In recent weeks, the Indy came to the aid of authors Foster Eubank and Gene Felder in assembling content for the “Then and Now” photo book about Laguna Beach. Readers’ responses to published historical photos aided them in recapturing the identical but contemporary scene.
Now, they seek help in locating specific historic photos of existing buildings, briefly described below. Readers willing to lend historic images to the authors should contact Felder at 939-7257.
By Gene Felder, Special to the Independent
Old Sewer Plant
The old sewer treatment plant on Laguna Canyon Road, whose address was 521-527 Forest Avenue, was completed in 1935 at a construction cost of $165,838.
“Without a doubt, this is the most attractive sewage treatment plant in the known world. The vent on the hillside is also cute. Both are built in the Mediterranean style.
“Many of us who grew up here were told by humorous father that the hillside vent was really a lighthouse left over from when the ocean level was higher,” from “The Cottages and Castles of Laguna” by Karen Wilson Turnbull, page 31.
The Jahraus Building, also known as the South Coast News or Eschbach building, stood at 305 Forest Avenue.
“Construction date: Factual 1927. This Normandy Revival building was constructed as the headquarters of the South Coast News, the newspaper’s home for 45 years (1927-72). The South Coast News began as Laguna Life in 1915. It was Laguna’s first newspaper and the first newspaper to be in Southern Orange County. Printed and initially published in Santa Ana, the South Coast News was moved to Laguna Beach after the paper was purchased by Walter E. Clemmons in 1927. The building was designed by Yann Egasse, a local architect of French heritage, who also designed the nearby Laguna Beach Lumber building [and Peppertree Lane]. The builder was pioneer Lagunan Elmer E. Jahraus, the owner of Laguna Beach Lumber. Outstanding in its architectural uniqueness, the structure served as a newspaper office until the early 1970’s, when it was purchased [Editor’s Note: property is still owned by the Jahraus family] by Eschbach’s Florist shop. It is now  a local attraction, particularly at Christmas when thousands of people pay to browse through the artistic floral and antique displays that blend so well with the French influenced style of the building,” from City’s Historic Resources Inventory.
Wanted: The Old Ranch House or Woman’s Club prior to the 1951 building of City Hall, 505 Forest Ave.
“Though not yet old enough to warrant being designated as part of history, the Laguna Beach City Hall is an important and key component of the civic buildings located along Forest and Third,” reads an excerpt from the city’s Historic Resources Inventory. “This building, like the others, has been designed in the Mediterranean Revival style by local architect Aubrey St. Clair in partnership with W.B. Verity. This is Laguna’s first City Hall; previously the council met in the Water District office.
“The pepper tree in front of the City Hall is said to have been planted by George Rogers about 1880 as part of his homesteading requirements. Mr. Rogers was the early owner of the land on which the City Hall sits; it was later sold to another early pioneer, Oscar Warling, who had a home here prior to the turn of the century which later became the Women’s Club.”
St Francis by the Sea Cathedral
430 Park Avenue
“This church is one of two American Catholic cathedrals in the entire country,” says Turnball in “The Cottages and Castles of Laguna,” page 30.
In the Guiness Book of World Records, [editor note: now second smallest] it is listed as the “smallest Catholic church.” The structure was built in 1933 from earthquake rubble from the Long Beach earthquake. It was built by the followers of Bishop Percy Wise Clarkson, who had been removed from the Episcopal church and had joined this smaller church. The building itself, contains all of the religious items necessary to be officially considered a cathedral. The building is only 17′ x 60’ and there are 14 pews of three seats each for a seating capacity of 42.”
Gene Felder is treasurer of the Laguna Beach Historical Society