The Atlantic Theatre, with seats for 1,000, opens near here. In 1973 it’s converted into an adult theater, and later a church. In 2014, the City demolishes it to make room for the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library, which integrates the theatre’s iconic spire.


Image Captions:

  1. Naval Soldiers play Basketball at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Library of Congress.

  2. Naval Soldiers pose in front of the U.S. Post Office located on-site at Roosevelt Naval Base as part of a feature highlighting the base in Pictorial California magazine.

  3. View of the Administration Building at Roosevelt Naval Base, Library of Congress.

  4. An aerial view of Terminal Island taken in 1941 shows ongoing construction of the base and its facilities. U.S. Naval Air Station. Terminal Island Naval Shipyard. 1941. Los Angeles Public Library.


At this time, Long Beach (which had previously housed Naval soldiers in the waterfront region) evolved into an anchor for the United States Navy on the West Coast. In response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in this year, then-president Roosevelt announced the construction of a great Naval Base for National Security.

Designed by the “Allied Engineers” and completed in 1943, Roosevelt Naval Base boasted elaborate facilities and was estimated to cost $23,000,000 to construct. Upon its dedication on September 1, 1941, Roosevelt Naval Base was declared to be the “largest fleet operating base in the world.”

The construction of such a substantial naval base in the 1940s developed Long Beach’s identity as a Navy town. Navy sailors came to Long Beach from throughout the country to serve and to transfer ships. Many of these sailors were from the Midwest, and they gained such a love of the pleasant Southern California weather and abundant work opportunities, that they returned after the war with their families. The resulting influx of new residents from the Midwest following the war as a result of the Navy furthered Long Beach’s moniker of ‘Iowa by the Sea.’

Sources we used and further reading on this era of Long Beach:

  • “Hawkeyes Take Town by Storm: Twenty Thousand Picnic at Long Beach…,” Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1927.

  • California State University, Long Beach, Paul Revere Williams: A Legend in Architecture (Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association, 2007), DVD.

  • “Expansion of Naval Facilities Gives Capt. Coffman New Title,” Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1941.

  • “World’s Largest Operating Base for Fleet Dedicated,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1941.