Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 52  |  July 1, 2022

Laguna Beach – A Look Back: Celebrating the 95 years of incorporation, 1927

By Dr. Gregg DeNicola, Laguna Beach Historical Society

The year was 1927.

–Lindbergh flies solo over the Atlantic.

–Babe Ruth swats 60 home runs enroute to the Yankees winning the World Series and being considered the best baseball team of all time.

–Prohibition begats bootleggers and speakeasys across the country.

–Al Capone’s wealth was estimated to be $100 million.

–The top grossing film in the U.S. was the Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, introducing the country to the idea of “alkies.”

–The No. #1 song in 1927 was “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael.

–Henry Ford stops production of the Model T and sells the first Model A for $384.

–Actress Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in prison for “Corrupting the morals of youth.”

–John T. Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution to his students, with the Supreme Court overturning his conviction on a technicality.

And in Laguna Beach…

Laguna Beach A Look Back Playhouse, 1920s

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Photos courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Laguna Playhouse, 1920s. In 1920, a group of local thespians banded together to form what they called the Community Clubhouse at 319 Ocean Ave. They called themselves the Laguna Players and the birth of the local theater was complete. This circa 1920s photo shows the rich ivy and beautiful cursive font used fashionably in that era.

In Laguna Beach, the Hotel Laguna was being rebuilt after the original building was demolished for general neglect. Downtown was a collection of clapboard buildings and bungalows on Ocean and Forest avenues, with Main Beach being literally the “main beach.”

Laguna Beach A Look Back Elementary

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This is the Laguna Beach Elementary school, circa 1920. At the time of the incorporation, the enrollment was approximately 150 pupils. It was located on Park Avenue in the vicinity of the current high school. High school students in Laguna attended school in Tustin until 1934.

The population of Laguna Beach was 1,900 proud souls. High School students were taken via old buses and horse and carriage to the high school in Tustin, with the grade school open on Park Avenue.

Laguna Beach A Look Back Peace Pipe Pageant

Peace Pipe Pageant, 1921. Local artist Isaac Frazie created the Indian Peace Pipe Pageant in 1921 among the eucalyptus trees in Sleepy Hollow. The purpose was to raise funds for an art museum. This was more than 10 years before the Pageant of the Masters.

Plein Air painters were all the rage and the Laguna Beach Art Association was going strong. The White House restaurant was turning 9 years old and took on the role of the local watering hole.

The beautifully designed Water Treatment Plant, the Pageant of the Masters and the Downtown fire station were twinkles in God’s eyes.

Laguna Beach A Look Back Downtown

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This was Laguna Beach’s downtown around the time of the 1927 incorporation. The gate hangs where it does today on the corner of Forest Avenue and Coast Highway, in front of the drugstore instead of an ice cream shop. The grocery store is shown doing a brisk business and a string of Model Ts wait their turn to go on South Coast Highway. Notice the “Temple Hills” sign in the background.

South Coast Highway is one year open, allowing tourists to access the Village from north and south as well as from the canyon on the west. With a population boom expected, a movement was in place to protect Laguna Beach’s small-town atmosphere. Locals calling themselves “Lagunatics” pushed for incorporation to assist in maintaining the quaint arts colony atmosphere.

Laguna Beach A Look Back Pier.jpg

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People on Bird Rock Pier off Heisler Point, circa 1927. According to legend, it was a favorite landing spot for prohibition rumrunners. When the city was incorporated, it was just 1 year old. Throughout history, Main Beach has only had two piers, Laguna’s residents built the first one in 1896 (known as Main Beach Pier) with a $100 contribution from James Irvine Jr. for materials. It lasted until approximately 1916. Then, in 1926, Tony Derkum constructed another pier – its 1,150-foot span extended out beyond Bird Rock, thus its name.

With grass roots support, the city was incorporated as the first south Orange County city on June 29, 1927 – 95 years ago this month.

Laguna Beach A Look Back Lifeguard tower

This is the future lifeguard tower, a year after incorporation, 1928. It served as the attendants station for the Union 76 gas station on Coast Highway and Broadway Street. The station closed in 1937 and the iconic structure was moved across the street to its current location.

Those Lagunatics would probably not recognize their city today. But they would be proud to know Laguna Beach has continued in the role as a quaint arts colony surrounded by neighboring cities that appear to prefer large development.

Laguna Beach may appear to be a small quaint arts colony. But it’s our small quaint arts colony.

Laguna Beach A Look Back Pageant

Building the stage at the Pageant of the Masters, 1941

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. For more information, call 949.497.6834 or visit

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Editor’s Note: Join Laguna Beach’s 95th Birthday Celebration taking place on Wednesday, June 29 from 4-6 p.m. at the Main Beach Cobblestone area. Enjoy live performances from local bands, ice cream and giveaways. If you are unable to attend in person, the anniversary celebration will be live streamed on the city’s Facebook page.


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