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The Bungalow Hunters Newsletter - August 10, 2008

Historic Dana Point Lantern Discovered in Laguna Beach

Preserving a Glimmer of Local History
By Andrea Adelson ..... Laguna Beach Independent ..
.. News Article of July 18, 2008

Andy Alison never found the right moment to make a pitch to the owners of Laguna Beach's Cottage Restaurant about the lantern that swung from a pole near the entry, mostly obscured by a tree.

He knew its not-so-secret provenance as a historic artifact, one of about 150 nautical-styled streetlights decoratively strung across sparsely developed Dana Point in the 1920s. A Laguna Beach realtor with a flair for promotion hoped the novel lights would kindle a sense of identity in the Lantern Village as she tried to lure buyers. By the '50s, though, the copper lanterns were disappearing.

Last Friday, the Cottage lantern was on its way to the dump, discarded in a landscape renovation by the restaurant's owner to improve visibility. Alison discovered the old light consigned to the back alley trash bin area.

Belatedly, Alison informed the owner of its historic significance to the neighboring town. Jennifer McCulley, who bought the restaurant in 2001, was delighted to return the example of Dana Point's trademark. Although the restaurant is housed in an unusual example of Japo-Swiss bungalow architecture, a blend of Swiss chalet and oriental architecture with ties to the Arts and Crafts Movement and dates back to 1917, it's written history makes no mention of the lantern or how it arrived there, said the owner's mother, Joyce McCulley.

"They're on a program to recover lanterns," Alison explained this week of the Dana Point Historical Society, which since its founding in 1987 has worked to collect and recover the town's memorabilia.

Alison, a society member, sells historic bungalow cottages through Vintage Homes.net. He specializes in pre-war homes because their architecture defines the character of California's coastal towns. He learned about the lanterns when organizing tours of historic homes in the Lantern Village, a grid of 20 streets, nine of them with lantern monikers such as Ruby Lantern, Violet Lantern and Golden Lantern. Alison also served two terms on Laguna Beach's heritage committee.

"Andy called in a panic. 'It's gone,' " said Carlos N. Olvera, a retired utility engineer and president of the society, who took a call from Alison on Friday. Last year, two other Dana Point lanterns, which supposedly had lit Laguna Beach's Heisler Park, were also returned to the city. Neither Olvera nor Alison wanted another treasure to disappear.

Olvera enlisted society secretary Rodney Howorth. With the help of Alison, restaurant bus boys and a passing trash hauler, on Friday they loaded onto a trailer the 80-year-old lantern, its 12-foot poll and a heavy cement anchor. It's now in a society storage yard. "We had a heckuva time getting it down there," Howorth said.

The society located a glass maker to replace the missing inserts and hopes to restore the Cottage lantern, along with the other recent acquisitions from Seattle.

The Washington lanterns washed up in Dana Point because they didn't draw any bidders when put up for auction on eBay, Olvera said. Joel Wadsworth of Seattle offered them to the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce.

Wadsworth said the lamps had been in his family for several decades, having migrated from Laguna Beach. The lanterns were a gift to his great aunt, Winnie Everett, of South Laguna, from Heinz Kaiser, a former county supervisor who was a strong supporter of the proposed Dana Point harbor, according to Olvera.

Fifteen of the original copper street lamps, stored for decades in the basement by a longtime resident, were also restored and installed around Dana Point's La Plaza in 1989, the year the town incorporated.

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Andy with Historic Dana Lantern Discovered
in Laguna Beach.

Photo by Faye Chapman

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The historic lantern before its removal from the Cottage Restaurant.

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The lanterns illuminate the town's origins, named in the 1920s after Richard Henry Dana, whose book "Two Years Before the Mast," was published in 1830. In 1927, the lanterns lit the newly paved Roosevelt Highway, which would eventually be renamed Pacific Coast Highway. Paving was important to Sidney Woodruff, who had developed Hollywoodland in Los Angeles. He envisioned Dana Point as a Mediterranean-style seaside village resort.

Woodruff bought up 1,300 acres, stretching from the headlands to San Juan Creek. His captive construction company and bank also profited with every deal, which included lots in the lantern tracts established in 1926 by the Laguna Beach realtor Anna Walters. She stayed on as a tract manager. A colored light that matched the street name topped the original lantern streetlights, according to Olvera.

Woodruff also ambitiously attempted to build the bluff top Dana Point Inn, succeeding only in getting the foundation poured before the Depression struck and development ceased. A remnant remains today in the Admiralty condo complex.

By the 1950s, the lanterns weren't old enough to be considered antiques, but were in disrepair, Olvera said. County workers apparently took them down, he said.

A few other original lanterns still swing from poles in private homes in Dana Point and Laguna Beach. Olvera thinks most will not be recovered and were probably melted. "We're not trying to collect them all. We don't want any to go to scrap," he said. "We never had an opportunity to get involved in saving them."

For his part, Alison, a 14-year Laguna Beach resident, is tickled his new-found knowledge rescued a historic treasure. "It's great fun to discover local historic artifacts that are hiding in plain sight."


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