Treasures and Tales from Sherman Library’s Collections

Eli P. Clark warning him of a scarlet fever outbreak in Prescott, Arionza, March 1877

What is Past is Prologue

It is rare to come across an item in Sherman Library’s collections that relates to current events as clearly as the letter I discovered yesterday.  When Sherman Library temporarily closed, on March 17, one of the tasks I set for myself while working from home was to organize a collection of letters from Lucy Sherman, the sister of Moses H. Sherman, for whom Sherman Library & Gardens is named.  These letters date from the 1870s and 1880s when Lucy lived in Prescott, Arizona and provide insights into life in that community.   The letter is a reminder that, while COVID-19 is

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corona del mar beach with pier

Big Corona Beach – Then and Now

On March 18, 1914 someone stood on the Corona del Mar bluffs to snap a picture of the beach, now known as Big Corona. This photograph is interesting, both for what it includes and what it does not include. There are no people and no homes. The only sign that the beach was ever used is the pier. In more than a century, this scene has transformed. Just compared it to another picture recently taken from the same spot. George Hart, the original promoter of Corona del Mar, constructed the pier about 1904 as part of a deal to acquire

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old announcement card about the ne whurley bell

Newport Beach Meets Hurley-on-Thames

Perhaps the most iconic building in the Newport Beach neighborhood of Corona del Mar is the tutor-style Five Crowns. Thanks to one woman’s remarkable foresight and intuition, Corona del Mar hosts a traditional English inn. Matilda MacCulloch was a woman with vision. After traveling throughout Europe, marrying a Scottish nobleman, and living for many years in England, she wanted to have a taste of England to Southern California. Through her determination and love of architecture, Corona del Mar has its very own English inn. MacCulloch studied art at both at the New York Academy of Fine Arts and Julian Art

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a pier with small shack at the end

The Corona del Mar Pier

Sometimes it is difficult to recognize the location in an old photograph because the landscape has changed so radically. This photograph is a prime example. It was taken in 1910, at a point just north of China Cove and the William G. Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory in Newport Harbor, looking toward Irvine Terrace. Today the shoreline and hillside are crowded with houses, making it difficult to see any landmarks visible in the 1910 photograph. The pier – now long gone – was Corona del Mar’s lifeline to the outside world. When George Hart bought 706 acres of Corona del Mar from

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Re-creating World War I in Corona del Mar

A century ago, America went to war. Men from Orange County and across the nation heeded the call to service during World War I.  By the end of the war, 4 million men served, half of those going abroad to fight.  More than 100,000 American “doughboys” lost their lives in World War I. In 1917, Corona del Mar was a peaceful rural enclave, — as far from the battlefields in France as one could imagine. So, it might seem ironic that a decade after the end of the “War to End All Wars,” movie makers arrived in Corona del Mar

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a bird's eye view of the coastline of corona del mar in 1929

A Birds Eye View of Corona del Mar in 1929

Sherman Library has an extensive collection of aerial photographs of Corona del Mar.  This photograph from the collection shows just how quiet and undeveloped Corona del Mar was in 1929.  Entire blocks were vacant, while others had only a single residence.  Even though access to Corona del Mar improved with the completion of Coast Highway, which you can see running across the top of the photo, sales of lots in Corona del Mar were rare.  In the foreground of the photograph is the harbor entrance, which includes some interesting landmarks.  The large ship in the channel was the stranded hulk

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people standing in front of surfboards on the beach in 1928

The 1928 Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship

Recently, both Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz have claimed the moniker, Surf City, USA.  While today nobody considers Corona del Mar the center of surf culture in California, in 1928 it might well have claimed the title Surf City, USA.  In that year, Corona del Mar had the only surf club on the Pacific Coast (with twelve members) and was the site of the first Pacific Coast Surf Board Championship. One of the most popular photographs in Sherman Library’s collection shows contestants in this race posing next to their redwood longboards. In 1928, the entrance to Newport Harbor was a

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view from middle of street in 1932

Eight Decades of Change in Two Photographs of Corona del Mar

At first glance, this photograph may seem uninteresting.  It is after all, a shot of a nearly empty street with a few buildings.  If you look closely, you will see a number of clues to the location and date.  To the left, you can see the Goldenrod footbridge and to the right a grocery store, which also served as a post office.  The store was Scott’s Grocery, which city directories indicate was on the corner of Coast Highway and Marigold Ave.  In the distance toward the center of the photo, you will notice two additional buildings. The nearer of the

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men and women posing in swimsuits in 1934

A Day at the Beach

With the arrival of summer and the end of the school year, the beaches are filling with people, in a tradition that goes back far more than a century.  Beach culture always been central to Newport Beach’s identity.  Long before the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce issued its first promotional brochure in 1924 depicting a woman preparing to dive into the water, the beach drew people to Newport. While the beach-going experience in many ways is unchanged, some aspects have changed. For instance, you can no longer rent a tent cabin on the beach. Local beaches once had “swim lines,” heavy

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