South Gate - The New City
The years following incorporation in 1923 were boom years. Families were finding contentment in this fertile suburb. Schools and churches were being established. City government, fire and police protection were good. Business and industry were close to home and social, fraternal, and civic outlets for families were soon to be established. A residential and industrial base was established and served as the cornerstone of South Gate, even today.
During the first year of incorporation, a City Hall was built at the intersection of Post and Victoria. This City Hall was replaced with a new City Hall in 1942, on California Avenue. The new City Hall is still in use today. In 1964, the old City Hall was demolished; the mosaic seen on the front of the building was removed and placed on a plaque in front of the new City Hall.
When South Gate became a sixth class city by state law, the title of President and Board of Trustees officially became Mayor and City Council. A.J. Schoby was elected the as the first Mayor on May 19, 1927.
Ordinance 14 established Fire District Number 1 on April 17, 1923. Soon the first piece of fire-fighting equipment, a second-hand truck, was acquired and in November, a volunteer fire department was organized, headed by Chief Edward McCormick.
In 1923 the City's own bus service was established. Mrs. Nina A. Murray drove an old Maxwell south on Seville Avenue to Liberty Boulevard, east on Liberty to Otis and returned by the same route. The service made a direct connection with the "J" streetcar line that ran from downtown Los Angeles to the corner of Seville and Santa Ana in South Gate. The fare was five cents on both the streetcar and bus. Soon after incorporation, the old Maxwell car was replaced with a municipal motorbus. However, municipal ownership of the bus system proved costly, and on July 31, 1933, the system was discontinued.
The cornerstone of South Gate High School was laid on January 25, 1930. Floyd Honn was the first principal. The school opened in September 1930 with 500 9th and 10th grade students and 27 faculty members. In 1932 it became a six year high school, with grades 7 through 12. It remained thus until 1941 when South Gate Junior High was constructed on Firestone at Otis Street.
As early as 1922, several small industrial plants had moved to South Gate. Families moved here and needed employment close to home; businesses, factories and industry soon followed.
One of the largest local industries was Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. The factory was built on a 40-acre former bean field. Firestone's first tire rolled off the assembly line on June 15, 1928.
Some of the early businesses included the A.R. Maas Chemical Company, founded in 1922 on Ardine, near Independence, and Star Roofing Company, founded in 1934 (now U.S. Gypsum). Weiser Company foundry, formed in 1904, became one of the world's leading manufacturers of hardware by 1943, with South Gate as the sole manufacturing operation in the United States.
In 1936 the General Motors plant went into production in South Gate with 1,000 employees, which soon increased to 4,000. Three makes of cars were assembled, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick.
By the early thirties, the city was outgrowing its municipal buildings, so property for a civic center was acquired. The location was on California Avenue between Firestone and Ardmore Boulevards. The first building was a library, to be leased to the Los Angeles County Library for one of its branches. The building was built with labor provided by the Works Project Act. The work of W.P.A. artists is still in evidence on the interior walls where murals depict events in the history of writing. A beautiful mosaic graced the entrance.
When the new library on Tweedy Boulevard was built in 1973, a portion of the old building was given to the South Gate Art Association for a gallery. The building also housed a theater and South Gate museum. Today, as part of the refurbishment of the building, the City is working with the Getty Museum to restore the murals.
When the war began, the new City Hall was nearing completion. It was the second building in the Civic Center. The City Council first met in its beautiful new building on February 19, 1942.
When the war was over, the city, industry, business, and the people all looked forward to a period of growth and prosperity. In 1945, 20 businessmen organized a Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of promoting the economic welfare and happiness of the community, through the creation of jobs and increase in commercial development.