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From Sherman Library's Collections

Articles highlighting Sherman Library's collections and the history of Sherman Library & Gardens.

The 1928 Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship

Paul Wormser - Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Recently, both Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz have claimed the moniker, Surf City, USA.  While today nobody considers Corona del Mar the center of surf culture in California, in 1928 it might well have claimed the title Surf City, USA.  In that year, Corona del Mar had the only surf club on the Pacific Coast (with twelve members) and was the site of the first Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship. One of the most popular photographs in Sherman Library's collection shows contestants in this race posing next to their redwood longboards.

In 1928, the entrance to Newport Harbor was a perilous place for boaters.  Boats entering or leaving faced the real possibility of running aground or being swamped in the high surf.  Only three years earlier five men died when the charter fishing boat Thelma was swamped in the harbor channel. Attempts to quiet the water by building jetties on both the east and west side of the harbor entrance had failed.  However, the same waves that imperiled boats made for excellent surfing. Duke Kahanamoku, the 1912 and 1920 Olympic gold medalist and the man credited with popularizing surfing, considered the waves breaking into the entrance to Newport Harbor to be the best on the California coast. 


  Contestants in the Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship, August 7, 1928. 
Sherman Library Photograph Collection.

At noon on Sunday August 7, 1928, the Corona del Mar Surf Board Association sponsored the first Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship and Sparr Bathhouse manager, T. W. Sheffield, organized the event.  The competitions included a paddling contest from Corona del Mar beach to the west jetty and back, a canoe tilting completion, a demonstration of the use of surfboards for life saving, and finally a "rough water" surfboard race from the bell buoy off the harbor entrance to the channel nearest the east jetty.

The event organizers undoubtedly timed it to take advantage of the crowds gathering to watch the Star Class International Championship sailing race being held off the Newport Beach coast.  Several hundred people lined the beach to watch the surfing contest.  Fifteen contestants entered, coming from Corona del Mar, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Redondo and Santa Ana.

Had Duke Kahanamoku been at the race, he would have been the favorite to win.  Kahanamoku, however, could not attend, because he was filming a movie title The Rescue. The contestants included Tom Blake, who later would write the first book on surfing and revolutionize board designs, and Gerard Vultee, a pioneer in the airspace industry.  Blake took home silver trophies for first place in both the paddleboard and surfing competitions.

Eight Decades of Change in Two Photographs of Corona del Mar

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, August 01, 2018

At first glance, this photograph may seem uninteresting.  It is after all, a shot of a nearly empty street with a few buildings.  If you look closely, you will see a number of clues to the location and date.  To the left, you can see the Goldenrod footbridge and to the right a grocery store, which also served as a post office.  The store was Scott's Grocery, which city directories indicate was on the corner of Coast Highway and Marigold Ave.  In the distance toward the center of the photo, you will notice two additional buildings. The nearer of the two, on the left, was Brigg's Service Station, and the smaller building in the distance was the K. I. Fulton real estate office.

The photograph is undated. However, some elements help us to pinpoint the probable year as 1932.  First, are the facts that Coast Highway was opened through Corona del Mar in 1926 and the Goldenrod footbridge was completed in 1928.  So, the photograph has to be dated after 1928.  Samuel Scott, the grocery store owner, was also the Corona del Mar Postmaster from 1927 to 1934, when he sold his business and moved out of the area. This means the photograph was taken no later than 1934.  The final clue is more difficult to discern.  If you look to the right of the Fulton real estate office, you can see a white fence across coast highway.  Even though it was only six years old, in 1932 the State of California began widening Coast Highway between Newport Beach and Dana Point.  It seems likely that this photograph was taken in 1932, when parts of Coast Highway were temporarily closed while the road was widened.

