Torrance High School – Torrance, California - Atlas Obscura

Torrance, California

Torrance High School

One of California's oldest continually used high schools has an interesting history, both on and off screen. 

As one of the oldest continually used high schools in California, this building has gotten much screen time as the setting for 1990s and early 2000s blockbusters. Since the opening of its main building in January of 1917, this Beaux-Arts style structure has welcomed many students over the years, among them fictional teens.

Due to its layout and closeness to Los Angeles studios, Torrance High School is often a director’s choice for having (often older) actors portray teenage angst and related storylines for hit TV shows and movies. Its most recognizable role was as West Beverly High in the original Beverly Hills, 90210.  It also was used for the show’s spinoff on CW.

If it were to have an IMDb profile, Torrance High School’s credits would also extend to the TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Secret Life of An American Teenager plus the films She’s All That, Whatever It Takes, and Not Another Teen Movie. Additionally, the high school has had screen time in Bruce Almighty and on the NBC series Medium.

Torrance High School has an interesting storyline of its own. In real life, the school was built to meet the needs of Torrance’s post-World War I population boom and was originally designed as a 10-room building. Two additional wings were added in 1932.

Ironically, the present-day high school first had elementary and high school students attending its first building, until an elementary school was built in 1923 (the latter was annexed to the current school just over four decades later). The school’s original assembly hall—part auditorium on top, then a cafeteria and gymnasium on the bottom—was demolished in a 1933 earthquake and then reconstructed as a WPA-funded project.

It’s also got a major star in his own right: a war hero. Alumnus Ted Tanouye was a Japanese-American soldier during World War II who served in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He died in combat, but was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2000 for his charge to capture a strategically important hill on July 7, 1944, near Molino A Ventoabbto, Italy. Another war hero, Louis Zamperini, also attended Torrance High School. The film Unbroken was based on Zamperini’s life.

According to a video on the history of Torrance High School, the school was scheduled to be torn down in the 1970s, but a group of Tartars (the school’s team name) alumni took a “Donna Martin graduates” approach to saving it with a few structural changes made. Its famous front and senior patio have stayed intact. That storyline had an even happier ending—the school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Know Before You Go

Please be respectful of the fact that this is still an active school.

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