)
The 4 entrepreneurs responsible for the revival of Cannery Row are also memorialized on the statue. And no monument would be complete without characters representing the canning industry, including Chinese fishermen. (seemonterey.com)
Whistles called the immigrants to work, each cannery having its own unique sound. Most days began with the arrival of the night catch and continued until the day’s catch was canned.
In the earliest days of the industry, there were no rules regulating the hours or shifts, making the days long, cold, smelly, and unsafe.
A pier constructed far out over the coastline facilitated the unloading of fish.
Each fish had to be cut by hand to remove the heads and tails. Then the fish were spread out to dry on wooden slats called “flakes”. After drying, the fish were placed in large metal baskets, drawn through boiling peanut oil, drained, and packed into cans which were soldered shut. The final step in the canning process was labeling and boxing.
Eventually machinery and conveyor belts took over the hand labor and enabled mass production. (canneryrow.com)
The Aquarium sits at the end of Cannery Row.