OF HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
by FERN RHEIN -- 1933
Hermosa Beach was originally part of the ten-mile Ocean frontage of Rancho Sausal Redondo. In the year of 1900 a tract of fifteen hundred acres was purchased for $35.00 per acre from A. E. Pomroy, then owner of the greater part of Rancho Sausal Redondo. Messrs. Burbank and Baker, agents, bought this land for Sherman and Clark who organized and retained the controlling interest in the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company.
In early days, Hermosa Beach like so many of its neighboring cities - Inglewood, Lawndale, Torrance - was one vast sweep of rolling hills covered with fields of grain, mostly barley. During certain seasons of the year large herds of sheep were grazed over this land, and corrals and large barns for storing the grain, as well as providing shelter for horses and farm implements were located on the ranch between Hermosa and Inglewood. The Spanish words, Rancho Sausal Redondo, mean a large circular ranch of pasture of grazing land, with a grove of willows on it.
Old time residents claim that the climate in early days was much pleasanter than at present, being warmer and having less fog; but much sand was always blowing from across the sand dunes. Mrs. Dorcas Ingram, early resident and author, wrote a pleasing bit of verse about Hermosa in which she describes the beach wind in these few lines:
"But my inmost being shrank
From the greeting chill and dank
Of a wind forever blowing
O'er the sand dunes of Hermosa."
One can visualize those early uninhabited sandhills as they stretched along the coast in dreary wastes of fine white sand, and a wind forever blowing it in clouds across the gentle slopes of green hills beyond. We can imagine, too, the gold of sand flowers blooming and the purple wild verbena trailing their flower wreaths over every mound from one sand dune to another.
It must have made a beautiful picture for one who stood on the hills beyond the dunes on an early morning, looking at the panoramic view of the distant Santa Monica Mountains pushing their way far out into the sea on the north, the green Palos Verdes hills on the south, and perhaps, if the day was clear of haze, see Catalina Island in the distance. Directly in front lay the boundless Pacific lashing far distant shores of the Orient as it, at the same time, drove its mighty cavalcade of "sea horses" with white manes flying, dashing across the gleaming sands in rolling breakers that washed the level beach reaching for ten miles from Santa Monica to Redondo.
We can easily understand why those early pioneers, far visioned, planning for a future prosperous, home-loving city, named it Hermosa, meaning "beautiful." Only this softly accented Spanish word could express their delight in its natural beauty; and always to those pioneers who are still living, has it remained not only "home" but "hermosa."
In subdividing this acreage, Messrs. Burbank and Baker realized that some day the beaches around Los Angeles would be valuable as land for pleasure resorts and summer playgrounds for vacation seekers of that fast growing city, and that this two miles of level beach would be very accessible by electric transportation to Los Angeles. They, also realized that this beach was one of the finest, having few rip tides or dangerous undertows and that it sloped gradually into the water. Its sand was washed clean and fine, with no outlying kelp beds to litter it with seaweed at low tides; naturally, they also figured it to be a good financial investment and it proved to be a better one than they had hoped for.
The first official survey was made in the year 1901 for the board walk on the Strand, Hermosa Avenue and Santa Fe Avenue; work on these projects commenced soon after.
In 1904 the first pier was built. It was constructed entirely of wood even to the pilings and it extended five hundred feet out into the ocean. The pier was constructed by the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company. In 1913 this old pier was partly washed away and later torn down and a new one built to replace it.
This pier was built of concrete one thousand feet
long, and paved with asphalt its entire length. Small tiled pavilions were erected
at intervals along the sides to afford shade for fishermen and picnic parties.
A bait stand was built eventually out on the end. Soon after, about 1914, an
auditorium building was constructed; it has housed various enterprises and at
present the public rest rooms, the Los Angeles Life Guard Service, and the local
branch of the Los Angeles County Library occupy rooms in the building. This
pier is municipally owned.
Hermosa Avenue was the first street to be paved. Asphalt was used for surfacing and supplied by the Barbour Asphalt Company who built a plant on the corner of Eighth Street and Hermosa Avenue for the purpose of furnishing the paving material and surfacing the streets of Hermosa. The asphalt used probably came from Ventura. In 1908 this plant burned down and was never rebuilt.
The board walk on the Strand was next undertaken and the lumber ordered for this purpose was planks for a walk sixteen feet wide and for side walks twelve feet wide. The board walk extended the entire length of the two mile strand. High tides sometimes washed portions of this walk away and in 1914, part of it was replaced with cement. The remaining two thousand feet on the north end was finally completed with cement material in 1926.
The water supply for the town was installed by the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company in 1901. They located a well near the old Duncan ranch on the north city limits and a storage tank was built on top of a sand dune near the site of the Ocean View Schools. Later the company bought an artesian well and built a reservoir just outside of the east end of the town. The water from this well was drawn from a limitless subterranean reservoir three hundred feet below the surface of the ground and has proved of the finest quality, being free from mineral content.
The Santa Fe railway was the only transportation system through Hermosa Beach. Tracks for this railroad run south through the valley back of the sand dune and into Redondo. It was some seven blocks back of the beach and the street that led out to the tracks was called Santa Fe Avenue but was afterwards renamed Pier Avenue. This street was paved in 1904 as far as the railroad and today is a well paved, broad avenue extending east to the city limits where it meets the County Redondo-Riverside Boulevard. There was no railway station for Hermosa but Burbank and Baker built a platform on the west side of the tracks near Santa Fe Avenue, and later the Railroad Company donated an old boxcar to be used as a storage place for freight.
In 1926 the Santa Fe Company built a modern stucco depot and installed Western Union telegraph service in it. This is located on the north side of Pier Avenue opposite the location of the old boxcar and its platform.
Sherman and Clark, part owners of the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company, built the first electric transportation line into the city in 1904, and called it the Los Angeles Pacific Railway. The Pacific Electric Railroad took it over and built a freight office and passenger station on the northeast corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenues where the First National Bank building now stands. This building was torn down about 1914, and a ticket office and waiting room was installed in one corner of the Walker Bank building that was then built on this corner. On the north city limits, the Pacific Electric Company built a power sub-station very similar in construction to the old freight station, and this still stands though now out of use.
