The coastal city of Monterey, California is not famous for a lot of things. There’s Monterey Jack Cheese, Cannery Row and that’s about it. Since you’ve probably read the headline, you might have guessed that we’re not going to talk about the cheese here. That leaves us with Cannery Row which makes, despite all of the deliciousness that is Monterey Jack, a way more exciting topic to read an article about – I promise! So let’s get started with a quick history lesson.
In 1851, just a few years after California became part of the USA, Chinese settlers managed to cross the Pacific Ocean and set up their fishing operation on the coast of what later became Monterey. Three decades later, after the Civil War had ended, Monterey became connected to the rest of the country by railroad thus opening up the beautiful area to tourism and industrial development. After that, it only took a couple of years until the first industrially-sized fishing and canning factories were set up on the shore. Cannery Row, Monterey’s boardwalk, seemed to be the perfect location because of its water, climate and fish supply.
Sardine Capital of the World
With two World Wars in the first half of the 20th century, the long established, rich fishing and canning industry in Monterey was booming. Even after the struggles in between due to the Great Depression, Cannery Row managed to thrive again and make Monterey the “Sardine Capital of the World”.
However, the high demand for cheap and nutritious sardines led to the eventual collapse of Cannery Row. The sardine population could never fully recover from over-fishing in the time of World War 2, resulting in most canneries closing down in the mid-1950s.
What happened after that? The same thing that happened to most industrial sites that had its resources exhausted in the middle of the 20th century: it became a tourist attraction with several restaurants, monuments and museums exhibiting how life and industry used to be back in the days.
Cannery Row in the Present
Since none of us has the ability to travel back in time and see what Cannery Row used to look like, I say we do the next best thing and look at some pictures showing what it looks like today.
Those are just a few impressions of the former “Sardine Capital of the World”. If you want to see more, you’ll have to visit Monterey and see for yourself. While you’re there, you should definitely check out the museums, to see how industrial canning was done a hundred years ago.
Have you been to Cannery Row yet or do you know about other similar industry-cultural experiences? Share them with us in the comment section.