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From Sherman Library's Collections

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

Big Corona Beach - Then and Now

Paul Wormser - Monday, February 25, 2019

On March 18, 1914 someone stood on the Corona del Mar bluffs to snap a picture of the beach, now known as Big Corona.  This photograph is interesting, both for what it includes and what it does not include.  There are no people and no homes.  The only sign that the beach was ever used is the pier. In more than a century, this scene has transformed.  Just compared it to another picture recently taken from the same spot.

George Hart, the original promoter of Corona del Mar, constructed the pier about 1904 as part of a deal to acquire Corona del Mar from the Irvine Company.  The pier extended out in line with Marguerite Ave., which was originally called Pier Ave. It does not, however, seem to have ever seen much use.   Mary Burton, an early resident of Corona del Mar, wrote in her memoir Happy House: Early Days in Corona del Mar, "Over the years most of the flooring had been stripped off, probably for beach fires, but the pilings themselves were pretty much in place."  She also recalled the day, about 1917, when the pier washed away, "I rushed out to see the biggest waves I've ever seen rolling in. It was a perfectly clear sunny day...As each wave came in and hit it would snap the piling off just like a matchstick. "

When the 1914 picture was taken, Corona del Mar was not yet part of Newport Beach and the beach itself was private property.  Recognizing the value of the beaches for tourism, the City of Newport Beach eventually took action to acquire the land.  In 1931 the city filed a suit again the Citizens National Trust and Bank, which then owned the beach, to clarify the title on the beach lands.  The suit lasted for five years before the city and the bank negotiated an agreement that gave the beach title to the city in return for other land in Corona del Mar.  Then in 1947 the city agreed to deed the land to the State of California in return for the State acquiring additional parcels on the bluffs and declaring the site as Corona del Mar State Park.  In 1963, it was re-designated Corona del Mar State Beach.

The homes that now dot the cliffs for the most part started to appear in the 1950s.  As for the spot where the 1914 photograph was taken, it too has changed.  Were it not for a kind Corona del Mar resident who let me tromp through her backyard, I could not have taken a photo from the same vantage as the 1914 photographer.

Re-creating World War I in Corona del Mar

Paul Wormser - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A century ago, America went to war. Men from Orange County and across the nation heeded the call to service during World War I.  By the end of the war, 4 million men served, half of those going abroad to fight.  More than 100,000 American “doughboys” lost their lives in World War I.

In 1917, Corona del Mar was a peaceful rural enclave, -- as far from the battlefields in France as one could imagine. So, it might seem ironic that a decade after the end of the “War to End All Wars,” movie makers arrived in Corona del Mar to recreate World War I. In fact, the Academy Award winning All Quiet on the Western Front, included battle scenes filmed in Corona del Mar.

Sherman Library.

In 1928, Erich Maria Remarque published All Quite on the Western Front, which immediately became an international best seller, selling more than 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first 18 months after publication. Hollywood filmmakers took notice, and before the year was out, began production of a film version.

Scene fromAll Quite on the Western Front, filmed in Corona del Mar, Briscoe Collection, 
Sherman Library.

Filming of All Quiet on the Western Front began in November, 1929 at a variety of locations, including Universal Studios, RKO-Pathe in Culver City and Laguna Beach. The battlefield scenes, however, were staged in a Corona del Mar field, bordered by present day MacArthur Blvd, San Miguel Dr., San Joaquin Hills Rd., and Crown Dr.

Universal Pictures hired about 150 World War I veterans through the American Legion posts in Los Angeles and Santa Ana. They also bought 250 real World War I uniforms, complete with rifles and field kits for $29,000. The battlefield included trenches, craters and denuded trees.

Scene from All Quite on the Western Front filmed in Corona del Mar, Briscoe Collection,
Sherman Library.

All Quiet on the Western Front was filmed at the time that the industry was transitioning to “talkies.” In September 1929, the Ritz Theater in Balboa even announced that it would only show “talkies” from then on. The movie went from the start of production in November 1929 to its Los Angeles premier on August 24, 1930. All Quiet on the Western Front won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1930.

A Birds Eye View of Corona del Mar in 1929

Paul Wormser - Monday, February 04, 2019

Sherman Library has an extensive collection of aerial photographs of Corona del Mar.  This photograph from the collection shows just how quiet and undeveloped Corona del Mar was in 1929.  Entire blocks were vacant, while others had only a single residence.  Even though access to Corona del Mar improved with the completion of Coast Highway, which you can see running across the top of the photo, sales of lots in Corona del Mar were rare. 

In the foreground of the photograph is the harbor entrance, which includes some interesting landmarks.  The large ship in the channel was the stranded hulk of the Muriel, a cargo ship that also appeared in the movie The Sea Hawk (1924) and later served as a fishing barge.  In 1926, it ran aground on a sandbar and remained there until its removal in 1931. 

Across from the Muriel is a beach, now known as China Cove.  The current name for the beach came from a house with Chinese-inspired architecture that was constructed a year after this photograph was taken.  One the left side of China Cove is the Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory owned by Cal Tech, one of the few landmarks remaining today.   Directly above the Kerckhoff is Dahlia Ave.  Two streets over and higher up on the photograph is the Goldenrod footbridge.