The first election for city officers was held December twenty fourth, nineteen hundred and six, and the town incorporated into a city of the sixth class. Its Charter was obtained from the State on January 14, 1907. The first City Councilmen elected to serve were: John Q, Tufts, who was appointed the first Mayor of Hermosa Beach, Herman Vetter, who was the first City Clerk; John Bunz, Otto Meyer, Benn H. Hiss and Arthur Jones were the City's first trustees. Judge Wilbur E. Curtis and Ozias Willis served occasionally as legal advisors. At this time the city acquired ownership of its two mile stretch of ocean frontage, this being included in an original deed to the city from the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company; this did not include the two hundred and ten feet on each side of the pier. The deed stated that it was to be held in perpetuity as a beach playground, free from commerce, and for the benefit of not only the residents of Hermosa, but also for the sea lovers of Southern California. Hermosa Beach has never permitted cheap amusements along its Strand and its original ideals are its present day standards. The sports of fishing and swimming have always been ideal here, and many famous anglers have reeled their lines off its pier and people of world renown have splashed through the ocean's rollicking surf on their vacations at Hermosa.
Hermosa Beach sewer system was first a septic tank system located, and treated, on a lot where the City Hall now stands. The residue was pumped through pipes to a sewer dumping ground West of the Santa Fe tracks in the valley half way between Pier Avenue and the south city limits. Right well do early Hermosa residents remember this old sewer dump and the gentle zephyrs that blew across the hills on foggy nights with the southwesterly winds.
The city Fire Chief, when no fires called upon his office, ran the pumping system. In March, 1926, a lateral sewer system for the city connected up with the $350,000.00 trunk line of the South Bay Sanitation District and was designed to care for a population of thirty thousand. The Hermosa system is now a part of the extensive project that will care for the southwestern portion of the Los Angeles County and is a link, in the county-wide metropolitan sewerage systems.
Ocean View was the first school building erected, and it was built on a lot deeded to the city for a school structure. It was located on top of a sand dune four blocks back from the beach, and no walks or streets of any kind led to it when it was built. It is still used and accommodates the first four grades of school work. It was constructed of wood, two stories high with a belfry. Its first desks and equipment had to be carried through the deep sands of the dunes on the shoulders of one of the school trustees, because of an excessive drayage charge of $15.00 which could not be afforded by the school board. This was a loving task, however, performed by him who shouldered the load for the welfare of the first pupils who attended its classes. In 1911, the Pier Avenue School was built to further accommodate the increasing school demands and this took care of the children from the third to the ninth grades. Later new additions to this school were built with a large civic auditorium included, and, in 1929, two new schools were constructed to care for the fast growing school attendance at each end of the city limits. High school students from Manhattan and Hermosa attend the Union High School at Redondo.
The Pioneer Hotel was the first to accommodate the city's visitors. It was built by two deaf mutes and for a time was used as temporary school quarters before the Ocean View School was built. Mr. Ben H. Hiss afterwards acquired it and used it as a hotel and rooming house. Mr. and Mrs. Berth built the next hotel in 1907 and it was long known as the Berth Hotel. It still stands on the corner of the Strand at Tenth street and is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Morrison, and is named The Breakers.
The pavilion was the first public building erected by the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company and was located on the south corner of Pier Avenue and the Strand near the Pier entrance. The company had offices in the building and the local Post Office was housed in it at its commencement. On the ocean side was an open pavilion for picnic parties and outdoor dancing, benches and tables being provided for public accommodation. For a short period the City Hall, or rather the Civic Center, was to be found in this pavilion, but, after the incorporation of the city, it was moved across the street on Pier Avenue into a one storied building, later it was again moved on to Thirteenth Street and housed in a building belonging to Otto Meyer who built these quarters to accommodate the City Hall. When the city, in 1914, took over the sewer system from the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company and also the lot on which the septic tank was located, it built a two story brick building to be used as a City Hall Building; this was constructed by John MacCready, Contractor, and here were installed the Police, Fire, and Street departments on the main floor, and offices on the second floor for the other official activities. In this building, also, the local, inadequate sewer system was operated for a number of years.
The Post Office was first located in a room in the pavilion building with Miss Sarah Beane installed as postmistress. She received her appointment to this federal office through the recommendation of the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company. From this location, the Post Office was moved into the Pacific Electric freight building. Later, Miss Beane erected a building at 26 Pier Avenue and the Post Office was located there as long as she remained its Postmistress. It being a fourth class office, she was permitted to operate other business in connection with her federal duties and, with Miss Eliza Smith, she established one of the early real estate offices which was known as the Beane-Smith Real Estate firm. The Post Office remained in the Beane building for eleven years when it was moved into the Walker building on Hermosa Avenue with Mr. M. M. Pilkington as Postmaster. In 1920, Reinbolt and Guernsey built a brick building across the street for its accommodation with Mr. Devine as its next Postmaster. Mr. C. H. Salinas received the next federal appointment five years ago and is still in charge of the office.
St. Cross-Episcopal Church was the first church building erected in the city of Hermosa Beach. Donations, subscriptions, and entertainments provided the finances for the lumber and carpenter work. Mr. J. W. Rodaway was the contractor and builder employed on its construction. Miss Sarah Beane was its founder, and Father de Garmo, then pastor of the Redondo parish, was its visiting clergyman for a number of years. St. Cross started as a little mission Sunday school in an unused store room in the P. E. freight building and was located just back of the Post Office. Here, through the benevolent efforts of Miss Beane, the Hermosa children were gathered into the first Sunday school in the new community. One of its scholars constructed a large wooden cross for the Sunday school room and when the new church was completed, this same wooden cross was again set up above its alter and from it the church received its name - St. Cross. A lovely interpretation of the name as given by those early members follows: "Saint Cross, the word saint means holy, Santo Fe means Holy Faith. The room in which we are gathered together today is bare and plain and without any of the luxuries of worship. At one end of this room has been placed a large wooden cross, even rugged in its simplicity and, as it marks the spot where missionaries first preached the Gospel in Hermosa, we have named our Mission after the Holy Cross and to show forth the sacrifice of service and prayer. Saint Cross then, means the first holy worship of the Holy Cross of Christ celebrated in Hermosa Beach."
