Countdown to 2000: fashions/trends/the arts

October 27, 1999

Susan McCormack

The first sign that Newport Beach was making the change from commercial

port to a thriving cultural and tourist destination came in 1905, when

the Victorian-style Balboa Pavilion was built.

The pavilion was built on a sand pit surrounded by water and its dome

stood out among the barren landscape. Soon, small hotels and wooden beach

cottages began to dot the area and Newport became known for its summer


vacation culture.

Tourists from inland cities began flocking to the beach in horse-drawn

wagons. Some families brought enough belongings and food to camp for

weeks on the sand. Most visitors were fully clothed as they strolled the

beach and dug for clams, and the women often wore hats and carried

umbrellas to keep the sun off their faces.

Outdoor church services featured piano-accompanied singing. Also, a

lending library was set up.

In 1908, the Polish Shakespearean actress Madama Helena Modjeska moved to

Balboa Island with her husband. She was the city's first international

celebrity and brought a touch of European sophistication to the beach

town. She died in her home in 1909.

In 1908, gondolier John Scarpa brought more culture to the area when he

moved his Venice Beach business to Balboa. Scarpa would sing operatic

arias as he took customers around the bay.

On August 23, 1908, Scarpa organized the first lighted boat parade.

Canoes and Venetian-style gondolas were illuminated with Japanese

lanterns in what would later evolve into the Christmas Boat Parade.

In October 1909, the Ebell Club of Newport Beach was formed to plan civic

projects, including a public library.


* "Newport Beach California: Celebrating 90 years," Steve Simon, 1996

* "A Hundred Years of Yesterdays," Esther R. Cramer, Keith A. Dixon,

Diann Marsh, Phil Brigandi and Clarice A. Blamer, Eds., 1988

* "Newport Beach: The First Century, 1888-1988," James P. Felton, Ed.,


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