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Fun Circa 1904
updated: Jun 19, 2010, 10:30 AM
by Neal Graffy XNGH
In our last column we had our handy 1904 Guide Book to Santa Barbara to find out what folks - locals and tourists - did back then for fun. We also had a number of photographs taken by Mr. and Mrs. Charles I. Kutz during their stay at the Potter Hotel in September 1904. We joined the Kutz's and spent the day at Los Banos (the bathhouse) where we went swimming and bowling, then went outside to Plaza del Mar to hear the band play before we took a walk out on the Pleasure Pier.
All of this took place at the intersection of West Boulevard (now Cabrillo) and Castillo. But for the adventuresome, heading further west along the beachfront was part of any Santa Barbara excursion and it affords us a chance to see a beachfront that no longer exists.
The south-east end of "Dibblee Hill", the mesa that is now the site of City College, ran directly behind the bathhouse to the water's edge. This obstacle to civilized traffic was done away with in the early 1940s as Cabrillo Boulevard was extended past Castillo. To line things up to where they are today, if this bathhouse had existed when the road was cut through, the ocean side of Cabrillo would be running through the third tower to the right.
The family of Thomas Bloodgood Dibblee resided on the hill and the tower of their home can be seen just to the left of the second flag.
About a quarter-mile past the Pleasure Pier was Castle Rock, second only to the Mission as a tourist attraction and subject for post cards and paintings. From as far back as I can find, tourists and residents alike were fascinated with this natural formation and climbed on it, posed on it, picnicked on it and slipped and fell from it.
Castle Rock was conveniently located at Punta del Castillo, aka Point Castillo aka Castle Point. Though you'd never know it today, there was a "point" here and to the west the shoreline swept back in a nice arc which ended at "Second Point." Rather than explain here what a "castillo" is and why the name was applied, I'll take this opportunity to plug my Street Names book where the explanation can be found on page 32.
With Castle Rock behind us we join the Kutz's as they continue west along the beachfront towards Second Point. The grove of trees at the foot of the beach marks the little canyon that separates the east and west campus of City College. Though Loma Alta runs through it today, it must not have been a navigable passageway in those times as none of the guidebooks mention it as a route to get from the beach to the mesa. As best as I can figure out, the three shacks in the middle of the photo (and there are a half dozen more just past the trees) were possibly for changing into beachwear and one or another may have been an outhouse.
Second Point gives us a view of the cliff faces "all tumbled frantically about" and depending on who's describing them, the "enchanting", "eerie", "romantic" or "lonely" caves. (The kids LOVED them). There are also stories about a hermit who lived in one of the sea caves somewhere along the beach. We know this scene today as the overlook at Shoreline Park and possibly some of those trees still stand along the edge.
A popular drive was to continue along the beach all the way to More's Landing (More Mesa), a distance of close to six miles, and then return by the Goleta Road. But our Guide Book has warned us "One can drive for miles up and down the coast at low tide; and in walking, Castle Rock affords a passage over to the next beach, which is of crescent shape. But one should never go farther than this second point without consulting a tide table, as a delightful excursion might speedily be changed to an embarrassing, or even fatal experience, there being few places where the high cliffs could be surmounted after the tide has cut off passage around them." In this instance, not a lot has changed in 100 years.
Reluctantly, but responsibly the Kutz's turn their buggy around and head back. Prior to 1881 it was also possible to get trapped between Castle Rock and Second Point when the tide came in. The solution to this dangerous situation came about through the efforts of one Horace J. Smith. On January, 19, 1881, the Santa Barbara Press printed a letter from Smith inviting the town to bring their "picks, shovels, crowbars and sledges" with the objective of building a road between Castle Rock and the cliff behind it. Included in the invitation of course were the ladies who packed the provisions necessary to accommodate the work party. Two days later without benefit of city planners, engineers, the Coastal Commission, or any other entity, the road builders started at 10 am and were done by 12 - just in time for a perfect lunch. Today of course it would take ten years just for the meetings and two years for the construction.
Above: The new road behind Castle Rock is open! Written on the back of this photo "Excavations for Driving Parties Spring 1881. Boulders fell from Mesa in the Summer. Impassable now."
Below: A few years later improvements to the road included a graded approach with guard rails and more of the cliff face eroded or cut away. Castle Rock also changed slightly over time from constant battering from the sea.
Where did it all go?
As they existed in 1928 when this photo was taken: A-Second Point, B-Castle Rock, C-Breakwater, D-Pleasure Pier, E-Los Banos (not the same one we have today), F-Pershing Park, G-Stearns Wharf. Sites in the future: 1-Shoreline Park, 2-City College West Campus, 3-City College East Campus. Marked in red: Cabrillo Boulevard, Castillo Street.
It was that pesky little "C" that changed everything. The breakwater was originally designed to be parallel to the shore, with an arm turned towards, but not connected to the shore. Problem was, it calmed the water and thus the natural flow of sand via the current was interrupted and sand started filling in between B, C, and D, leaving the 425' Pleasure Pier high and dry within two years. To keep the sand from filling the harbor it was decided to extend the east end by several hundred feet and also, to build an arm connecting to the land where "B", the landmark Castle Rock stood. In this case, "B" stands for BOOM as Castle Rock was then destroyed. The twin pillars at the entrance to the breakwater are just about where Castle Rock stood.
The breakwater was completed in June, 1930, and the area between A, B, and C quickly filled with sand to create Leadbetter Beach. The Leadbetter of said beach fame was Frederick and Caroline Leadbetter who had bought the former Dibblee Estate in 1906 (which is now #3, City College East Campus). The sand, having no idea of the finer points of breakwater engineering and intent, ignored the improvements and thus we dredge the harbor. In addition, West Beach between Castillo and State expanded dramatically and Stearns Wharf now spans more than 400' of sand rather than water. Thanks to Google Earth we have this view today and I've roughly outlined in red where the shore used to be. As you can see, the City College beach parking, La Playa Stadium, the city's west beach and harbor parking and the breakwater businesses were all under water 85 years ago
Neal Graffy is a Santa Barbara historian, his book "Street Names of Santa Barbara" is available at Chaucers, Vices and Spices, Santa Barbara Arts and Tecolote Books as well as online at www.elbarbareno.com.
Photos courtesy Neal Graffy collection and Google Earth (2010 view)
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