Mr. Otto Meyer opened the first grocery store and fish market. He tells an amusing story of how he came to open a fish market. Being hungry for fish one day, he tried to buy one from a fisherman he met coming from the pier with a large box full of freshly caught fish. This toiler who "goes down to the sea" to fish told Mr. Meyer that he was not allowed to retail his catch but would sell him the whole box full if he wanted them. Here was a predicament! He was fish hungry and with a big box of fresh fish before him was unable to buy even one of them. But being determined to have a fish if it did mean buying the whole box full, he made the deal - right down to the last glistening fish scale. In order to get rid of all but the one he desired for his evening repast, he decided to buy a pair of scales, set up a counter on a likely site for a fish market and go into the retail fish business, at least for the time being. He sold one lone fish for twenty-five cents; somewhat disgusted with his experience, he induced his sister, who had a horse and light wagon, to peddle the fish from door to door. Her efforts were more successful and she returned in the evening tired of fish too, but with enough money to pay Mr. Meyer for his original investment. Thus is related the tale of the inception and unprofitable ending of the first fish market in this fair city by the sea.
Morse and Morse, or "the Morse boys" as the firm was more often called, were also pioneer grocers, and their store was located on the northwest corner of Pier Avenue and the Strand, in a building belonging to I. C. Squires. Here they operated a market selling groceries, fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. They were also the local expressman, delivering trunks and baggage for the summer visitors at the beach. The corner room of their store was rented to George Sudborough who had a cigar and fishing tackle stand. Mr. Sudborough was a cigar maker, making cigars in his home to supply his trade, his home being conveniently located on the Speedway just a block back of his store. Later, Mr. Sudborough owned a pool room and cigar stand located on Hermosa Avenue in the Walker Building, and Mrs. Sudborough carried on a fishing tackle and bait stand. She was famous for her hand-wrapped and decorated fishing poles, and many a notable personage fishing here on the municipal pier has returned to his home with one of these much prized poles in his possession. The Sudboroughs are still here and now own a popular restaurant at 51 Pier Avenue.
The first boarding and rooming house was conducted in a frame building on Pier Avenue where Kerwin's Bakery now stands. Mrs. M. Darling operated it and also sold bread occasionally if she happened to feel benevolently inclined. John Kerwin bought the property and operated a bakery in the building during the summer months. A bowling alley was the only amusement house operated. It was located in a long one story building on the corner of Tenth Street and the Strand. It housed several activities during its time. Here, at one time, was to be found the Tax Collector's office; and again, the press rooms for the Hermosa Beach Review, the pioneer and official newspaper of the city, were located here. Parties, dances and club meetings were often held within its humble walls. Its last occupant was a tango game which operated during the summer before the old building was torn down in 1920 for the erection of the Baird Apartments. The first theatre building was owned by a woman. She bought the lot of Ben Brown and had constructed a frame building upon it. It is strange but today no one seems to remember this woman's name. Mr. Brown explains that she did not operate the theatre long and moved away after a short period of residence here. The building was eventually turned into a garage and is located just back of the Barlow building on Tenth Place. In 1915, C. D. Barlow built a small brick building which he used as a Motion Picture theatre. The pictures shown by him in this theatre were the finest that could be obtained and his service to the amusement of the community was greatly appreciated by all. The first motion pictures were shown in the Otto Meyer building on Thirteenth Street. This building had formerly been used as the City Hall.
The first library was a pay circulating library sponsored by a committee of club women and opened first in the Ocean View school building with Mrs. Mary Montgomery as custodian. In 1907, it was taken into the Los Angeles County Public Library service and became a public library occupying a room in the Walker building on Hermosa Avenue. Later, it was moved to the tower room of the Pier auditorium and again moved down stairs into the north room of the building with Mrs. Montgomery still in charge as its librarian. In 1925, it was moved into the present location in the south room of the auditorium where it is still functioning as a branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library.
Hermosa Beach Civic Club was a Citizen's Improvement Association and was the only civic club ever organized in the community. The Women's Club dates back to 1907 and some of the original members are still living in the city. Some of the earliest members were Mrs. Mary Montgomery, Mrs. Florence Bolton, Mrs. Laura I. Robinson, Mrs. Ella Porter, and Mrs. Elizabeth Jones. The Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce was organized also in 1907, and is still active, a praiseworthy organization and much of the city's popularity and publicity is owed to the faithful and enthusiastic service promoted by this chamber of public service to the city. The California slogan of "Leave it to the Chamber of Commerce; what the Real Estate agents can't do, the Chamber of Commerce can.", has been expounded by this local organization. It has occupied various locations but can usually be found in rooms in the Auditorium Building on the Pier, where it is located at present.
The first bank was organized by James Walker, who built the first bank building on the northwest corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenues on the old site of the Pacific Electric freight offices. It was called The First Bank of Hermosa Beach, and its board of officers included: Mr. James Walker, President; Messrs. Hellman, Luxford, Mattison and others. Later, it was known as the First National Bank.
The Hermosa Beach gas plant was a privately owned and operated plant, and was owned by I. C. Squires. It was located on Second Street near the Santa Fe's spur track. It was not in operation long and evidences of it have long since vanished, nothing remaining to identify its location but a portion of its cement flooring, Gas service was soon installed in the district by the Southern California Gas Company, and the beach was the first part of the city to receive this public service. The old Pacific Light and Power Company installed the first electric light service which was later continued by the Southern California Edison Company who took over this company. The lighting service rates were not excessive in early days. The first street lighting system in the community consisted of one 40 watt light bulb at the end of each side street along the Strand. If you were out on a very dark night and fortunate enough to locate the board walk, you could then use this little dim light as a beacon to light you on your precarious way to the next corner.
The Hermosa Beach Review, established by Ed Thomas in the old Bowling Alley was the inception of the first city newspaper. It was later bought by F. H. Johnston and moved to press rooms on Hermosa Avenue where it is still located at 1306-8 Hermosa Avenue in the Review building, and published every Thursday by Mr. F. H. Johnston, owner and publisher. Through its columns its publisher loyally supports and endorses all constructive civic activities for the city's public welfare.
