Laguna Beach – A Look Back

By Dr. Gregg DeNicola, Laguna Beach Historical Society

Today we go back to the 19th century to get a good look at the newly built Hotel Laguna in 1888.

Records show Henry Goff opened the Hotel in 1888 at 425 S. Coast Highway – the site of the current Hotel Laguna. The exact timeline from this point is complicated.

Goff was one of four brothers that came to Laguna in 1878 from Connecticut and settled in town. He lived on a small patch near the current Montage site.

He called his new hotel the Alpha Hotel and enjoyed some financial success with the tourists passing through. Goff even moved another building to the site, almost doubling its size. But after only a few years, the travel industry bottomed out, a depression ensued and land values plummeted

The hotel was abandoned and became the home of rabbits, squirrels and the occasional hobo.

There were 14 guest rooms, a dilapidated kitchen and wide verandas allowing many entrances into the hotel, both from the street on the north and the beach on the south.

In 1895, Joseph Yoch bought the property by simply taking over the mortgage – all $600 of it. The Yochs lived in Santa Ana and used the Hotel as their summer home.

In 1897, Yoch moved another Laguna hotel investment of his – the Arch Beach Hotel – up the street and combined it with the Alpha. With the new 30 room hotel, now called the Hotel Laguna, the Yochs dove headfirst into becoming first-class hotel managers, putting the whole family to work.

This “ruined” his wife, who soon became wheelchair bound.

Thanks to the patronage of Riverside tourists, the hotel filled nicely and became the focal point of the young town. It became the center of the “Gay 90’s” in Laguna and boasted Madam Modjeska and James Irvine as regulars.

By the 1920s, Laguna was becoming an art colony and property values were booming. By this time, the hotel had changed hands several times and was in need of many repairs. It was actually condemned, razed and rebuilt into the structure we would now better recognize. The new building debuted in 1930, 42 years after being first built. 

Laguna Beach A Look Back Laguna Hotel

Click on photo for a larger image

Jim Nordstrom Photo Collection
Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Laguna Hotel, 1888

In this 1888 photo, the veranda facing the beach appears to be a popular place to hang out. Fedoras for men, and long fluffy dresses for women seem to be the dress code of the day. Wine or whiskey barrels were stored on the sand, and a handwritten sign informs us there was a grocery and tobacco store on site.

Today we can thank Goff and Yoch for the foresight of this hotel site, which remains – 134 years later – Hotel Laguna. 

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