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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Epic Footprint of the 1909 Huntington Breakwater - report

Part 1

Also see:
 |  Part 1 - Introduction
 |  Part 2 - More resources
 |  Part 3 - Piling Graveyard
 |  Part 4 - 1912 Redondo Harbor Report

Introduction (visualizations)

[ Three Google Earth screenshots of study area with markup indicating approximate extent of the original pebble beach and location of the 1909 Huntington Breakwater ]




Photo taken January 9, 2015, 3pm - looking north


Photo taken January 9, 2015, 3pm - looking south


Introduction (text and images)

A collection of maps, old newspaper articles, photos and other documents is presented showing the footprint of the first significant rock revetment and breakwater placement on the shoreline. This breakwater is the 1909 Huntington Breakwater. It is 700 feet long, composed of granite boulders and was installed by Henry Huntington to protect his investment in the great Bath House and Pavilion he was building along the beach near the southern edge of the famous pebble beach. The 1909 Huntington Breakwater is still physically in place, as well as, the cultural pattern Huntington also permanently set in place to protect local property interests on the beach with rock breakwaters. These physical and cultural patterns explain the cause of the epic ecological footprint extending in all directions from the 1909 breakwater.

In 1887, the first plans were developed for a harbor with a breakwater. While the original proposal was for a "floating" breakwater, the proposed harbor itself would have then, of course, devastated the beach, the great sand dune, the lake, the famous salt works and the water works. The fresh water source right there being the basis for the origin of the city and later expansion of industry. However, the harbor was not put in then. Wharfs, trestles and piers were. These types of structures had a negligible physical footprint compared to the breakwaters and revetments put in starting in 1909.

So, in 1909, tons of rock revetment were installed right at the southern edge of the famous pebble beach. A remarkably effective shifting baseline rationale was employed in 1909 to frame destruction of the beach as protection of Huntington's investments of the beach. The entire length of the original famous pebble beach was devastated in this manner over several decades. What happened is storms hit the beach. The same storms that put the pebbles on the beach of course. However, now people had developed structures right on the beach north of the 1909 breakwater and they wanted their property protected like Huntington protected his property. Various seawall solutions were installed on the "north beach" and storms hit through them and more and bigger seawalls were installed until the beach was gone. The storms still hit those seawalls hard until the place was so ravaged the only feasible option was to devastate the entire north beach and install a small yacht harbor. The dynamic process of destruction of the original famed pebble beach effectively started with Huntington's protection of his investment in the waterfront. Then the city got involved in the process which involved exerting pressure on the state and federal government. The epic footprint of the 1909 Huntington Breakwater has ravaged the entire shoreline as a natural resource valued by multiple cultures of people for thousands of years. A remarkable ongoing instance of human complexity and ecological footprint.

[ Image, The Redondo Reflex, 25 March 1909 — Rock For Breakwater, article ]

Then, six months later, it is reported - "An interesting change in the shore line is noted."

[ Image, The Redondo Reflex, September 9, 1909, page 3, article, excerpt paragraph "interesting change". Great find by Douglas Thompson, Librarian, Redondo Beach Main Public Library ]

The earliest known photos of the original beach:

[ Image - 1887, I. W. Taber Photograph, "Redondo Beach (the sands)", looking south ]


[ Image - 1887 I. W. Taber Photograph, "Redondo Beach (the pebbles)", looking north ]

The first rock revetment placement?

The rock revetment of the famous pebble beach may have began with the small amount of rocks at the base of the trestle of Henry Huntington's power plant. See the 1911 photo below. The power plant was built in 1906 and the revetment for the trestle may have been put in then. Note the people looking for moonstones in the photo.

[ Image, 1911, April 30, Photo of Huntington's Redondo Power Plant, the pipeline and wharf to fueloil storage tank. ]

[ Image, postcard of people gathering moonstones on beach, looking north with Huntington power plant trestle in distance. Note: tide action formed beach stones in mounds ]

In 1887, the Redondo Beach Company investors envisioned developing a seaside resort watering place with the salt works property they obtained in Anita Trudell's estate sale. The pebble beach, great sand dune, the lake and salt works and water works were in near original condition when Anita died in 1884. Her estate included the original 1854 Pacific Salt Works Co. land tract. Her will said to sale the salt works complete and it was. The executor of Anita Trudell's estate was her family friend George H. Smith. Smith was renowned legal scholar. Colonel Smith sold the salt works tract in 1886 for $3,600 to the husband of one of Anita's Mellus daughters. He, two year later, then sold the tract to the Redondo Beach Company in 1886 for $30,000.

The Redondo Beach Company investors hired a consulting engineer to survey the site and he also performed ocean water depth soundings off their newly obtained waterfront property. The submarine canyon was found and reported to the investors who immediately updated their plans for "Redondo Beach" to include industry development and a state-of-the-art harbor with a breakwater to compete in the contest with San Pedro as the harbor for Los Angeles.

San Pedro won the contest for the harbor. The pebble beach was temporarily still in one beautiful near mile long piece of waterfront with wharfs and trestles being put in.

Henry Huntington's 1905 purchase of the Redondo land company and it's operations, as well as, the Bixby tract of waterfront property is the next significant event in the history of the waterfront. He did develop the beach. In 1906, Huntington put in the power plant on the great sand dune on the northern boundary of his waterfront property. His plan to develop the beach starts with talk in 1906 and then a survey in early 1909. Consider the following 1906 piece in the Santa Monica Outlook and the great Los Angeles Herald newspaper reporting in the January 5 1909 article, "To Build Dock Breakwater".


