Laguna Beach History

2017-11-22 07:39:50


Since the very beginning, Laguna Beach has stood apart from the rest of Orange County thanks to its dramatic topography. Vertical cliffs, natural carved coves, cavernous canyons and rolling hills surround a small, flat basin that have always beckoned tourists to escape the inland heat. The marine life, spectacular coastline, caves, magnificent geology, and incredible beaches are just a few examples of the opulence Laguna Beach has had to offer, long before man has been around to appreciate it.
Scientists suggest that the coastline formed about 10 million years ago. Bones of prehistoric animals remain as evidence (10 million year old shark teeth in Laguna Canyon), and some rocks in Laguna Beach can date back to 65 million years. The last Ice Age helped carve out the canyons, hills, and landscape that we see today.
Three Arch Bay on the south to Crystal Cove on the North stretches 8.5 miles, and encompasses over 30 coves, coastal mountains, and precarious sea cliffs.
Coastal Indians, that first utilized the freshwater lagoons and canyons, named the area Lagonas. Around 1870’s, when the European settlers arrived, they were pleased to discover the region had not been included in any Spanish/Mexican land grants, unlike the rest of Orange County. That meant that the land was still owned by the government and was available for homesteading. The Timber-Culture Act of 1871 allowed anyone who agreed to plant 10 acres of trees in the area (over 10 years and live there while they grew) to be granted 160 acres. Most of Laguna Beach was planted with Australian Eucalyptus, and that allowed shade for the growing community but provided little to no additional benefits.
Soon the surplus of trees were removed and Laguna Beach was recognized as a beautiful beachfront resort. Loading up the stage coach simply for a weekend away was a trip that few could afford. However, some inlanders would voyage from Santa Ana or El Toro to build summer homes, cottages, or merely pitch a tent for some spectacular views and an ocean breeze.
By the late 1880’s, there were only 15 families that considered Laguna Beach a permanent residence, but summer always brought a beach full of canvas tents. The same remains true today with an estimated 24,000 permanent families in the area and 40,000 visitors daily between June and August.
After the turn of the century, Norman ST. Clair, a watercolor painter from San Francisco, is said to have settled in Laguna Beach, and encouraged fellow artists to follow his lead. The Laguna Beach Art Association was started by 30 artists, in 1918, and still exists today. The city now has more than 75 art galleries.
Whether strolling through the public park, taking in the sunset over the Pacific, or exploring the local tidepools, Laguna Beach has charm that can be appreciated by locals and visitors alike.