A box factory was located at one time back of the sand dunes, west of the Santa Fe tracks and near the present site of the lumber yards. The buildings were erected and owned by the Cleghorn Brothers, and Mr. Peter Guernsey first came to the city to take charge of this factory. It burned down one Sunday night a few years after its construction, no one ever being able to determine the cause of the fire. Mr. Guernsey is still active in the contracting and building trade of the city and both he and his wife are ardent beach lovers through the years of Hermosa, "the beautiful."
Only one park has this city and it is located on the small triangular plot of ground just east of the Pier Avenue school. It divides the boulevard, the right turn taking one into Pier Avenue, and the left into Camino Real and leading thence to Redondo Beach. The ground was donated to the city for park purposes by Mrs. Robert Montgomery and for a number of years, or during her residence in Hermosa, she supervised its care. If the city put up benches or planted anything that did not meet with her approval, she would threaten to take it away from them. When they permitted Mr. Anderson of the Olympic Barge to put up a sign at its entrance, she very nearly kept her promise of taking the ground back. The city fathers finally pacified her, but the unsightly sign still remained, and does so to this day.
The first City Marshall and likewise tax-collector, was Herman Smith. As an officer of the law and custodian of the city's revenue he was not exactly a shining light. Whenever the citizens could find him to pay their tax money to, he would proceed to Redondo taking the money with him, and there entering into a state of ebullition produced by the sweet spirits of aqua vitae, his responsibility to the city faded from his memory. He kept this up until he owed the City $500.00 and the citizens threatened dire proceedings against him. Mrs. Mary Montgomery pitied him for the sake of his family and was influential in leniency being shown him until he could raise enough money to pay it back. Through the sale of a lot for $400.00 and a gift of $100.00 from-his father, he was able to reimburse the city for the shortage.
BIOGRAPHICAL REMINISCENCES OF EARLY PIONEERS
The Haneman Real Estate office is the oldest real estate firm now operating in Hermosa Beach. This office was first established by Theodore Haneman, father of B. H. and A. S. Haneman. He operated the business alone until the death of his son Harry in 1910, at which time his son Albert (Bert) became his partner. Up to this time, the Haneman brothers had been in partnership in a real estate business in Los Angeles but came to Hermosa Beach on Saturdays and Sundays to help their father over the week ends. Theodore Haneman died in February 1921, and since that time, Albert Haneman has continued the business alone. Through his agency Mr. Haneman has handled all kinds of real estate business including five sub-divisions in Hermosa Beach, rentals, general insurance and loans. He specializes in ocean frontage and business property. He was one of the organizers of the Hermosa Realty Board in January, 1921, and was elected as its first president. He was married to Miss Vera I. Holden of Los Angeles in February, 1914. Mr. Haneman and his wife are very popular and much esteemed in business and social circles of this community. He has in his collection of real estate data, many pictures of the first activities and construction work taken during the early growth of the city. He has, also, a fund of historical information and local legendary still vivid in his memory of the olden days, and which he most graciously recalled for the information of the writer.
Miss Sarah A. Beane was the first Postmistress of Hermosa Beach Post Office, receiving her appointment to the position through Messrs. Burbank and Baker, agents for the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company. Mr. Shank, salesman for this company, asked her while coming out to the city on the train one day if she would accept the federal office if appointed and she agreed. She lived, at that time, in Los Angeles, coming out to Redondo Beach to spend the summers in a little beach cottage she owned there. In 1902, she moved her cottage from Redondo on to a lot she owned in Hermosa on Second street near the beach, knowing it would be a more convenient location as well as a necessary residence when she commenced her new duties as a federal employee. The Hermosa Beach mail was first carried to the city on the Santa Fe trains and delivered to the Post Office by wagon. The Post Office was first installed in the Pavilion Building on Pier Avenue near the Strand, but because high tides sometimes came in and surrounded it with water, she thought it best to find a new location and later moved into a room in the Pacific Electric freight office. In 1910, Miss Beane had constructed a building of her own which housed the Post Office at 26 Pier Avenue, and here it remained during the period of her service as Postmistress. As the Post Office was of the fourth class, she and her assistant, Miss Smith conducted a real estate office in connection with the federal work under the firm name of the Beane-Smith Realty Office. After eleven years of federal service as Postmistress to the fast growing community, Miss Beane retired because of ill health. She is still living in her little "gray home in the west" that she moved here from Redondo so long ago. It, like herself, has grown with the years, quaint, lovable and "homey." Additions of rooms and porches have been built about its walls wherever and whenever their need became evident and it stands today like a mothering, brooding fowl covering beneath its sheltering wings all that is beautiful with age and service. Though time has brought much bodily pain and suffering to this dear little lady, we know that it has also brought her sweet peace and contentment of mind, and that much happiness and love abides within her heart. She is well beloved by the citizens of the city she helped pioneer and build with wise and loving services. She is now nearly ninety years old, but today her face is smooth and fair, and sweetly placid as a child's. Her beautiful mind, as always, is the radiant harbinger of her God. Not only is she "Mother of the little Church in the Garden" but also the beloved "Mother of Hermosa Beach."
C. L. Reinbolt came to Hermosa Beach before it was named. He arrived with the first surveyors for the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company and was superintendent in charge of development for this company for nine years. He came to Los Angeles from Fremont, Ohio, and was twenty one years old when he came pioneering in Hermosa. His initial service in this locality was the laying out of the townsite, and he had charge of installing the original water plant and sewer system, as he did also, of the present modern systems. He says there is not a yard of city land that he has not covered on foot, and most of it he has dug up for one reason or another. He is now engaged in the general plumbing and steam fitting business in Hermosa Beach and is considered one of the founders and builders of this fine little city. He is, today, as always, vitally interested in and loyal to the city's every interest, and is respected and honored for his integrity and kindness. He was, for many years, Chief of the local Fire Department, and whenever the citizens heard the fire siren wildly calling, they knew that "Bob" was enthusiastically on his way to a fire in his speeding bright red Ford. He and that bright red Ford have become a tradition in the community. He owns a number of valuable properties, and is part owner of the brick building in which the Post Office and his plumbing shop are located. He married Miss Jeannette F. Smith on June 3. 1908 and they have one son living, Evron Richard.
