Wilmington is a neighborhood in the Los Angeles Harbor Region area of Los Angeles, California, covering 9.14 square miles.
Featuring a heavy concentration of industry and the third-largest oil field in the United States, it is considered sparsely populated in comparison with the city as a whole and within the city it is distinguished by its youthful population and high percentage of Latino and foreign-born residents.
It is the site of Los Angeles Harbor College, Banning High School and ten other primary and secondary schools. Wilmington has six parks, including one on the waterfront.
Wilmington dates its history back to a 1784 Spanish land grant. It became a separate city in 1863, and it joined the city of Los Angeles in 1909. Places of interest include the headquarters U.S. Army for Southern California and the Drum Barracks built to protect the nascent Los Angeles harbor during the American Civil War.
The Port of Los Angeles district of Wilmington was included in the 1784 Spanish land grant of Rancho San Pedro. Phineas Banning acquired the land that would become Wilmington from Manuel Dominguez, heir of the original concession holder Juan Jose Dominguez, in 1858 to build a harbor for the city of Los Angeles. Known as New San Pedro from 1858 to 1863, it was subsequently renamed Wilmington by “Father of the Harbor” Banning after his birthplace, Wilmington, Delaware.:7
In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, Banning and Benjamin Wilson gave the federal government 60 acres of land to build Drum Barracks to protect the nascent Los Angeles harbor from Confederate attack.:8 Phineas Banning (1830 – 1885) is known as "The Father of the Port of Los Angeles," he was one of the founders of the town of Wilmington, which was named for his birthplace. His drive and ambition laid the foundations for what would become one of the busiest ports in the world.
Wilson College, precursor to the University of Southern California, opened in Wilmington in 1874 as the first coeducational college west of the Mississippi.
The City of Los Angeles annexed Wilmington in 1909, and today it and neighboring San Pedro form the waterfront of one of the world’s largest import/export centers. Citizens of Wilmington were dubious that annexation would be in their best interests, fearing that it would shift economic activity out of their city and towards Los Angeles. Because the city government of Los Angeles so strongly wanted to have the growing port inside the city limits, it made a number of promises to Wilmington and also to the equally-dubious citizens of San Pedro. Among these promises were that $10 million would be invested in improvements to the port and that as much would be spent inside the city on public works as was collected in taxes.
In the 1920s, William Wrigley Jr. built innovative housing in Wilmington that was dubbed the “Court of Nations.”:9
Wilmington Oil Field
Wilmington is adjacent to the Wilmington Oil Field, discovered in 1932. It is the third largest oil field in the continental United States. Consequently, there are at least 8 major refineries in the Wilmington area, many of them dating back to the original strike.
During World War II the United States Military operated the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation in Wilmington, from which soldiers and sailors were sent abroad to battle zones. The LAPE was controlled by the San Francisco Port of Embarkation from its inception in 1942 until late 1943 when it became autonomous.:9 The California Shipbuilding Corporation, famous for building victory ships during the war (although usually associated with Terminal Island), operated in Wilmington as well.