Laguna Beach, California

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Laguna Beach is an affluent seaside resort city located in southern Orange County, California, United States, approximately 19 miles (31 km) southeast of the county seat of Santa Ana. Laguna Beach is known for its mild year-round climate, scenic beaches and coves, and artist community. The population in the 2010 census was 22,723.

Historically a territory of paleoindians, the Tongva people and then Mexico, the location became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War. Laguna Beach was settled in the 1870s, officially founded in 1887 and incorporated as the City of Laguna Beach in 1927. The city has remained relatively isolated from urban encroachment by its surrounding hills, limited highway access and a dedicated greenbelt. 5.88 miles of Laguna Beach coastline is protected by a State Marine Reserve and an additional 1.21 miles of Laguna coastline is a State Conservation Area. [2]

Tourism is the primary industry with an estimated 3 million people visiting the community annually. [3] The community hosts several large art events annually including the Pageant of the Masters, Festival of the Arts, Sawdust Festival and Art-A-Fair.

Laguna Beach was the habitation site of a prehistoric paleoindian civilization. [4] In 1933, the first fossilized skull of a paleoindian found in California was uncovered during construction on St. Ann's Drive. [5] Known as "Laguna Woman", the skull was originally radiocarbon dated to more than 17,000 BP, however, revised measurements suggest it originated during the Holocene era 11,700 years before present. [6] Subsequent research has found several prehistoric encampment sites in the area. [7]

Historically, the indigenous people of the Laguna Beach area were the Tongva. Aliso Creek served as a territorial boundary between Gabrieleno and Juaneno groups, named by Spanish missionaries who first encountered them in the 1500s. [8] [9] The area of Laguna Canyon was named on an 1841 Mexican land grant map as Cañada de las Lagunas (English:Glen of the Lagoons). [10] After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, the area of Alta California was ceded to the United States. The treaty provided that Mexican land grants be honored and Rancho San Joaquin, which included north Laguna Beach, was granted to José Antonio Andres Sepúlveda. Following a drought in 1864, Sepúlveda sold the property to James Irvine. [11] The majority of Laguna Beach was one of the few parcels of coastal land in Southern California that was never included in any Mexican land grant. [11]

Pre-1917 postcard of Joseph Yoch's original Hotel Laguna -- built in 1888 and replaced in 1930.
View of the Main Beach ca. 1915

Settlers arrived after the American Civil War encouraged by the Homestead Act and Timber Culture Act which granted up to 160 acres of land to a homesteader who would plant at least 40 acres of trees. In Laguna Beach, settlers planted groves of eucalyptus trees. [12] In 1871, the first permanent homestead in the area was created by the George and Sarah Thurston family of Utah on 152 acres of Aliso Creek Canyon. [13] [14] In 1876, the brothers William and Nathaniel Brooks settled on land in Bluebird Canyon at present-day Diamond Street. They subdivided their land and a small community named Arch Beach grew there with a post office and general store. [15] The year of the Brooks' arrival is often cited as the official settling of the city of Laguna Beach. [15]

A community in Laguna Canyon and around the main beach grew during the 1880s. The city officially founded a post office in 1887 under the name Lagona (sic), but the postmaster in 1904, Nicholas Isch, successfully petitioned for a name correction to Laguna Beach. [16] By then Laguna Beach had already developed into a tourist destination. [17] Hubbard Goff built a large hotel at Arch Beach in 1886, which was later moved and added to Joseph Yoch's Laguna Beach Hotel built in 1888 on the main beach. [18] Visitors from local cities pitched tents on the beaches for vacation during the warm summers. [19]

The scenic beauty of the isolated coastline and hills attracted plein-air painters in the early 1900s. William Wendt, Frank Cuprien, and Edgar Payne among others settled there and formed the Laguna Beach Art Association. The first art gallery opened in 1918 and later became the Laguna Beach Art Museum. [20] Precursors to The Festival of the Arts and the Pageant of the Masters began in 1921, and were eventually established in their present day form by Roy Ropp in 1936. [21] Due to its proximity to Hollywood, Laguna also became a favorite filming location. Starting in 1913, dozens of silent films were made at local coves with Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and others. Actors and film crews stayed during long production shoots at the Arch Beach Tavern on the hillside above Moss Street. [22]

The arrival of painters, photographers, filmmakers and writers established Laguna Beach as a noted artist community. [19] Although there were only about 300 residents in 1920, a large proportion of them worked in creative fields. [23] The small town remained isolated. The Laguna Canyon road was the only access as the coast road extended less than two miles from Boat Canyon to Bluebird Canyon. [23] With the completion of the Pacific Coast Highway in 1926, a population boom was expected. In order to protect the small town atmosphere of the art colony, residents who called themselves "Lagunatics" pushed for incorporation. [23] The City of Laguna Beach was incorporated on June 29, 1927. [24] The city experienced steady population growth since that time, rising from 1900 residents in 1927 to more than 10,000 in 1962, and becoming four times larger in area. [23]

Many wealthy and progressive people have made Laguna Beach their home and added to the local culture. The adventurer Richard Halliburton built his Hangover House on the slopes of South Laguna. Hildegarde Hawthorne, granddaughter of the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, described Laguna "as a child of that deathless search, particularly by persons who devote their lives to painting or writing, or for some place where beauty and cheapness and a trifle of remoteness hobnob together in a delightful companionship." [25]

Laguna Beach was the southern California epicenter of 'alternative' culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s. [26] In early 1967, John Griggs and other founding members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love relocated from Modjeska Canyon to the Woodland Drive neighborhood of Laguna Beach, which they later re-christened "Dodge City". [26] Timothy Leary lived in a beach house on Gaviota Drive. [27]

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