HISTORY OF REDONDO BEACH
BY MAUREEN MEGOWAN, REMAX PALOS VERDES REALTY
In 1854, a natural salt lake located between Pacific and Francesca Avenues,at the northern end ofRedondo Beach--just outside ofHermosa Beach, known as the "Old Salt Lake". was sold to Henry Allenson and William Johnson. This sale precipitated the establishment of Pacific Salt Works, which extracted and sold salt and operated through approx. 1908.
Redondo Salt Works 1890
Redondo Salt Works 1895
In 1890, the Hotel Redondo opened. The City was becoming "The Place" for tourists. Railroads and steamships brought people by the thousands, not to mention freight loads of oil and lumber. At this time, Redondo was the first port of Los Angeles County. Steamers from the Pacific Steamship Company stopped at Redondo four times a week, at one of its three piers, as part of regular runs between San Francisco and San Diego. The Redondo Railway Company and the Santa Fe Railroad left Los Angeles daily for Redondo at regular intervals. Eventually the City was served by Henry Huntingtons Big Red Electric Cars.
The Hotel Redondo, with its 18-hole golf course, lush landscaping, tennis courts and 225 luxurious rooms, each of which was "touched by sunlight at some time of the day," induced more visitors than ever before to venture to the coast. If the price of hotel accommodations was too steep, one could rent a tent at nearby Tent City on property just north of the Hotel. Patrons were charged $3.00 per week, or $10.00 per month for a tent. Wooden floors and electric lights were included in the price.
Seagull Inn on the Redondo Beach Esplanade in the 1890's
Redondo Beach was also the home of California´s first modern surfer. In 1907, Henry Huntington brought the ancient art of Hawaiian surfing to the California coast. He owned most of the properties in Redondo Beach and was eager to sell them to visiting Angelenos looking for a break from the heat of the greater Los Angeles basin. Huntington had seen Hawaiian beach boys surfing and decided to hire one of them; a young Hawaiian-English athlete named George Freeth to demonstrate the art of surfing for the entertainment of Redondo Beach visitors.
George wanted to revive the art of surfing that he had seen depicted in old Polynesian paintings but found it difficult and had little success using the typical 16-foot hardwood boards. He cut them in half and unwittingly created the original long board which worked exceedingly well and made him the talk of the Hawaiian Islands.
Starting in 1908, "The Man Who Could Walk On Water" as he was called, gave surfing demonstrations for the many tourists arriving at the beach on the big, red streetcars.George exhibited his surfing prowess for Redondo Beach visitors twice a day in front of the Hotel Redondo. He was eventually made the official Redondo Beach lifeguard and the first lifeguard in Southern California. From 1907 to 1915, George spread a surfing revolution that would eventually become a phenomenon on the California Coast. A memorial bronze statue of George Freeth was placed at the Redondo Beach Pier and it is often decorated with leis as tribute from surfers who visit from around the world.
Several natural and man-made novelties lured visitors to Redondo Beach. Between Diamond Street and the Hermosa Beach city line there was Moonstone Beach. Natural mounds five to six feet deep and 40 to 50 feet wide of gem stones were there to poke around in.
Carnation Gardens, in the general vicinity of Ruby and Sapphire Streets east of Catalina Avenue, offered 12 acres of sweet smelling flowers that were almost always in bloom. The piers, too, were an attraction. Sports fishing was unsurpassed and amusements such as games, rides and the largest salt water plunge in the world added to the excitement.
On April 18, 1892, Redondo voters adopted city-hood by a vote of 177-10. The first City Hall was built in 1908 at Benita and Emerald Street.
The Redondo Beach Plunge, billed as the "largest indoor salt-water-heated pool in the world", was built in 1909 by Henry Edward Huntington. Four-stories and Moorish in style, it housed three pools heated by Pacific Light and Power's steam plant (originally built to generate electricity for the Red Cars). A tower, two diving boards, and a trapeze were features of the large main pool. It was located on the beach, between the ends of the Horseshoe Pier, where a parking structure stands today.