This contemporary photograph was taken from the same spot as the original, the median of Coast Highway, looking toward the intersection at Marguerite Ave.  Scott's grocery is long gone, replaced by a dry cleaner.  The footbridge is no longer visible, the line of sight being blocked by businesses.  The service station was roughly where the Rite Aid is now. In the time since the first photo was taken, Coast Highway has also been widened even more, and medians added.  

This animation shows the 1932 photograph dissolving into the 2018 image, and back again.  It is a stark demonstration of the changes eight decades have brought to Corona del Mar.

A Day at the Beach

Paul Wormser - Monday, July 02, 2018
Cover of the 1924 tourist brochure issued by the Chamber of Commerce.

With the arrival of summer and the end of the school year, the beaches are filling with people, in a tradition that goes back far more than a century.  Beach culture always been central to Newport Beach's identity.  Long before the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce issued its first promotional brochure in 1924 depicting a woman preparing to dive into the water, the beach drew people to Newport.

While the beach-going experience in many ways is unchanged, some aspects have changed. For instance, you can no longer rent a tent cabin on the beach. Local beaches once had "swim lines," heavy ropes extending into the surf for people to hold onto, rather than lifeguards. Early in the 20th century, people could also rent swimsuits for the day. These early swimming "costumes" were full-length woolen garments, designed more for modesty than swimming.

 Group posing on the beach in about 1890.

Some of the earliest pictures in Sherman Library's collections show people on the beach. One of the more interesting aspects of these photographs is how swimsuit fashion has changed. Photographs from the 1890s show people in elaborate bathing outfits, which seem impractical for swimming by today's standards. By the teens and 1920s swim suits had becomes less bulky and more revealing. In fact, promoters often held bathing beauty contests as a means of drawing people to Newport Beach.

  A "bathing girls parade" held at Balboa on June 25, 1922.

Today we look upon these swimsuits with fascination. In fact, this interest with changing swim fashions predates even the appearance of the bikini. In 1934, the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce created a float for the Tournament of Lights (now the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade) illustrating the evolution of swimsuits. At the time, some people surely marveled at how revealing bathing suit had become.

The Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce float in the 1934 Tournament of Lights. 

The Goldenrod Footbridge

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Sometimes as the small bungalows that once dominated the area around Sherman Library are replaced by large residences it seems nothing of "old" Corona del Mar survives.  Yet amid the new homes are some elements of the past.  One of these is the iconic Goldenrod footbridge, which is nearly 90 years old. The bridge over Bayside Drive, connects two segments of Goldenrod Avenue.  It is not only quaint, but it represents a different time, when Newport Beach city leaders sought new ways to attract people to Corona del Mar.

Through the late 1920s, the largest concentration of homes in Corona del Mar was along the bluffs overlooking the bay. One reason for this was obvious – the view.  The other reason was that the only road to Corona del Mar was Bayside Drive.  Few people bought lots and fewer built houses on the northeast side of Bayside Drive.  Reaching this area meant taking a circuitous route.  Getting to the beach meant scrambling down and back up "Pacific Gulch" to cross Bayside Drive.

In 1926, the segment of Coast Highway passing through Newport Beach opened, making inland Corona del Mar easily accessible for the first time.  Yet, the expected boom in development did not take place immediately.  In 1927, the City Council began debating the possibility of a footbridge across Pacific gultch, so that people could reach the beach in a few minutes.  Leaders surmised that the improved beach access would also raise property values. Despite complaints from owners living in the assessment district who would have to pay for the bridge, the Council approved the project.

Contractors constructed the 243-foot steel reinforced concrete bridge between mid–May and early-August of 1928. John A. Siegal, Assistant City Engineer, was assigned to oversee the project. The photographs for this article are from a scrapbook he maintained to document the project.  Siegal's photographs are among the many collections relating to the history of Newport Beach, which are available for research at Sherman Library.

