By Carlos N. Olvera
In this week’s double issue we are celebrating the Best of Dana Point. So I thought it would be a good time to take a look back into the city’s past to see who may have appeared on the annual people’s choice award edition, had it existed way back when. Unfortunately this cannot be an all-inclusive review, as neither, time nor space nor memory permit. But here are a few that come to mind.
Oceana’s Coral Island – Named as such when it served as a boutique store specializing in sea shell artwork and jewelry in this familiar building during the mid ’40s and ‘50s. The current owner, from Ontario, Calif., acquired the building in 1963. It has been home to many businesses—Brookside Winery in the ‘70s, Up Sports and PCH Rides, but originally it was the real estate office of S.H. Woodruff in 1927 rented from Anna Walters.
Hobie’s – Hobie Surf Shop on Pacific Coast Highway, the first of its kind in Southern California, still stands today—now home to Taco Surf—but has been “slightly” modified. Built in 1954 after buying a lot for $1,500, Hobie moved from his father’s garage in Laguna Beach where he began crafting surfboards. The shop recently moved to the old post office (formerly Real Time, a bank and an antique store) and remodeled it into an eye-catching upscale business building on PCH between Golden Lantern and La Plaza.
Blue Lantern Fountain Lunch – Constructed in 1924, it was built as a gas station with a residence on top and on the side is the Blue Lantern Fountain Lunch, with its name still toweled in the stucco above the entrance door. It has been a Shell service station, a Texaco service station, a farmer’s market, Marine Hardware, a ceramic shop and most recently the former home of Bella Bazaar. Trihawks—a three-wheeled vehicle—were first manufactured in 1982 in Illinois. The sales office moved to this location in 1983 and closed in 1985 with less than 100 produced. One local, Mel Pierce, used to pump gas here, running back and forth to his other job flipping burgers at a restaurant across the street.
Captain’s Anchorage – Built in 1969 and established on Del Prado in 1971, the restaurant had a sea fare menu but mostly steaks, salad bar and a little heavy on the music. An aquarium full of pesky looking piranhas divided the bar and the dining room. The building was demolished along with two others (Dana Point Glass and Windsurfer Magazine) in 1990 to make way for the new post office. During the transition, the building stood empty and became a respite for the homeless.
Plantation Motel – Built in 1942 with 27 units, it had an original look of a southern plantation with a widow’s walk over the two-story office. But its promise appears to have been less than desirable. It was listed for sale as “outstanding “and “near new” in March of 1950. Listed again for sale in 1955, then in a forced court ordered sale, was purchased for $25,000 cash with a balance of $55,500 in 1957. It actually went into foreclosure in 2009 after changing hands in 1992 and 2002. The name was changed to Dana Marina Inn. Tripadvisor has rated it as “terrible.” Current plans are to replace the building with a new three-story mixed-use structure.
Dana Point Hotel – This building has survived the test of time. Originally built as the Dana Point Hotel
It was forced to sell by a court order in July 1955. It had 55 rooms and apartments, a store and a restaurant. It was built in a horseshoe shape with a pool in the center opening up to Del Prado. That has since been closed off. The dining room has had several names over the years. Originally the Galleon Room, The Warne Marsh Quartet recorded “Live at Dana Point” in 1957. This was followed by Tom Brown’s Bicycle Café, Daddy-O’s Bicycle Café and now Jack’s Restaurant, for the last 17 years.
Carlos N. Olvera is chair of the OC Historical Commission and mayor of Dana Point.