Hermann Vetter came to Hermosa Beach in 1903. He was born in Germany and came to the United States forty five years ago. He now owns a corner acreage at Sixteenth Street on East Railroad Drive. For many years he had this property under cultivation for the florist trade; his daughter Maleine conducting the sales and delivery of the flowers and plants while he was at work during the day in Los Angeles in the employ of the Federal Service as Deputy Collector or Clerk for the Internal Revenue Services. For many years Miss Vetter sold her flowers and delivered them to her customers in a little wagon she hauled by hand. Her trade then was to the business offices and cafes in the community. Later she had flower booths in several stores. Until her marriage to Mr. Rudolph Shuart, she owned and operated a florist shop in a very modern, up-to-date way. Mr. Vetter was one of the first trustees elected in 1906 to serve on the City Board of Councilmen, and acted as City Clerk, during his term of office. His services were highly esteemed by these Councilmen because of his clever ability and suggestions in monetary matters. He also served as a member on the first School Board and was greatly responsible for the successful outcome of the project of obtaining lots and a building for the Ocean View School, the first official opening of a public school in Hermosa Beach. He circulated the petition among the citizens and his friend Judge Curtis Wilbur, late Secretary of the U. S. Navy, helped with the legal end of the project. The lots for the school were deeded to the school board by the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company, and were located on the sand dunes four blocks back from the beach. The building was erected on the site in 1904. No streets or pavements led up to the building at that time. Because of excessive delivery charges of $15.00 asked by the drayman to deliver the equipment of desks, tables and chairs to the school, one of the trustees carried these articles on his shoulders through the deep sand of the dunes to the school house; no easy task we, who know the sand dunes of Hermosa, must admit, and this loving service to the first scholars of that little pioneer school should never be forgotten by the parents and teachers of this city. The first teachers employed to teach in the Ocean View School were Miss Mabel Strahle and Miss Stanford. This year 1933, in June and after having reached his seventieth year, Mr. Vetter was retired by the Federal Government from the Internal Revenue Service and was highly commended by those in charge for his years of faithful service to the Government.
Otto H. Meyer came to Hermosa Beach before it was subdivided into city lots. There were very few inhabitants living on the sand dunes or the beach then and he and his brother had property on the soil back of the sand hills. He was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, and was a chef by profession. He has traveled in many countries, virtually "cooking his way," as he expresses it, into and out of many lands and adventures. Paris, Liverpool, London, New York, here and there he roamed until he came to Portland, Oregon. From that city he came to Los Angeles to visit a brother living near Redondo, and it is interesting to listen to some of his reminiscences of early days in that city and of the adjacent unimproved country.
In answering a question the writer had asked him, he said: "Yes, I guess I was one of the earliest settlers in Hermosa I lived over there on what is now called "Sunset Hill," but I sold that land and bought this property and built this house on it for my sister and myself. Burbank and Baker hadn't begun to lay out the town for the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company then. "Lady Bob" Montgomery came here with her money and invested it in a lot of property on Pier Avenue, over on the hills that didn't have a house on them - just a shack now and then. She wanted to build a community for circus people and she even brought an expert city planner to help lay out the settlement, but the city trustees wouldn't let her do it; so, in spite, she rented the land to the Japanese. They wanted the land for a Japanese settlement and they got Benn Hiss to help them, but the people of Hermosa objected because they made such large colonies. The Japanese planted all of these hills into carnation gardens and it was a pretty sight to look at when they were all in bloom. People used to come from all over the country to see these carnation gardens.
"Lady Bob" married again, his name was Sargent and she built a honeymoon nest on the hill above Pier Avenue where Harry Cory now lives. Cory bought that property from her. You know, Cory is the engineer who was in charge of the reclamation project of Imperial Valley and the Colorado River. He is certainly a smart fellow. He's done engineering work for kings and governments all over the world. I remember old P. S. Venable farmed the country back of Redondo and Hermosa in early days. He owned a large barn and a well over on Camino Real about where Second Street and the Mullin store now is. He employed old man Faucet in those days as stable boy. He used this barn for storing hay and grain and farm implements as well as shelter for his teams of horses.
No, Camino Real wasn't a street then. You see that row of cypress and eucalyptus trees over there? Well, they were beside the old road that started from Redondo and came out on Pier Avenue about where Prospect Avenue comes in now. It led over to Inglewood then, I guess it started as a hay road. It was pretty sandy but fair for a dirt road. I don't believe the Mission Fathers ever used this Camino Real. I believe the people just named it that because it sounded good. We called Pier Avenue, Santa Fe Avenue first because it was the only road through the sand that led to the Santa Fe tracks. It was the first street paved out of Hermosa and was part of the paved road to Inglewood. It was paved a crown road and many times when I drove to Inglewood after a Sunday, I have seen automobile wrecks along the roadside lying among the trees - a sorry sight. Yes, Santa Fe Avenue was a rough, sandy road before it was paved, and not so very much better afterwards. The citizens have had a lot of their money buried in Pier Avenue pavement.
Just below the Ocean View school they drilled the first well for the town. A tank was built on top of the sand hill above it and this was the first water supply. It was pretty good water for a while but it began to get salty so they had to find another location to drill for water. The Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company bought a ranch just outside of the city limits where the-present well is. The company bought the property just to get the well because it was fine water. It was artesian water and the well was deep with plenty of water in it. At one time there was a well in Hermosa where the lumber yard is now. It was about fifteen feet deep but the water was no good. A laundry came to use the water and this was the first laundry in Hermosa Beach.
The soil on the hills has always been fine for growing things. One year, I thought I wanted a little garden and I planted vegetables, but every thing grew so well that I had a regular little farm before I knew it. Yes, the wind blew pretty hard in those early days because there wasn't any buildings or trees to break the sweep of it, and sometimes, it was an awful cold wind, too. In the winter time the cold winds blowing the sand cut your face as you walked against it going to the beach. I remember, I left my sprayer going all one night in early spring, and when I looked out of the window in the morning, I couldn't believe my eyes at what I saw. The spray from the sprinkler had frozen into a pyramid of icicles about three feet high. It was a pretty sight, but of course, the sun soon melted it.