While the completion of the bridge did not lead to a land rush in Corona del Mar, it has become an enduring part of the community.  Eventually, artists Rex Brandt and Joan Irving Brandt built their home and studio, Blue Sky, on Goldenrod next to the bridge.  For many years they taught classes at Blue Sky and hosted other artists.  The bridge was a popular subject of paintings.  Sherman Library has two painting on public display depicting the Goldenrod Footbridge, one by Joan Irving Brandt and the other by Dan Lutz.

The Wreck of the Muriel

Paul Wormser - Monday, November 20, 2017

In the 1920s, silent movie production companies often used Newport Beach and the surrounding coastline as backdrops.  Unlike the bustling port of Los Angeles, Newport Bay and Catalina had few people and little development, providing excellent natural backdrops for the movies.  One silent film, shot largely off Catalina in 1924, was The Sea Hawk, the story of a 16th century English captain unjustly imprisoned before returning as a pirate. 

The production was elaborate by the standards of the day and included four ships that were refitted to look like 16th century galleons, at a reported cost of $84,000.  One of these ships refitted for the movie, Muriel, a 162 foot, four-masted schooner was built in Alameda in 1905.  After nearly 20 years as a trade ship in the South Pacific, the conversion of Muriel to a movie ship was undoubtedly a sign of her diminishing usefulness. Less then a year later, however, Muriel would become both a landmark and a warning to sailors in Newport Beach.

The Sea Hawk premiered to glowing reviews in 1924.  But, by early 1925, Muriel’s movie days were over. Eventually, R. J. Shafer of Newport Beach purchased the ship for use as a fishing barge, anchored off the coast. In August of 1925, Shafer attempted to tow the schooner through the notoriously treacherous mouth of Newport Bay.  The towline broke and the schooner grounded on a sand bar on the Corona del Mar side of the harbor entrance.  Shafer’s attempts to free the ship failed. In 1926, a strong winter storm dislodged the hulk and sent it to a sandbar just off the Balboa Peninsula. For five years the wreck of Muriel remained at the harbor entrance, accessible to the curious at low tide.


 Children exploring the wreckage of Muriel, as a couple picnics in the ships shade, June 19, 1927. W. C. Sawyer Collection, Sherman Library
That Shafer lost Muriel in the turbulent waters of the channel is not surprising.  Only months before, the charter fishing boat Thelma was swamped while trying to leave the harbor.  Five men drowned.  More would have died, had it not been for the bravery of a group of surfers, including the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, who paddled out to bring men back to shore.

Then, with Muriel as mute witness, another tragedy unfolded on June of 1926, when 16-year old George Rogers, Jr. drown after his Dodge Water Car capsized in the heavy surf at the entrance to the harbor.  The young man’s father, George Rogers, Sr. then embarked on a decade-long campaign to make the harbor entrance safe.  Rogers, along with leaders of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, worked to pass a local bond measure and to lobby the federal government for funds to make the harbor safe.

The Army Corps of Engineers removed Muriel in 1930, citing it as hazardous to navigation.  Perhaps the only people disappointed by this were the rum runners rumored to use the hulk as a warehouse. It would be another six years until the jetties that made the harbor entrance safe were completed.



Muriel, lodged on a sand bar just off the Balboa Peninsula, June 19, 1927. W. C. Sawyer Photograph Collection, Sherman Library.

Sherman Library’s collections include photographs of Muriel and a large volume of material relating to the development of Newport Harbor, all of which is open for research.

When Nobody Bought $100 Lots in Corona del Mar

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, November 08, 2017
The oldest structure at Sherman Library & Gardens is a single-room adobe house built by Lawrence and Pauline Lushbaugh in the late 1930s.  The Lushbaugh’s story is interesting:  the young

Lawrence and Pauline Lushbaugh in front of their house, which is now part of Sherman Library & Gardens.

couple bought a plot of land, and taught themselves how to make fired-adobe brinks to build their own home. Yet if a single element of the story fascinates people, it is this:  the Lushbaughs bought the land for their house from the City of Newport Beach for $600.00, an amount that would not cover the cost of a square foot of a typical house today.