The Redondo Beach Plunge (Brent C. Dickerson)
Throwing through more than 1,000,000gallon of water per dayc. 1915
One of the popular tourist attractions was The Redondo Beach Lightning Racer roller coaster which had two parallel tracks. In cars traveling over 6000 feet of track, riders had the sensation of racing those in the adjoining car. First opened to the public in 1913, the Lightning Racer was located on the beach just north of old Wharf One (and today's Municipal Pier). Severely damaged by an extreme storm in March 1915, the coaster was demolished.
"Lightning Racer" roller coaster
Redondo Beach Lightning Racer roller coaster from Pier
A storm in 1915 so severely damaged the Lightning Racer, (opened July 4, 1913) that it had to be dismantled. (Los Angeles Public Library)
Other Redondo Beach attractions adjacent to the Plunge included the Casino and Dance Pavillion / Auditorium.
Picture of horseback riders on Torrance Beach in the early 1920's just past Redondo Beach in front of the "Flotsam Castle" ( See my history of Torrance web page for a detailed history and more pictures of the "Flotsam Castle"
Redondo Piers and Hotel Redondo
In 1916, a municipal pier referred to as the “endless pier” or "the Pleasure Pier" was constructed in a “V” shape to replace the destroyed Wharf 1. A 450-foot long northern leg began at the former location of the old Wharf No. 1. At the western end of the northerly leg stood a 160-foot x 200-foot platform including an observation building (destroyed in 1919 storms). From this platform, the Pier headed back to shore just south of the Bathhouse on the 450-foot southern leg.
The 1919 storm that destroyed Wharf 2 severely damaged the endless pier, and ultimately the pier was demolished in 1928 and a new wooden horseshoe shaped pier was constructed in 1929.
In 1926, Captain Hans C. Monstad constructed a pier adjacent to the endless pier to provide landings for all fishing boats and pleasure crafts operating in Redondo Beach, including the gambling ship “The Rex”. By 1938, the pier had been extended to 450 feet. By connecting the west end of the Monstad Pier with the center of the Horseshoe Pier in 1983, the Fishing Promenade provided more space for sport fishing.
Big time gambling, complete with mobsters and shooting incidents, found its way to Redondo during the Depression. Chip games, bingo parlors, and a casino were run in full view of the law between 1936 and 1940. For a fare of 25 cents, a water-taxi would transport a visitor to the gambling ship Rex which operated three miles off shore. See my web blog entryTHE REX GAMBLING SHIP for a more detailed, very interesting story of off shore gambling during the depression.
Storms have been an ever-present danger to the City's piers. They have been washed out, then rebuilt, then washed out again.
Redondo's first breakwater was built in 1939 and although the cost was more than $500,000, it provided only limited protection. Because of the way it was constructed, wave action and the normal movement of the beach sand was altered. Following every storm, sand accumulated north of the breakwater. Eventually the beach area between Diamond and Beryl Streets was obliterated. A raging storm in 1953 caused extensive damage not only to the breakwater, but to City streets and private property. In 1956, work began on the marina Redondo has today--King Harbor. It is named after the man who was a moving force behind it, Representative Cecil R. King (Democrat, 17th District).
King Harbor under construction
Seaside Lagoon in King Harbor after construction
Redondos population boomed in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1890, the population was 668; in 1940 it was 13,092; and in 1965 it was 54,772. Today, Redondo citizens number a little over 63,000. Still known as a tourist and resort town, Redondo can boast of piers with fishing and amusements, a Saltwater Lagoon reminiscent of the old plunge, many fine food restaurants and hotels, and a beautiful harbor.
Hollywood Riviera is an area located in both Redondo Beach and Torrance at the base of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Hollywood Riviera was initially developed by Clifford Reid.Clifford Reid was fascinated by the motion picture industry, and when he first viewed the area he compared it to the French Riviera. He believed that it would be very attractive to the Hollywood crowd, thus naming it Hollywood Riviera.
A tract sales office was built at the comer of Monte D'Oro and Palos Verdes Boulevard, which included a large dining hall and lecture hall built behind the office for sales presentations. Reid began selling lots in the 604 acre development in 1927 for the Huntington Land Company for about $3,500 .