The first building along the beach, as I remember, was a little real estate shack. Then I. C. Squires built a store building and the Morse boys ran a grocery store and meat-market in it. The Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company built a pavilion on the Strand where Bob Boice has his soda fountain now, and the Company had offices in that building. Miss. Beane had the Post Office there too, but the tide came in so far one time they had to lay planks from the board walk to the building to get into it, so she moved the Post Office to a dryer spot over in the freight office. The first telephone in town was installed in this pavilion. The waves came in high and hard in those days and finally washed out part of the wooden pier and pilings. There is a cold swift ocean current that flows down along the coast from Alaska. Up in Portland it comes in right up to the beach and I was nearly drowned in it before I came down here. It runs about a mile and a half out off Hermosa, but comes right up to the beach in Redondo. That is why they cannot build a pier over there that will stand, the water is so swift and deep inshore that the current sucks the sand right out from under the piles, no matter how deep they drive them. Redondo used to be famous as a harbour. I have seen as many as fourteen ships from all parts of the world, anchored there waiting to unload their passengers and cargoes. There used to be big lumber yards there too.
The first restaurant I opened was in the north side of the pier building. I moved it later on to the Strand where my bathhouse now stands; then I built the bathhouse and had a restaurant in it; later I made the bathhouse bigger and gave up the restaurant business. Then, in 1926 I retired and rented the bathhouse to Theodore Kruse and his brother who were friends of mine from Portland. No, I don't expect to go in business again. I'm getting too old, and I am willing to let others do the work now."
Mr. Meyer was, also, one of the first councilmen for the city. He has always had the welfare of the community at heart and been alertly interested in its civic activities. He owns much valuable property in the business section and on the Strand as well as fine residence property. Of a witty and happy nature, he has always looked on the bright and constructive side of life, and today, his eyes twinkled and he often laughed as he told the writer his reminiscences of the early days of Hermosa Beach.
John Kerwin came to this city in 1910 from San Diego, California. He had just married Miss Mary Hiss and they started their married life by going into partnership in opening the first bakery in Hermosa. Mr. Kerwin bought the site of his business building in March, 1910 of Mr. Whiffle, who had come in possession of the property by foreclosure of a mortgage on the Darwin-Darling ownership. At first, he ran his bakery in the building that had been Mrs. Darling's rooming house, and operated it only during the summer months, but in the spring of 1916 he realized that his business had grown to such an extent that a larger building was needed to accommodate not only the growing business, but the growing family as well; so, he constructed a modern one story building with living quarters and ovens in the back of the shop. Again, in 1926, he enlarged and modernized the building by adding a second story to live in, with the main floor being used for the bakery and store purposes. The upstairs rooms are large and comfortable, with a roof yard for the children. The Kerwins have eight fine robust and happy children, boys and girls that are the pride and help of their parents. The oldest daughter, Ellen, is married.
Mr. Kerwin was born in Ireland and traveled about the world more or less before coming to Hermosa Beach to make his home. Mrs. Kerwin is a daughter of John S. Hiss, who came to the city in its early days to work as a carpenter. He died here in January, 1929.
Mrs. Kerwin was born in Mishawaka, Indiana, and had resided in California only a short time before her marriage. She tells how happy she was in anticipating her arrival in Hermosa Beach. Enthusiastic relatives had written her such flowery accounts of the beaches and Hermosa in particular, that she expected to see groves of orange trees growing on one side of the track with the broad expanse of the Pacific Ocean and the beach on the other, and, on arriving, to find only a lonely beach with only a few shack-like buildings scattered here and there over the dreary, wind swept sand dunes. We can imagine her disappointment and future disbelief in all local boosters and real estate advertisers.
John MacCready, pioneer builder and contractor, came to Hermosa Beach in 1910 to make his home. He was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and was engaged in the carpenter's trade there for fifteen years. There too, he married Miss Margaret Conlon in 1901, and soon after came out to Los Angeles and later to Hermosa Beach. Ten years later Mrs. MacCready died on September 18th, 1920. Mr. MacCready is a veteran building contractor and has to his credit and honor having built some of the finest homes and business and industrial buildings in this city. He has built here over 280 structures, including among them The First Bank of Hermosa building, The National Bank building, (having been one of the first directors of this bank), and the present City Hall. He has, also, built over 250 homes and apartment houses for Hermosa residents. During his twenty five years of building experience, he has learned the needs of homes built at the beach. Because of this insight into home needs, he is one of the most popular building contractors in this district. He is employed, at present, by the city as Street Superintendent. May "Auld lang syne" bring him many happy memories in future years of an honored life of service given in pleasant homes in this city.
The names of other pioneers, some living and others having passed on into a greater pioneering are; Miss Edith Burlingame, R. W. Dreungold, D. W. Beswick, Ozias Willis, E. B Gage, Hartly Shaw, T. H. Williams - President of the Chamber of Commerce in 1907, R. H. Lacy, James Hill, Judge Lucian Shaw and Dr. Lyman B Stookey. Mr. Burbank of the firm of Burbank and Baker, is dead, but Mr. Baker comes to Hermosa Beach very often to visit his old friend Mr. Albert (Bert) Haneman. He likes to talk over "the good old days" and to lament, somewhat, over the present condition of things in general. His home is now in Los Angeles.
Famous people have, at times, lived in Hermosa Beach or visited it during the summer seasons. Judge Curtis Wilbur, late Secretary of the U. S. Navy, was interested in its legal affairs in earlier days. William Jennings Bryan, in the last years of his life, rented a summer residence for several seasons and brought his family to Hermosa to spend their vacations, he was often seen on the pier in the mornings, wearing a plebeian suit of overalls and an old straw hat, enthusiastically fishing and "yarning." Governor Stephens frequently visited the city. He. too, considered the fishing from off the pier some of the best in his experience, and expressed his pleasure in the enjoyment he received from his occasional visits to Hermosa Beach. Homer Lee, author and retired army official, spent many week-ends here, and Mr. Carr, of the firm of Carr and Stephens, came often. Mayor Snyder bought a house, and still owns its on the Strand at Twenty second Street.
Mrs. John Walker-Broad and her daughters, Jane and Margaret, relatives of the late Henry E. Huntington of Pasadena, spent nearly a year as residents of this city. Miss Margaret Broad later married Collis Huntington Holladay, a nephew of Henry E. Huntington. Recently a son was born to this socially prominent couple and becomes another heir to the Huntington millions. Miss. Margaret was a patron of the local branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library situated on the pier and, on one occasion, made inquiries at the desk as to the requirements for the assistant librarian's work, intending, she explained, to use such experience, if acquired, in the American Department of the Bibliotheque National while in Paris the coming year.
