Torrance All the Way
Old Torrance treats holiday shoppers to tree-lined streets, a nostalgic gift selection, hip eateries and ghosts of Christmases past.
- Written byClay Jackson
Old Torrance preserves a roughly square-mile, early 20th-century shopping district and downtown that lets people experience what it was like to shop before malls existed. A walking tour of Old Town takes a few hours and covers about two miles as it slaloms its way between historic sites, hobby shops, both rustic and fancy eateries, and eclectic entertainment venues.
World War II heroes Louis “Louie” Zamperini and Ted Tanouye grew up in what is now Old Torrance and attended (1) Torrance High School on 2200 W. Carson Street. The school was founded in 1917 and is one of the oldest in California and on the National Register of Historic Places.
(2) The Zamperini House at 2028 Gramercy is where the famous World War II prisoner of war, subject of the bestseller Unbroken and a movie of the same name directed by Angelina Jolie, spent his formative years. In front of Torrance High is the (3) Ted Tanouye Memorial, where the World War II Medal of Honor recipient and Torrance High grad’s heroics and his family’s tragic story of internment are recounted.
Another must-see is the (4) Pacific Electric Railway-El Prado Bridge spanning Torrance Boulevard east of Cabrillo. Dubbed the “unofficial gateway to Torrance,” the bridge was designed by architect Irving Gill in 1913 and is on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a local historic civil engineering landmark.
(5) The Torrance Historical Society at 1345 Post Avenue is located in a beautiful art deco building built during the FDR administration in 1936. The museum has lots of Louie Zamperini memorabilia. There is also a bust of (6) Jared Sidney Torrance, who founded Torrance in 1911, out front on the corner of Post and Cravens.
Many of the shops in Old Torrance cater to old souls (aged and young alike) who prefer using their hands to make something rather than whiling away the hours playing Candy Crush or Grand Theft Auto.
One of the more amazing hobby shops in Old Town is (7) My Doll’s House at 1218 El Prado Avenue. The shop was started 26 years ago by Roger and Marge DeKoster. Over the years the DeKosters have made more than 500 custom-designed, museum-quality dollhouses—some on display in their store. They sell do-it-yourself kits ranging from $50 to $1,500. These amazing creations look good beneath a Christmas tree or make for a fun father-daughter project.
(8) The WWII Store at 1422 Marcelina Avenue has stocking stuffers any history buff would love. The store sells military memorabilia, including uniforms, flags, German helmets, medals and patches from World War II and other conflicts.
(9) Street Faire Antiques at 1317 Sartori Avenue has sponsored the Torrance Antique Street Faire for 18 years and will have holiday-themed shows on November 27 and December 11. These popular events attract more than 200 vendors.
Founded in 1984, (10) Torrance Bakery at 1341 El Prado Avenue is known for its wedding cakes, and consuming a cronut (if a croissant and donut had a baby) should be on every culinary bucket list.
(11) The Red Car Brewery at 1266 Sartori Avenue rotates up to seven English-style ales brewed in big tanks right on the premises of the old Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company building. Red Car also uses its ales to create sauces, salad dressings and pizza dough.
(12) The Depot at 1250 Cabrillo Avenue is in the Irving Gill-designed Pacific Electric Railway station and depot and was built in 1912. Inside, chef-owner Michael Shafer toys with palates through his culinary creations. A $45 Depot Groupies’ Cooking Class is a perfect gift for foodies.
Escapists will enjoy the incredible selection of cigars kept in a climate-controlled room at (13) Bo’s Cigar Lounge at 1305 Sartori Avenue. For the man-cave challenged, Bo’s offers a respite from honey-do lists and ankle biters and is where men or women (it’s 2017, after all) can puff freely on a favorite cigar in a nonjudgmental atmosphere of flat-screens, televised sports and comfy leather recliners.
Located at 1316 Cabrillo Avenue is (14) Torrance Theatre Company (TTC), which puts on five productions a year. Ticket prices are $30 for general admission and $125 for the season. Productions take place at the Cabrillo location’s intimate 48-seat theatre. The TTC will be performing the Tony-winning play Peter and the Starcatcher through December 18.
It doesn’t get any more holiday than the sugar plum fairies and toy soldiers in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. (15) The Lauridsen Ballet Centre (aka South Bay Ballet) spends months choreographing the holiday production and preparing danseurs and danseuses of all ages so they hit their marks. This year’s performances of The Nutcracker will be December 17 and 18 at the Marsee Auditorium at El Camino College in Torrance. Tickets are $34 for adults and $24 for children 12 and under.
The choice this holiday season is clear: After a Black Friday mauling, haggard shoppers can take a history-filled stroll through Old Torrance as they eat, drink, shop and make merry.