Tustin Residents Flocked to Beaches in 1800s

Beach goers at Laguna Beach

In the late 1800s, Tustin families spent July and August at “The Summer Resort,” better known today as Laguna Beach.

Favorite camping spots included the mesa above Fisherman’s Cove and Boat Canyon. This was not a luxurious vacation. In the early years there were no accommodations and drinking waster had to be hauled from a spring in Laguna Canyon. But the lack of conveniences didn’t deter families from trekking through Laguna Canyon in wagons loaded with camping gear.

Franklina Bartlett, wife of a prominent Tustin businessman and banker W. S. Bartlett, and daughter of Mrs. David Hewes, described the scene this way: “Across the plain lies the road which leads to the summer resort, where the people of Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin go for rest and change.

“Laguna is a beautiful bit of coast of vast, but undeveloped possibilities. A boarding house and some private cottages have been built upon the cliffs south of the canyon and during the months of July and August a village of several hundred tents rises upon the sand. A butcher, baker and milkman derive a thriving trade.

“The beach is alive with bathers; the evenings are vocal with open air concerts. But with the first fog of autumn the tents are folded and the village disappears, leaving an accumulation of tin cans ad half-charred wood as the only proof that it ever existed.”

Eventually more summer cottages were built to replace the tents. Another boarding house and a hotel were added, as well as a store and post office. Drinking water was delivered to the cottages for 50 cents a barrel.

The hotel owned by Joseph Yoch was very popular and he soon enlarged it. The summer crowd enjoyed the glassed-in dining room on the ocean front for its beautiful view as well as excellent food and service. Yoch and his daughters provided entertainment each evening.

Madame Modjeska and Mrs. James Rice Sr., the “sweet song bird” from Tustin, often led musical evenings. The dancing pavilion was favored by the younger generation.

Although not as popular as Laguna Beach, Newport Beach was another summer vacation spot. The McFadden brothers from Santa Ana owned the wharf on the ocean front as well as the acreage around it. They divided the land into lots and rented them for the building of summer cottages, but the system did not encourage the town to grow.

Newport had one hotel owned by James McFadden. The building was leased to different proprietors and opened each summer for a number of years. The coming of the Pacific Electric train to Newport and Balboa in 1905 increased the popularity of both bathing and boating on the bay.

(Originally published on August 29, 2013 in the Tustin News. Reprinted with permission courtesy of Southern California News Group/The Orange County Register.)