Selling land in Corona del Mar in the years before the World War II was challenging at best. Lots that now sell for millions of dollars were priced at a few hundred dollars, remaining unsold for years.  An aerial photograph in Sherman Library’s collections is graphic evidence.  Taken in 1940, the photograph shows a scattering of homes and business in the flower streets.  Whole blocks were nearly vacant. In fact, in 1940 the City of Newport Beach owned a considerable number of Corona del Mar “tax lots,” which it acquired when the owners failed to pay property taxes.

 Aerial photograph of Corona del Mar, 1940. 

The man who first envisioned Corona del Mar – and named it – was George E. Hart, a Los Angeles real estate salesman.  In 1904, Hart bought 706 acres of land for $125.00/acre from The Irvine Company.  One 1904 advertisement announced people could buy lots starting at $100. At the time he made the deal, Hart expected that the Pacific Electric Railway, the so-called Red Cars, would extend as far as Corona del Mar.    However, when the railway was extended south in 1906, the terminus was the Balboa Peninsula, not Corona del Mar.  Corona del Mar had a geography problem – the only way to the new subdivision was by boat from Balboa or by a road owned by The Irvine Company.  When it was clear that the Pacific Electric would not reach Corona del Mar, Hart tried to cut his losses by deeding back 359 acres to The Irvine Company.  In 1907, he built the Hotel Del Mar at the corner of present-day Carnation and Seaview, to encourage people to visit – and he hoped – buy land. By 1915, Hart was ready to wind up his Corona del Mar adventure.  

Hart sold his remaining land, including the Hotel Del Mar to the F. D. Cornell Co. The F. D. Cornell Co. tried to rename the tract Balboa Palisades, to take advantage of better-know Balboa. The Hotel Del Mar was renamed the Palisades Tavern. But it did not work.  By 1920, Corona del Mar had fewer than 50 homes. Moreover, those few residents resisted the new Balboa Palisades name, which was later abandoned.  
 The Hotel Del Mar, later known as the Palisades Tavern and then the Balboa Palisades Club. Courtesy Sherman Library

The F. D. Cornell Co. sold the Palisades Tavern in 1925 to a group of investors who formed the Balboa Palisades Club.  The investors promoted the club in the characteristically overblown language of real estate ads at the time.  “Situated atop the Balboa Palisades will be the new Club house as planned, commanding an unsurpassed view . . . a tumbling, sapphire sea breaking upon a beach dotted with multicolored tents and parasols, and people, young and old, pleasure bent in the life-giving, golden sunshine . . . here at this rainbow’s end is the Balboa Palisades Club. Here discriminating families may enjoy its many advantages in safety and seclusion.” 

The investors probably expected a real estate boom once Coast Highway opened in 1926. But, the boom did not materialize, and within a few years the Great Depression took hold.  It would not be until after World War II that Corona del Mar land would sell at a premium.

Preserving the History of Newport Beach

Paul Wormser - Thursday, September 07, 2017
For the last 50 years, Sherman Library has been collecting valuable historical materials about the history of the Pacific Southwest. One of the strengths of the collection is the history of Newport Beach.   For the first time, information about these collections is now available in a Guide to Newport Beach Historical Collections in Sherman Library.

How Jamboree Road Got its Name

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Every day countless people drive on Jamboree Road in Newport Beach without knowing the origin of the street’s name. Today it is hard to image that 45,000 Boy Scouts once camped on the spot now occupied by Fashion Island.  But, in 1953, when Irvine Ranch hosted the Third National Jamboree, that was the case.


Pamphlet advertising the Jamboree.  
Sherman Library Collections.
  Jamboree commemorative patch.  
Sherman Library Collections.

The Jamboree was an extraordinary local event.  For a single week in July 1953, a full-scale city, larger than the permanent population of Newport Beach materialized.  Scouts attending the Jamboree pitched more than 25,000 tents on the site bordered by present-day MacArthur Blvd., Coast Highway, Back Bay Drive and University Drive.  Irvine Road, which ran through the site, was later renamed Jamboree.

