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Dennis Hartley's Blog

By Dennis Hartley | Broker in Manhattan Beach, CA

Redondo Beach, Turn of the Century Vacation Spot

In 1890, the Hotel Redondo opened. The City was becoming “The Place” for tourists, bringing thousands of tourists to the area by railroad and steamship. Freight loads of oil and lumber were pouring into Redondo’s popular port. At this time, Redondo was the first port of Los Angeles County. Steamers from the Pacific Steamship Company stopped at Redondo four times a week at one of its three piers, as part of its regular run between San Francisco and San Diego. The Redondo Railway Company and the Santa Fe Railroad left Los Angeles daily for Redondo at regular intervals. Eventually the City was served by Henry Huntington’s Big Red Electric Cars.

The Hotel Redondo, with its 18-hole golf course, lush landscaping, tennis courts and 225 luxurious rooms, each of which was “touched by sunlight at some time of the day,” induced more visitors than ever before to venture to the coast. If the price of hotel accommodations was too steep, one could rent a tent at nearby Tent City. Patrons were charged $3.00 per week, or $10.00 per month for a tent. Wooden floors and electric lights were included in the price.

Several natural and man-made novelties also lured visitors to Redondo Beach. Between Diamond Street and the Hermosa Beach city line. There was Moonstone Beach with natural mounds five to six feet deep and 40 to 50 feet wide of gem stones to poke around in.

In the general vicinity of Ruby and Sapphire Streets, east of Catalina Avenue, Carnation Gardens offered 12 acres of sweet smelling flowers that were almost always in bloom. The piers were also an attraction and sport fishing was unsurpassed in popularity.  The Redondo Beach Plunge, billed as the "largest indoor salt-water-heated pool in the world", was built in 1909 by Huntington. Four-stories and Moorish in style, it housed three pools heated by Pacific Light and Power's steam plant (originally built to generate electricity for the Red Cars).  A tower, two diving boards, and a trapeze were features of the large main pool.  It was located on the beach, between the ends of the Horseshoe Pier, where a parking structure stands today. 

From 1910 to 1920, Redondo Beach was one of the best-attended weekend getaway spots in America. The beaches, pier, and downtown were jammed with vacationers and the Hollywood crowd. Water sports mavens drawn to the area included the great surfing pioneer George Freeth, who soon became a local icon.

Other Redondo Beach attractions adjacent to the Plunge included the Casino, Dance Pavilion and Auditorium, plus the “Lightning Racer” roller coaster, which had two parallel tracks.  In cars traveling over 6000 feet of track, riders had the sensation of racing those next to them in the adjoining car.  First opened to the public in 1913, the Lightning Racer was located on the beach just north of old Wharf One (today's Municipal Pier). Unfortunately, the roller coaster was severely damaged by an extreme storm in March 1915 and was later demolished.

On April 18, 1892, Redondo voters adopted cityhood by a vote of 177-10 and ten years later, the first City Hall was built in 1908 at Benita and Emerald Street.


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