Finally, in what is today called Pirates' Cove stands the Sparr Bathhouse.  Early surfers, such as Duke Kahanamoku, used this bathhouse built by William Sparr, one of a succession of unsuccessful Corona del Mar real estate promoters.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Founding Sherman Library & Gardens

Paul Wormser - Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Sherman Library & Gardens’ origins can be traced to one day in April 1914. On that day, Moses Hazeltine Sherman approached Arnold Haskell,  a young man working as a clerk at the reception desk of the Mission Inn in Riverside, with a job offer.  Years later Haskell recalled, “The General [Sherman] came in and he said, ‘Arnold, do you want to work for me?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ He said, ‘Well, the train leaves for Los Angeles at four o'clock this afternoon.’ Years later, Arnold Haskell would honor the man who hired him by naming Sherman Library & Gardens after him.


A Young Arnold Haskell at work, ca. 1920
Sherman Library 

In 1914 when Sherman hired Haskell, Sherman was a highly successful and well-known businessman.  More than forty years before, as a young man, Sherman had moved to the Arizona Territory to teach school.  In the coming years, he would rise in prominence, becoming the first Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Later, he was appointed, and then re-elected, Adjutant General of Arizona, in charge of the territorial militia – thus earning the honorary title “General.” He also manifested a talent for finance and investment – in mines and real estate initially.  He eventually owned the Phoenix Street Railway, had a controlling interest in the Phoenix Water Company and owned considerable land in Phoenix, even donating the land on which sits the State Capital building.  By 1890 he was looking to expand his investments.  He chose Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, Sherman began acquiring street railroads to created the first network of electric street cars, the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway. He then built the first interurban in Southern California, the Los Angeles and Pasadena Railway.  While building his railroads and investing in land, Sherman was also making friends.  Most prominent among these were Harrison Grey Otis, founder of the Los Angeles Times; Harry Chandler, Otis’s son-in-law and publisher of the Times; Otto F. Brant, a founder of Title Insurance and Trust Company; and Hobart Whitley, sometimes known as the “Father of Hollywood.”  In 1909, these men formed the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company, which acquired 47,500 acres of farmland in the San Fernando Valley and subdivided it following the arrival of water through the Los Angeles Aqueduct, creating Canoga Park, Van Nuys and Encino in the process. In 1912, members of this same group purchased the Tejon Ranch, which encompassed more than 275,000 acres at the top of Tejon Pass.

Thus, when Arnold Haskell signed on with Sherman, he was agreeing to work for one of the most prominent and successful businessmen in Los Angeles.  When Sherman hired Haskell, there was no negotiation over salary or responsibilities.  Haskell did not know what his duties would be or how much he would be paid.  He could not have known that he would stay in the Sherman’s employ for the next eighteen years, becoming his almost constant companion, closest confidant and eventual successor to his business interests.

Haskell became Sherman’s personal secretary, working with him on every aspect of his businesses.  In the years that Haskell worked for Sherman, he continued to launch new enterprises.  For example, Sherman became one of the founders of the Los Angeles Steamship Company, a passenger line with routes to San Francisco and Honolulu. He also created a partnership that developed Hollywoodland, and subdivided 1,000 acres of his San Fernando Valley holdings to create Sherman Oaks.

Sherman passed away in 1932. The last couple of years of his life, in ill health, he retreated to a home on Bay Island, in Newport Harbor.  Sherman’s illness and the effects of the Great Depression left his estate deeply in debt, despite valuable land holdings.  In the first few years following Sherman’s death, Arnold Haskell worked with extraordinary tenacity and intelligence as trustee of the estate and president of the M. H. Sherman Company to turn around the investments. Haskell then focused on expanding his real estate portfolio, acquiring prime land in Los Angles, Newport Beach and Dana Point.  By 1951, he felt he was successful enough to launch a new career as a philanthropist.  With Sherman’s two daughters – Lucy and Hazeltine –  Haskell created the Sherman Foundation. 

In its first 15 years the Foundation functioned as a grant-making institution, but that would eventually change.  In 1955, Haskell moved his business offices from Los Angeles to Corona del Mar after buying a parcel of land at the corner of Coast Highway and Dahlia from Norman’s Nursery.  The lot had a small adobe house dating from the late 1930s which Haskell used as an office.  In 1956 he added additional office space.  Both the adobe and office addition are now occupied by Sherman Library.

Arnold Haskell then started buying more property on the same block. He had to do this quietly to  keep the sellers from raising prices.  It took him more than a decade to acquire the land that is now Sherman Library & Gardens.  Having done so, the Sherman Foundation shifted its focus from grants to creating to creating a research library and public gardens. Planning began in earnest 50 years ago.  It was not until 1974 that construction of Sherman Library & Gardens was complete

So why did Arnold Haskell name Sherman Library & Gardens after his mentor?  In 1974, Haskell said:

[Sherman] was a heck of a good teacher, too; he taught me everything I know about business …  But one thing the General wanted: he wanted his name to be perpetuated. Now I never cared for that. In 1951, when I founded the Foundation, the attorneys wanted me to call it the Arnold Haskell Foundation, because they felt that, being alive, I could accomplish more with it than if it was named after somebody that nobody knew. But I thought, well, this is the opportunity… to carry on the General's name.


Arnold Haskell and founding Gardens Director Wade Roberts cutting the ribbon at the opening of the South Gate, 1972
Sherman Library