Well in advance of the scouts’ arrival, planners surveyed the site and installed the infrastructure. Workers built more than 8 miles of roads, installed over 36 miles of telephone and electrical lines and constructed a water works capable of pumping 18 million gallons of water per day.  The encampment also had its own telephone exchange, short wave radio station, hospital. employing 164 doctors, fire department consisting of four companies, and police department with a staff of 150 officers. By the time the Scouts arrived, the site also included a theater, store, zoo, bus line and a parking lot capable of holding 16,000 cars. 


Scouts attending a performance at the theater.

Sherman Library Collection. 

The boys could select from many traditional camping activities like archery and pottery making.  For many, no doubt, a highlight was taking a bus to the beach.  An enormous theater offered formal entertainment, including visits from Hollywood stars, such as Danny Kaye and Debbie Reynolds.  Even Vice President Richard Nixon made an appearance, flipping pancakes for a few troops.

For people wanting to know more about the Jamboree, Sherman Library has a collection of publications, photographs and newspaper clippings and other items – some of which you see here – available for people to use. 

A Most Unusual Artifact

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, September 06, 2017
Perhaps the most unique artifact in Sherman Library’s collection is an antler-handled sterling silver loving cup, with the inscription, “To General M.H. Sherman in Grateful Remembrance of all his kindness on April 18th 1906.”   

That date – April 18, 1906 – many will recognize as the day of the great San Francisco earthquake.  At 5:12 AM the city was devastated by a massive earthquake, which then ignited fires that burned for three days, largely destroying the city. 

At the time of the earthquake, Moses H. Sherman, like many others in Los Angeles, had family in San Francisco – in Sherman’s case his wife and daughters.  Sometime after 8:30 AM, word of the calamity reached Los Angeles. People went to the train stations to buy tickets for San Francisco, but in the initial hours after the earthquake, the tracks were closed for inspection.  Even the justices of the California Supreme Court, who were in session in Los Angeles, but lived in San Francisco, were unsuccessful in convincing the Southern Pacific Railroad to run a special train for them. 

Moses H. Sherman, a man of action and resources, resolved to make his way to San Francisco. Within two hours of news of the earthquake, Sherman had chartered an engine from the Southern Pacific to pull his personal car to San Francisco. The Justices of the California Supreme Court eagerly accepted Sherman’s invitation to join him, as did Ulysses S. Webb, Attorney General of California, and Charles F. Curry, Secretary of State of California.  Twenty-eight officials and friends rode on Sherman’s train, which started its long  journey at 10:30 AM. 

By 8:20 PM Sherman’s party arrived in Fresno, where they sent an exclusive dispatch to the Los Angeles Times indicating that they expected to reach Oakland by 1:00 AM on April 19th. In fact, it was 4:00 AM before the group reached Oakland.  Sherman was later quoted saying “The red glare across the bay told us that the earlier reports had not been exaggerated.” A ferry took the group across the bay to the burning city. 

Sherman and the other members of his party were able to locate their family members –  all unharmed.  For two days, Sherman stayed in the burning city. On his return, he recalled his experiences. “Market Street as I had known it was only a memory” he was quoted as saying. Ever the businessman and Los Angeles booster, Sherman spoke mostly of San Francisco’s business community, “Those men calmly discussed the details of new business blocks before the flames had died away in the old.”  Not without a little hopefulness, he also noted “Wiping out those San Francisco hotels is bound to make Los Angeles the greatest tourist city in the world.” 

