AKA: Portola Packing Company Cannery, Monterey, CA; Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories

Designers: Esherick, Homsey, Dodge, and Davis (EHDD) (firm); Rudolph and Sletten, General Contractors (firm); Charles M. Davis (architect); Peter Hampton Dodge (architect); Joseph Esherick Jr. (architect); George Homsey (architect); Onslow H. Rudolph (building contractor); Kenneth G. Sletten (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1916

2 stories, total floor area: 136,000 sq. ft.

886 Cannery Row
Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940


Operating between 1916 and 1973, the Knut Hovden Cannery produced canned sardines for most of its years in service, employing at its height about 4,000 workers. The Hovden Food Products Company became the largest of several canneries located on Monterey's Ocean View Avenue, made famous in John Stenbeck's 1945 novel, Cannery Row. Toward the end of its years, sardines became overfished in Monterey Bay, and the Hovden Cannery had to turn to canning squid. The company ended production in 1973 and sat derelict for several years. Various plans developed for its reuse, but efforts to build a scientific institution and tourist attraction, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, won out. It opened in 1984 in portions of the old cannery.

Building History

Knut Hovden's Cannery produced canned sardines and, later, squid from 1916 until its closure in 1973, and was the largest operating on what was known (by John Steinbeck and others) as "Cannery Row" in Monterey, CA; production dropped from a high of 250,000 tons in the 1940s until the Monterey Bay fishery was exhausted in the early 1970s. At its height, Hovden's Cannery employed about 4,000 people. In its last years of operation, the Portola Packing Company ran the plant.

Four marine biologists working at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station first proposed the idea of renovating the vacant, neighboring Hovden Cannery into an aquarium showcasing the Monterey Bay ecosystem in 1977. Between 1977-1984, Charles Davis of Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis (EHDD), Architects, supervised the design and reconstruction of the Hovden Cannery into the Monterey Bay Aquarium; Davis worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation which received its $55 million funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened on 10/20/1984.

EHDD worked in collaboration with Rudolph and Sletten General Contractors on this first phase of construction.


EHDD supervised construction of the Outer Bay Wing and its one-million-gallon tank between 1993-1996 and a $10 million restoration effort c. 2003. Again, EHDD collaborated with the construction firm Rudolph and Sletten on this addition.

The Rudolph and Sletten website charcterized this 1996 addition: "In 1996, Rudolph and Sletten doubled the exhibit space with the construction of the Outer Bay Wing, devoted to the open ocean and deep sea, featuring a one-million-gallon tank containing tuna, sharks and sea turtles." (See Rudolph and Sletten.com, "Projects: Monterey Bay Aquarium," accessed 09/17/2021.)


Much of the sprawling Hovden Cannery was demolished to make room for the Aquarium. Architects salvaged building materials for re-use in the new aquarium. The existing boilerhouse and warehouse facing David Avenue were re-used, and the pumphouse was repurposed to pump in not sardines but sea water.

PCAD id: 6126