National Register of Historic Places in Monterey County

National Register #94001498: Pacific Biological Laboratories in Monterey Front View
21 May 2018
National Register #94001498: Pacific Biological Laboratories in Monterey
Rear View
9 December 2018
(Click Photos to Zoom)
National Register #94001498
Pacific Biological Laboratories
AKA Doc's Lab
800 Cannery Row
Built 1937

Pacific Biological Laboratories was owned and operated by marine biologist and pioneering ecologist Edward (Doc) Ricketts. From 1937 until 1948, Doc's Lab was a gathering place for bohemians, artists, writers and thinkers.

Ricketts, who was John Steinbeck's closet friend, provided the model for the several characters named Doc, including Doc in the novel Cannery Row. Steinbeck dedicated four of his novels to Ricketts.

After Ricketts died in 1948, Pacific Biological Laboratories became the meeting place for a group called PBL.

In 1957, PBL inaugurated the Monterey Jazz Festival.

In 1993, PBL transferred the property to the City of Monterey to preserve it and provide public tours.

"Doc is the owner and operator of the Western Biological Laboratory. Doc is rather small, deceptively small, for he is wiry and very strong and when passionate anger comes on him he can be very fierce. He wears a beard and his face is half Christ and half satyr and his face tells the truth. It is said that he has helped many a girl out of one trouble and into another. Doc has the hands of a brain surgeon, and a cool warm mind. Doc tips his hat to dogs as he drives by and the dogs look up and smile at him. He can kill anything for need, but he could not even hurt a feeling for pleasure. He has one great fear — that of getting his head wet, so that summer or winter he ordinarily wears a rain hat. He will wade in a tide pool up to the chest without feeling damp, but a drop of rain water on his head makes him panicky."

"Over a period of years Doc dug himself into Cannery Row to an extent not even he suspected. He became the fountain of philosophy and science and art. In the laboratory the girls from Dora's heard the Plain Songs and Gregorian music for the first time. Lee Chong listened while Li Po was read to him in English. Henri the painter heard for the first time the Book of the Dead and was so moved that he changed his medium. Henri had been painting with glue, iron rust, and coloured chicken feathers, but he changed and his next four paintings were done entirely with different kinds of nutshells. Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and change it for you to a kind of wisdom. His mind had no horizon — and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next : 'I really must do something nice for Doc.'"

From Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

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