Wanted for Posterity: Views Erased by Time (Part 2)


Authors on the hunt for ‘then’ and ‘now’ photo locations

By Gene Felder, Special to the Independent


Coast Boulevard opens in 1926 with a parade and Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Photo from Frank B Champion Collection.

Readers are likely aware of the 2009 book “Images of America – Laguna Beach” by Claire Vogel published by Arcadia Publishing. The company also has a “Then and Now” series, and Foster Eubank and I will be the authors for the Laguna Beach edition.


Eubank, who grew up in Laguna, will spend this summer taking current “now” photographs to document what has changed in Laguna over time. The Laguna Beach Historical Society will provide “then” photos and I will research the information to provide the text for the book.


Readers can help by letting us know the precise location needed to take the “now” photos, such as these three. They should call me at 939-7257 or Foster at 702-219-7243.


Gene Felder is treasurer of the Laguna Beach Historical Society.


Laguna Beach, north of Laguna Creek (now Broadway), was part of the Irvine Ranch. To raise money to pay his property taxes, James Irvine would from time to time sell off coastal properties that were not particularly good for growing crops.


In 1905, Howard G. Heisler, L.C. McKnight and the Thumb brothers purchased North Laguna from the Irvine Company. In 1906, North Laguna was subdivided and called Laguna Cliffs, the first neighborhood offering water with every lot.


Somewhere in Laguna Beach in 1915.

Lots along the coast bluff top covering approximately 18.5 acres became Heisler Park, but by 1929 Mr. Heisler had second thoughts about not developing the primely situated coastal strand and decided to renege on his offer to dedicate the land for a park. Elmer Jahraus, a Cliff Drive resident and key entrepreneur in early Laguna, felt the decision to develop the land was wrong and filed suit. He won and the land has remained a park to this day. The Laguna Beach Art Association (now Laguna Art Museum) at Cliff Drive and Coast Highway was sold by Howard Heisler at half its market value and the art gallery building was constructed in 1928


From author Merle Ramsey, in “Pioneer Days of Laguna Beach,” the Heisler, McKnight and Thumb brothers extended from Broadway to what is now Emerald Bay.


The land below the present highway was named Laguna Cliffs. The land above, McKnight’s Addition. Water was piped from up the canyon and was to be used for this section exclusively.”


The view from Boat Canyon looking south.

From “Tales of Early Laguna” column by Elizabeth H. Quilter. “During that same year, 1906, Mr. William Miles, Sr. brought his 15 year old son to Laguna for a two week vacation. Miles was interested in acquiring properties in the area. They stayed at the Hotel Laguna [editor’s note: Laguna Beach Hotel] which had none of the charm of the present hotel and which served a rather low cuisine. In fact, parts of it had once belonged to the old hotel on Arch Street, and had been trundled down and affixed to the Laguna hotel.


The weather was abominable and Miles was ready to pack up and return to Los Angeles. He figured the future for Laguna was bleak mainly because of lack of water. However, the sun came out at last and Miles fell into conversation with Joe Jahraus, Sr. [editor’s note: Elmer E. Jahraus] who owned a tobacco shop in the hotel and plied real estate on the side. It so happened that Jahraus knew of a property north of Laguna, called Green Bay, consisting of 148.6 acres and a fine beach. It was owned by James Irvine who always seemed to be in need of money. The upshot was a short buggy ride and a sale of the property for $26,000 to Miles and his partner, Harry Callender.


The following year Miles built a house overlooking the Bay, agreed to let the Bathgate brothers grow corn and lima beans in the flatlands, and rented out portions of the beach to an auto camp run by a Mr. Allen. It was Allen’s daughter who changed the name, Green Bay, to Emerald Bay.”


Oct. 9, 1926, Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks officiated at the dedication of state highway Coast Boulevard. Until then, the only way in and out of Laguna Beach was by boat, or by Laguna Canyon or Aliso Canyon. The City of Laguna Beach was incorporated in the following year, June 29, 1927.



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