Charles Lindberg, the famous Lindy of the air, has on several occasions, been entertained as guest at the Surf and Sand Club , a branch of the Los Angeles Athletic Associations. He found its quiet retreat, away from crowds and business, pleasant and enjoyable.
Mr. Harry E. Cory, world famous civil engineer, lives in Hermosa during his leisure moments and vacation periods of his two sons, Thomas and Harry. The beautiful scenic, so marvelously well graded highways through the Palos Verdes Estates to San Pedro make illustrating example of this man's wonderful ability in road construction. His ability has received recognition in European countries and he has been employed by several of their governments to solve their hard problems in road and other difficult constructions.
No doubt many more notable visitors, unregistered, have found Hermosa and its beach "beautiful" a pleasant playground and a charming retreat for quiet seclusion.
Legendary in the romantic history of Hermosa Beach is that of "the haunted house on the old Duncan Ranch." In the early days of Hermosa's development, Colonel Blanton Duncan, Grandfather of the two Duncan Sisters of vaudeville, and one time private secretary to the-President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War, bought twenty five acres of land from Burbank and Baker. This acreage was mostly sand dunes and located on the northern limits of the town. On the highest hill on his land, he built a large, two-story frame house with gabled roofs, broad porches, and oddly arranged interior, with many queer nooks and passages. The peculiar arrangement of the house interior, while being most desirable in the plans of the eccentric old colonel, caused many weird suspicions that were quite unexplainable to the minds of his inquisitive neighbors - few though they were; and, neither did he offer any explanations to quiet the weird tales of the curious. He entertained often and lavishly but his guests were mostly people from other localities. He employed Chinese servants who padded silently about the house at their duties. The rooms were richly decorated and contained many curious and rare furnishings of silk and satins, and were filled with the aroma of languid incense and perfume of the Orient. While entertaining, Colonel Duncan observed all of the social traditions of Southern hospitality, but, withal, the place DID have an air of mystery about it - secretive and mysterious as the peculiar old colonel appeared to be.
Today, although the picturesque old house and its master have long disappeared, and its high hill stands lonely and untenanted, the old atmosphere and mystery of romance still lingers and unanswered still are the old questions; for what was the huge old house built? and why should a Southern planter leave his home for this lonely spot of desolate isolation on the coast of a faraway sea?
One teller of romantic tales, recites this fantastic legend about the old mysterious house-and its master: "In early days when pirates and smugglers roamed up and down the Pacific coast, these outlays built a trading post at Hermosa Beach. Few people were here then, and only sheep herders and their flocks roamed the solitude unmolested. It was at this time that Colonel Duncan came and built upon the highest hill overlooking the sea, a huge two-storied structure, within which were many secret rooms and passageways. It was supposed, by many, that he was the clever head of a band of smugglers and that through him they exchanged their unlawful cargoes from foreign lands.
A lighthouse was operated from one of the gabled windows in the roof, and by its beams of light, messages were signaled to the ships that came in and anchored at night off the coast in front of the Duncan ranch, giving direction when to land the smuggled goods on the beach. This lookout they called THE LIGHT OF THE SEVEN SEAS because its powerful rays were a beacon to the ships that brought illicit merchandise from many ports of the Seven Seas. An active trade was carried on and many shiploads of smuggled goods were landed at night on the beach and carried through the secret passage from the beach to the house by Chinese servants and there stored away in secret rooms and nooks.
Through Colonel Duncan, these treasures were shipped to New Orleans as legal property and there sold, bringing to him and his smuggling associates many thousands of dollars in profits. For ten years the band used this old house as their headquarters, with the wily Duncan coming and going from New Orleans to Hermosa on many mysterious journeys. In the end, it might have been the fear of the law, or the interfering curiosity of suspicious townspeople that finally determined the Colonel to sell the ranch and move away. It passed through several ownerships afterward and gradually fell into a state of ruin through vandalism. Some years ago it burned down, being destroyed, as it was built and occupied, in mystery and secrecy."
The old ranch is today, lonely and desolate. It is forgotten and unnoticed by the autoists that speed by its environs over the broad, well paved Sepulveda Boulevard that now traverses the rolling sand hills that once surrounded it, but which are now plotted into many paved streets, and green flowering gardens surrounding pleasant homes. Thus does legend clothe, in fantastic and colorful garb, the inquisitive curiosity of suspicious, idle minds. There is, of course, no truth in the above tale as far as Colonel Duncan is concerned.
NOTE: It cannot be proven that the Duncan Sisters were relatives of Colonel Blanton Duncan; some say he was their grandfather and came often to Hermosa Beach to visit him and that he would bring them down to the beach to play; others think that they were not related in any way; again another says that the name Duncan Sisters is just a professional name and not their own. So it may be well to consider this part of the story legendary as well as the "haunted house" part.
Glamorous romance of old Spanish days is loaned to the present cities that occupy a portion of the coast line boundaries of old Rancho Sausal Redondo. This rancho and Rancho Ague de la Sentinel were patented and confirmed to Antinio Ignacio Abilia when Southern California was under Spanish rule. In 1875, Daniel Freeman purchased twenty five thousand acres from Sir Robert Burnett, the Scotch owner then living on it near Centinella Springs. It was because of these springs that Freeman bought this vast acreage of land. He stocked it with sheep and continued in that business, facing many difficulties attendant upon dry seasons, notably in 1875-76, when he lost fully twenty thousand head of his sheep. Because of these heavy losses, he became greatly in debt and unable to keep the property. The city of Inglewood is located near his old ranch site and the springs. He died on September 28th, 1918.
The south line of Sausal Redondo runs right up to the city limits of Redondo Beach. It is supposed that the Rancho Sausal Redondo received its name because of a round clump of willows growing on it and evidently near the springs at its southern border. Willow groves are usually found near creeks or springs, or on land that is moist. Sausal (properly Sauzal) means willow-grove; redondo, round. Thus Rancho Sausal Redondo means the ranch of the round willow groves.
