Treasures and Tales from Sherman Library’s Collections

Merle’s Drive-in

Merle’s Drive-in at MacArthur and Coast Highway, May 9th, 1952. Beckner Collection, Sherman Library. Merle’s Coffee shop opened in 1951 at the corner of Coast Highway and MacArthur Blvd., a space now occupied by the Corona del Mar Plaza. Merle’s, which billed itself as a drive-in, offered a typical menu of coffee shop staples.  In the early 1960s, the restaurant changed ownership and Merle’s became The Zoo drive-in.  Perhaps the most memorable feature of The Zoo was the gorilla-costumed employee who stood on the corner to attract customers. Interior of Merle’s Coffee Shop, 1952. Beckner Collection, Sherman Library. Miss Orange

Read More »

Kay Finch: Corona del Mar Artist

For more than twenty years, the ceramicist Kay Finch produced artful porcelain figurines in a studio near the corner of Coast Highway and Hazel Ave.  Kay, along with her staff, created whimsical figurines glazed in pastel colors.    She employed a meticulous, multiple-step process, which included multiple firings and hand decorating. She was best known for animal figures, especially dogs. Kay and Braden Finch moved to Corona del Mar in 1939 to build a little ceramics studio just off  Hazel Avenue.   The outbreak of World War II and the ban of imported goods to the United States created high

Read More »

The Novelty Architecture of Los Angeles

Betsy Ann Ice Cream, unidentified location in Los Angeles, ca. 1930. W. C. Sawyer Collection. In the 1920s, Los Angeles was booming.  Flush with water from the Owen Valley, affordable land, a growing network of roads, and a burgeoning film industry, the city rapidly expanded. One of the changes that took place was the emergence of car culture.  The people of Los Angeles took to their cars, so much so that by 1928 there was one car for every 2.9 persons in the city.  At the same time, Hollywood was refining the art of making fantasy into reality through movies.

Read More »
Cover of the All Saints' Guild of Riverside Cook Book

Have You Ever Eaten Pie Plant Pie?

With the “stay-at-home” orders in place, many families find themselves cooking more than usual.  To help you in your cooking, Sherman Library is sharing recipes from the 1890 Riverside Cook Book.   The All Saints’ Guild of Riverside compiled this cookbook,  under the supervision of Mrs. Fessenden. The “Ladies of Riverside” contributed their “Tried and Approved Recipes.” The recipes were all “family favorites [that] borne the test of time and experience.”  Here are a few recipes that you might like to try — or not?  Note that none of the recipes  mention  oven temperature. During that era most early stoves were

Read More »

You Could Have Lived on Pansy Street: A History of Corona del Mar’s Flower Streets

If George Hart, the original developer of Corona del Mar, had his way Sherman Library would be on 32nd Street instead of the much more pleasing Dahlia Avenue.  So, how were the flower streets of Corona del Mar named?  Why does an alphabetical scheme include three sets of duplicates: Avocado and Acacia, Marguerite and Marigold, and Poinsettia and Poppy? How did Hazel get included, after Poppy? And for good measure, do Avocado, Acacia, Fernleaf and Hazel qualify as flowers? George Hart’s original layout for Corona del Mar named north-south streets with numbers starting at 29th St. and ending with 45th

Read More »

Corona del Mar’s Motels

Affordable Motels in Corona del Mar? Can you believe Corona del Mar used to have motels along Coast Highway?  The first motel in Corona del Mar, the Bay-Ocean Motel, is listed in a 1941 local city directory.  By 1955, six more motels sprung up along coast highway:  Crown of the Sea Motel, Del Mar Hotel, Farmhouse Motel, Motel Corona del Mar, Motel Kirkwood, and Sea Crest Hotel.  The last addition was the Jamaica Inn Motor Hotel, that boasted two heated pools and opened around 1960.  Del Mar Hotel postcard, Sherman Library Collection. In 1925 the nation’s first “motor hotel” opened

Read More »

Just Passing Through…FDR in Orange County

In May of 1935 Harry Welsh, Secretary of the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce, was working with community leaders to plan a celebration to mark the opening of Newport Harbor. So, when a local newspaper ran a small item announcing President Franklin D. Roosevelt was planning a trip to California in July 1935, he took action immediately.  He wrote in a letter to another ardent Newport Beach promoter, Dr. Albert Soiland, “Perhaps we could arrange to have [the President] stop off and pull a switch or some other ceremony in connection with the work at the Harbor…Looks like a real

Read More »

Where the Buffalo Roamed…in Orange County

Millions of bison once roamed North America, but Orange County w aas never part of their natural habitat. It is perhaps unsurprising that it took an amusement park — the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch — to introduce a herd of bison to Orange County. Although today commemorated by a street name, Bison Road, and a statue at the intersection of Bonita Canyon and MacArthur Blvd., there is little remaining evidence of the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch, which briefly flourished from 1955-1960. A postcard from the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch, ca. 1955 The Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch (which was in what

Read More »

Los Angeles County and the Small Farm Movement

The farm to table movement in Southern California has a long history. Today many people seek out organic produce grown on small local farms or grow their own in their backyard. Not so long ago, people in southern California were encouraged to create their own “small farm homes.” A booklet we recently discovered in Sherman Library,Your Los Angeles County Small Farm Home, gives some interesting insights into the history of the movement. In the early 20th century, some Los Angeles land developers subdivided neighborhoods into one to three acre parcels so landowners could create self-sufficient “small farm homes.” Parts of

Read More »