Friday, November 25, 2016

Cannery Row: California Packing Corporation

Poorly-colorized postcard showing crews sorting
fish near the Pacific Fish Co. pier, c. 1910s. 
The California Packing Corporation, located just south of Hoffman Avenue on Cannery Row, is the second oldest sardine canning business in Monterey and the oldest on the Row. In 1902, Harry Malpas and Otosuburo Noda founded the Monterey Fishing & Canning Company in the area then known as "New Monterey". Despite generous funding by local Japanese fishing families, Malpas faltered early in his pursuits and was never able to compete with the more-successful F. E. Booth company located near the wharf. In August 1908, Malpas closed his cannery and the seaside refinery began its long transient life. James Madison and Joseph Nichols took over the operation and replaced virtually everything there, bringing it to then-modern standards and rebranding the operation as the Pacific Fish Company, Inc. Unlike its predecessor, the Pacific Fish Company was able to compete well with Booth and the operators convinced many of the local fishermen to deal with them on equal footing. They also used Japanese and Italian labour, as well as the new lampara net, on their fishing vessels, which greatly increased their output. To support the cannery, it even built a short pier to make deliveries to the facility easier. By the mid-1920s, Pacific Fish was one of the most successful canneries in Monterey.

Pacific Fish Company cannery, 1909. [Monterey's Waterfront]
Fish processing was hands-on in 1909, when this photograph
was taken in the Pac-Fish plant. [Monterey's Waterfront]
It was under their control that railroad access was extended to the cannery. Pac-Fish build a mid-sized, two-story warehouse across from their seaside cannery in the late 1910s. It was connected to the cannery by an elevated conveyor, like many of the canneries used to transport finished products over Ocean View Avenue. Southern Pacific Railroad first build a siding that accessed this plant and the adjacent Carmel Canning Company warehouse in the early 1920s. An angled, wooden platform was built behind the warehouse to access the tracks and make loading easier.

Canning label for Del Monte-brand California sardines, packed by Pacific Fish Co., c. 1920s.
Women working the line at CalPak, 1949.
[Pat Hathaway – Monterey's Waterfront]
In 1926, the California Packing Corporation (known today as Del Monte Foods, Inc.), headquartered in San Diego, purchased the entire operation and added it to its roster of dozens of packing plants located across California and beyond. By that point, Pac-Fish had already done extensive upgrades to the facility, merging structures seamlessly together into one massive complex. CalPak further upgraded the buildings and expanded the warehouse substantially in 1938. Two additional warehouses were added to the complex beside the old warehouse, and the railroad tracks were realigned. A dedicate northward-exiting spur ran behind all three warehouses, with a long wooden platform flanking the length of it. The southernmost warehouse had its own elevated conveyor that linked to a reduction plant located across the road. This reduction plant, as well as a second canning house and a chemical laboratory, were added to increase efficiency and keep production consistent with the newer, more modernised neighbours. John Steinbeck's friend, Edward "Doc" Ricketts, sometimes worked in this lab on commission.

Street scene outside the California Packing Corporation plant (at right), c. 1930s. [Pat Hathaway – Fine Art America]
The vacant California Packing Corporation cannery, 1966. [Pat Hathaway]
This cannery, the first opened on the Row, was also one of the last to close. Although the fishing industry had largely collapsed in the late 1940s, the reputation and innovations of CalPak allowed it to survive for almost 15 more years. A fire on October 21, 1948, scorched the northern half of the cannery, but the bulk of the facility survived and the damaged parts were repaired or rebuilt (meanwhile, the adjacent Carmel Canning Company was burned to the ground). The cannery only shut its doors in April 1962 and CalPak immediately sold everything it could to a Puerto Rican tuna company. Meanwhile, the old cannery buildings deteriorated. Although they survived the fires that destroyed the buildings to the south, the entire complex burned down on January 26, 1973, leaving nothing behind but foundations and a few buried tanks.

The California Packing Corporation fire of January 1973. [Pat Hathaway]

Street Address, Geo-Coordinates & Current Status:
507, 570 Cannery Row
36.614˚N, 121.899˚ W

Today, nothing is left of the California Packing Corporation warehouse or cannery. The warehouse site is now occupied by the northern end of the long parking lot on the west side of the Row south of El Torito. The ruins on the property just south of the Mexican Restaurant are those of the California Packing Corporation.

Citations & Credits:
  • Architectural Resources Group and Architects, Planners & Conservators, Inc. "San Carlos Park". Primary Record. State of California – The Resources Agency. Department of Parks and Recreation. In Final Cannery Row Cultural Resources Survey Report Document, Monterey, CA, 2001.
  • Thomas, Tim, and Dennis Copeland. Images of America: Monterey's Waterfront. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
  • Ventimiglia, Mike. Images of America: Monterey Fire Department. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.


  1. Nice to get photo credits for the photos that I took of the old Del Monte Cannery back in the 1970's. The 1930 and 1949 photos are also from my collection.
    PS: Ed Ricketts went to work for California Packing Corporation in 1943 as Chemists Shark Oil plant 106 that was next to plant 101 on Ocean View Ave. now Cannery Row.
    Pat Hathaway, Photo Archivist
    California Views
    Monterey, CA
    (831) 373-3811

  2. I would like to thank Pat Hathaway for all the images you have provided to the world over the years. I live in Sand City and sometime I project slide shows of historical photos of Monterey County on the large warehouse wall across the street from my house for no reason other than to strike interest in local history. I always credit your photos and where they can be found on the internet along with a disclaimer that I am not associated in anyway and that the slide show is purely for educational purposes. Thanks again I've truly enjoyed.


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