About six months after Sherman’s trip to San Francisco, in late September 1906, a group of San Francisco businessmen visited Los Angeles.  Sherman hosted a sightseeing excursion in his private rail car for the group, which included banker William H. Crocker. After the sightseeing trip, the group invited Sherman to accompany them to the Bolsa Chica Gun Club for dinner. To his surprise, he was the guest of honor at the dinner. J. T. Wilson presented Sherman with the loving cup on behalf of the justices of the California Supreme Court.  The Los Angeles Times’ described the night: “Gen. M. H. Sherman had the surprise of his life last night – a surprise so pleasant that it will make him happier all his days, and at the same time so touching that he broke down and wept like a child.” The cup, which was made by Shreve & Co. of San Francisco, had in addition to the inscription on the front, facsimiles of the signatures of each of the Supreme Court Justices. 

But this was not the last token of thanks that Sherman would receive for his actions on the day of the earthquake.  Exactly one year later, passengers on Sherman’s train gathered together again in Los Angeles at the California Club to honor Sherman.  According to the Los Angeles Times, “Over it all ran a ripple of compliments toward Gen. Sherman for the happy thought and the prompt, energetic action that made the night ride to San Francisco possible. Gen. Sherman sat at the head of the table between Gen. [Harrison Grey] Otis and Chief Justice Beatty, blushing furiously; he protested that it was worse than the night ride through the San Joaquin Valley.” 

When Sherman returned to his home later that night, he found upon his desk a sterling silver pitcher inscribed with words almost identical to that of the loving cup: “To General M.H. Sherman with Grateful Remembrance of all his kindness April 18th 1906.”  The cup also has the names of nine of the passengers who rode with Sherman on that eventful night.

M. H. Sherman, Arnold Haskell, and the Hollywood Sign

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, September 06, 2017
What does the Hollywood sign have to do with Sherman Library & Gardens?  Quite a lot, as it turns out.  The Hollywood sign started out as the Hollywoodland sign, an advertising gimmick designed to attract buyers to a new luxury housing subdivision: Hollywoodland.  Dubbed “the supreme achievement in community building,” the subdivision land was owned by Moses H. Sherman, namesake of Sherman Library & Gardens.  In 1922, Sherman put together the Hollywoodland syndicate (as business partnerships were often called then) which included his business partner and brother-in-law Eli P. Clark, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, and developers Tracy Shoults and Sydney H. Woodruff.  The Hollywoodland sign cost the syndicate $23,501.32. While the sign proved popular, sales of lots in Hollywoodland were lackluster.  The cost of building in the Hollywood hills was too high for many and the Great Depression ended any hope of making money from the deal.  In 1933, the syndicate dissolved and the unsold land, including the Hollywoodland sign, became property of the M. H. Sherman Company.
Promotional photograph for
Hollywoodland, ca. 1923.
Sherman Library Collections 

Increasingly in disrepair, maintenance of the sign became a problem for Arnold Haskell, future founder of Sherman Library & Gardens –  and after Sherman’s death in 1932 – president of M. H. Sherman Company. The sign was expensive to maintain, but it was not generating any revenues. On September 19, 1936 the left most “O” in the sign fell down.  Two days later Haskell had a report detailing the structural problems of the sign – letter by letter.  But the cost was too high considering how few lots were selling.  By 1938 the condition had worsened to the extent that Hollywood Citizen-News published a letter from a reader who wrote, “I wish that during the Easter vacation some of the public-spirited Hollywood High School students would get [the] necessary equipment and go up to the ‘HOLLYWOODLAND’ sign on Hollywood Mountain and replace two or three of the letters that have blown down.”  In early 1939, the company bowed to public pressure and repaired the sign at a cost of $2,177.43.  But the company continued to look for ways to rid itself of the sign – even negotiating, but never signing – a deal with the producers of the film Wilson to use the sign’s superstructure to mount advertising for the movie’s opening, in return for removing the entire sign afterward. The solution finally came in the form of a gift. In 1945, the M. H. Sherman Company donated 455 acres, including the sign, to the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, as an addition to Griffith Park.  Later the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce paid to repair the sign and remove the “LAND” portion.