Many years ago, Indians lived on the coast of Sausal Redondo and Rancho Palos Verdes, as the numerous relics of shells and fishbones found in the vicinity of their settlements prove. Their livelihood was principally sea food, of which they were very fond. Many arrows and spear heads of flint and obsidian have been found, as well as mortars, pestles and cooking implements. In many places, also, may be found the ashes of their campfires; especially is this true of the dirt banks just south of the Palos Verdes Estates. Perhaps one of the reasons for their settling here was the fresh water springs found in the cliffs below their village site.
It must have been difficult, in the very early days, for the people of old Southern California to procure salt. They needed it not only for themselves, but for the great herds of cattle on their ranchos. It is told that once there lived along the coast of Rancho Sausal Redondo (now known as the Tri-Cities: Redondo, Hermosa, and Manhattan) an owner of a large estate who did not know the value of a small salt lake situated within a remote corner of his property.
Perhaps Don Thomas de Carabela was not aware that the Indians came in large gatherings to collect the evaporated salt on the borders of this lake because of its remoteness; but this had been their practice for years and no one ever thought of trying to stop them.
It seems that one day Don Thomas discharged one Juan Perez from his service because he caught him in conversation with Maria Feliz while he was working near her cook-house; he gave Juan in wages a deed to a very small corner of land and it happened that this land had the small salt lake upon it. Maria Feliz was a beautiful girl and she and Juan were lovers; Juan suspected that the salt lake was on his newly acquired land, and, if it was true, he told Maria ,he would some day return and take her away with him. It was nearly a year before Juan had built up his rancho; he had found, as he had expected, the little salt lake on his land. In the meantime, he built a fence around it and established a trade with the Indians receiving large tracts of land for their season's supply of salt. Soon he became wealthy in land and built himself a fine rancho, stocked with sheep and cattle.
It was nearly a year before he could return to claim his sweetheart, Maria Feliz. After many months of waiting, Maria at last saw Juan riding up the trail and she knew that he had come back to take her away with him. At night, together on one horse, they rode away through the shadows and the moonlight, into the land of their dreams, at last, come true.
This same salt lake may be located today just back of the old Edison Steam Plant in Redondo, and almost within the southern boundary of Hermosa. At one time a salt factory was built on its edge, but the salt was of little commercial value and the project was abandoned. A fish cannery operated for a time nearby this site, but it, too, disappeared.
The old salt lake has been the objective of many dreams of reclamation for harbors, swimming pools and factory sites, but its stagnant, brackish waters still remain - as in those old Spanish days - placid and undisturbed, and still bordered by an evaporated residue of coarse, yellow-white salt.
Many historical events have taken place within the boundaries of Rancho Sausal Redondo, and antelope and vast herds of cattle and sheep have ranged its rolling hills. Legends of old historic days of the Sausal Redondo and Palos Verdes Ranchos are still known and told by the pioneers who are living in this district.
And so Hermosa Beach, too, has its romance in the founding, development and growth into the present modern city. Also, like the early history of so many small cities, early records of pioneering remain unwritten. It is to be supposed that events being of so recent occurrence, deserve little consideration and have no historical value. This is true concerning the early records of Hermosa Beach; little has ever been written and the only printed information is to be found in the Board of Councilmen's statistical reports.
This historical record may seem to be more of a legend than a historical record, as it has been repeated by word of mouth to the writer's listening ear, for the most part. Great pains has, however been taken to verify accounts and compare statements through three or four people prominent in pioneer activities, and it has been taken for granted by the writer that, where two or three sources agree on a subject, there must be, at least, a grain or two of truth in the record.
The names of early citizens who have so graciously assisted the writer with their reminiscences and information, are: C. R. (Bob) Reinbolt, Albert (Bert) Haneman, Miss Sarah Beane, Otto Meyer, Hermann Vetter, who loaned me pictures and records, and John Kerwin. Printed sources are: Sixty years in California by Harris Newark; My Seventy Years in California by J. A. Graves; Anniversary Book of St. Cross published by the Rev. Clarence Parlour, Rector of St. Cross Church, and loaned by Miss Edith Rodaway, daughter of the man who built St. Cross church; The Pilot, printed annually by the Redondo Union High School; information furnished by F. H. Johnston, publisher of the Hermosa Beach Review newspaper; the records of the City Clerk, made accessible through the kindness of Ben F. Brown, City Clerk; a little booklet found in the library's pamphlet files on The Early Romance of the Rancho; and a folder published by the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce in 1907 and loaned by Hermann Vetter, the first City Clerk of the first Board of City Trustees.
This early history of Hermosa Beach has been compiled by Mrs. Fern Rhein, Librarian for the Hermosa Beach Branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library. It is the writer's wish that it be understood by the reader that the facts and statements herein recorded cannot be guaranteed to be absolutely correct in a historical sense; she has labored conscientiously to make this record as nearly correct as it has been possible, with the limited sources available.
As these last few words are written, ending, this first record of the early history of Hermosa Beach, the setting sun is seen shooting its final arrows of gold high into the western sky, and enfolding in gold and crimson splendor the three fair cities bordering the western Sea. Peaceful beauty and happy days of contentment enthrall those people so fortunate as to have made their homes on its borders, and each passing year brings new friends lured by the song of the waves that gently wash the golden sands of its shores. And so ends, symbolically, this record of pioneer days of Hermosa Beach with the close of a happy day.
Hermosa mia! I love you,
I love to sing of your ocean's blue,
Of your breeze, your Strand and your dashing waves;
Of the gulls that call o'er white-crested waters;
And dip through its spray above golden sands;
Of the splendor of your two-mile shore,
And the peaceful beauty of singing seas;
Of sweet contentment through sunny days,
And the promise of friendships - old and new,
That one holds as treasures from year to year.
I wish for you success and growth - a prosperous future;
and may the many who have heard your call,
Seek to remain and sing your song; a song of the beach,
The song of the Sea, the sand-dunes and flowers
That wantonly trail o'er each rolling mound
In purple beauty and golden mood,
And may your home-loving hearts find peace
And rest for years and years in this city fair
Hermosa - Beautiful: bordering the Western Sea.
by Fern Rhein
Written by Fern Rhein
Hermosa Beach, California
July 30th, 1933.
Page -- History