[ Image, The Daily (Santa Monica) Outlook, 23 March 1906, page 5 — "7,000,000 steel breakwater at Redondo" ]

[ Transcription - 1906 Outlook piece about talk of steel breakwater at Redondo ]

Huntington and the Santa Fe are said to be behind the movement to build a $7,000,000 steel breakwater at Redondo.
[ /Transcription ]


[ Image, Los Angeles Herald, Volume 36, Number 96, 5 January 1909 — To Build Dock Breakwater For Protection of Wharves ]

[ Transcription - 1909 LA Herald article regarding survey ]


REDONDO BEACH, Jan. 5.—A survey has been made for a breakwater to protect the wharves from the heavy seas which follow storms from the northwest. The plan is to build about 3000 feet of rock breakwater, commencing at a point where the power plant wharf is situated and to construct it so as to conform with a ridge which is found to run along the line of the survey. The average depth of water is about twenty-eight feet, which reduces the cost of construction to a figure below that of any breakwater of the same length.
[ /Transcription ]

What happened to the beach shown in the postcard below begins with and over the excitement of Henry Huntington's 1905 purchase of the Redondo Beach Company (renamed Redondo Improvement Company). This excitement resulted in a compromise in the 1909 Redondo Beach Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce self regulation to protect Moonstone Beach. An "exception" was made in the preservation of the beach. A part of the beach was allowed to be compromised. The beach stones were allowed to be used in the construction of the Huntington Bathhouse on the beach. The beach stones had already been used in the construction of the concrete basement of the 1906 Huntington power plant.


[ Image - Postcard of Moonstone Beach, looking north, Huntington power plant in distance. ]

1909 "REDONDO BEACH IS PROSPEROUS" [ARTICLE] - Los Angeles Herald, 8 April 1909, page 3.

The Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce, in their 1909 annual meeting, "made an exhaustive investigatlon and report regarding the preservation of Moonstone beach". both the Redondo Reflex and the Los Angeles Herald reported on the meeting. Transcribed below is the text from each of these newspapers articles about the event - specifically the text about Moonstone Beach. The text is exacty the same in both newspaper articles. What happened to the investigation report and recommendations about the preservation of the famous Moonstone Beach is unknown.

[ Transcription - "Moonstone Beach" ]

A special committee of this organisation made an exhaustive investigatlon and report regarding the preservation of Moonstone Beach, and the recommendations of that committee, endorsed by the chamber, have been followed by the Redondo Improvement Company, notwithstanding many complaints of increased cost of concrete work. The only exception that has been made has been to permit the hauling of gravel for the new bath house, this being an improvement of such magnitude that no possible objection can be raised to facilitating the work in every way. The gravel is now washing in more plentifully than for many months past, and it is hoped that there will soon be such an accumulation as to permit of its use by the general public, under proper regulations and supervision as recommended by the committee..
[ /Transcription ]


[ Image - excerpt from The Redondo Reflex April 8, 1909 article reporting of annual Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce meeting ]

[ Excerpt - "breakwater" excerpt from May 18, 1909 Los Angeles Times article ]

"The new bath-house erected at a cost of $50,000 is nearing completion and will be finished fifteen days ahead of time, the indications now being that it will be thrown open June 15. The breakwater built for it is to be extended to Pier No.1, furnishing a protection for the Casino and pavilion."
[ /Excerpt ]

[ Excerpt - "NEW BATH-HOUSE TO BE READY IN THREE WEEKS" excerpt from May 23, 1909 Los Angeles Times article ]

"For several weeks load after load of flat cars has run out on the temporary trestle from which a huge mass of rock has been dumped into the ocean for the breakwater. Pile-driving is now in progress to continue this to pier No. 1".
[ /Excerpt ]

[ Images - Two postcards views of what was the southern boundary of the pebble beach. These photos were taken from Wharf 1 looking south at Huntington's Bath House and Pavilion with install of 1909 rock revetment or "breakwater" and before the 1915 triangle pier was put in. ]

1946, "General Plan Of Improvement Redondo Beach Harbor", U.S. Engineer Office, April 1946

Images of the 1946 Plan Map show the exact location of the "Existing Revetment" constructed in 1946 and notes the location of "12.3 Acres" of the "Original Beach Area". This data rich map also shows the exact physical relationship of the original shoreline, the great sand dune, the salt lake and several current city streets, etc.

This 1946 Plan, by the way, includes measurements of the exact height of the doomed great sand dune next to the pebble beach. 1946 was the last year the dune existed. The salt lake gone a few years later. The lake experienced man-caused ecological collapse in 1901, the dune had already been graded at least twice before 1946, first in 1901 for Standard Oil Company's oil-docking business with their own trestle right there on the beach. In 1946, the dune, which originally extended along the entire expanse of the Old Salt Lake, was measured at 20+ feet in height, one point reaching 38 feet high.

1946, Map of General Plan of Improvement Redondo Beach Harbor, from "Letter from The Secretary of the Army transmitting a Letter from the Chief of Engineers, United States Army, dated July 18, 1949, submitting a report, together with accompanying paper and illustrations, on a review of reports on Redondo Beach Harbor, Calif., requested by a resolution of the Committee on Rivers and Harbors, House of Representatives, adopted on April 17, 1939", Source: Redondo Beach Main Public Library.

[ Excerpt ]

Note: People were still looking for moonstones in 1947.

Mole B of the small yacht harbor is named "Moonstone Park" after the famous pebble beach. The shifting baseline rationale Huntington's corporate directors and advocates successfully implemented in 1909 has been executed to its ultimate and ongoing extent. The pebble beach was destroyed in each instance through time, like the great sand dune, the lake, the salt works, fresh water aquifer, the sands, bluffs, springs and archaeological sites, the entire original shoreline ravaged always complete with professionally unapologetic brutal irony.