Reid’s plan to attract movie stars to buy lots was severely impacted by the Depression, and the development’s anti-Semitic policies, which prohibited Hollywood elites such as Louis B. Mayer and Sam Goldwyn from owning property there.
Clifford Reid built the Hollywood Riviera Beach Club in 1931 as a glamorous amenity which would encourage homebuyers to buy lots. Residents of the Hollywood Riviera development automatically became members of the club, though dues were required to use the pool and to attend special events held there. The club was located on the beach at the current location of Miramar Park and had a 75 foot swimming pool.A putt-putt golf course existed just east of the Beach Club in the early thirties where the Vista Bahia apartments now stand.
Roy Stewart, Reid’s brother-in-law, managed the club from 1930-1942. Several South Bay organizations met at the Club. Not long after Pearl Harbor, the military installed anti-aircraft guns in the hills by Torrance beach, and the pounding of the ensuing target practice structurally damaged the club, which closed in 1942,
The club reopened after the war after Reid sold it, and its new owners made it a public club which operated throughout the 1950’s as a night club. The border of Torrance and Redondo Beach ran down the middle of the club, and supposedly customers would have to cross from one side of the tavern to the other to stay in compliance with each city’s liquor laws.
Aerial view of club
Unfortunately, the club suffered some flood damage from storms both in 1955 and 1957.Norton Wisdom, had taken over the club in 1957 and signed a new lease which extended until June 30, 1965. Mysteriously, on Sept. 25, 1958 a fire broke out that completely destroyed the club.
For years afterward, plans were made to re-develop the site. One proposal was a teen center. In 1964, the Sovereign Development Co. had proposed a plan to build a 16-story apartment complex on the site but the proposal was opposed by Hollywood Riviera residents. Eventually, in 1972 courts ruled that the property’s then-owner, Oscar Berk, could not build upon the property that he had purchased for $600,000 as the land had reverted to public ownership.
Roy Stewart, Reid’s brother-in-law, managed the club from 1930-1942. Several South Bay organizations met at the Club. Not long after Pearl Harbor, the military installed anti-aircraft guns in the hills by Torrance beach, and the pounding of the ensuing target practice structurally damaged the club, which closed in 1942
The club reopened after the war after Reid sold it, and its new owners made it a public club which operated throughout the 1950’s as a night club. The border of Torrance and Redondo Beach ran down the middle of the club, and supposedly customers would have to cross from one side of the tavern to the other to stay in compliance with each city’s liquor lawClick on this link for a slideshow of historical photos of the Hollywood Riviera Beach Club:
Unfortunately, the club suffered some flood damage from storms both in 1955 and 1957.Norton Wisdom, had taken over the club in 1957 and signed a new lease which extended until June 30, 1965. Mysteriously, on Sept. 28, 1958 a fire broke out that completely destroyed the club.
To this day, surfers refer to this surfing spot as "Burn-out".For years afterward, plans were made to re-develop the site. One proposal was a teen center. In 1964, the Sovereign Development Co. had proposed a plan to build a 16-story apartment complex on the site but the proposal was opposed by Hollywood Riviera residents. Eventually, in 1972 courts ruled that the property’s then-owner, Oscar Berk, could not build upon the property that he had purchased for $600,000 as the land had reverted to public ownership. Today, the site serves as a public park and parking lot.
See the Palos Verdes Peninsula News Article on Maureen Megowan's Historical Web Pages
Thank to the Redondo Beach Historical Commission for the use of several photos on this page. To see many more, please visit the Redondo BeachHistorical Museum in Heritage Court. For a wonderful booklet with many other historical photos, go to the following link: Redondo Beach 1880-1930
Click on the following links for the history of individual cities in the South Bay Los Angeles beach communities:
HISTORY OF PALOS VERDES ESTATES
HISTORY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES
HISTORY OF ROLLING HILLS ESTATES AND ROLLING HILLS
HISTORY OF MANHATTAN BEACH
HISTORY OF HERMOSA BEACH
HISTORY OF EL SEGUNDO
HISTORY OF TORRANCE
HISTORY OF SAN PEDRO
HISTORY OF LOMITA
HISTORY OF REDONDO BEACH