towers. In fact, do we even have anything that would qualify as a
historic monument? Yes, we do.
The Balboa Pavilion was built in 1905. Originally designed as the
terminal for the Red Cars of the Pacific Electric Railway, it also stood
as a navigation beacon for ships. The Victorian cupola adorned with 1,400
white lights could be seen for miles out at sea. The structure is
recorded in the National Registry of Historical Places and holds a
California landmark designation.
In addition to being the beach drop-off spot for the Red Car line, the
facility was designed as a bathhouse for "stylish" beachgoers. Other
features followed, including a general store (which still exists), a
bowling alley and a famous dance hall. Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Benny
Goodman were just a few of the sounds that could be heard on any given
The Pavilion also became the birthplace of a national dance craze that
swept the country, known as the "Balboa Hop." The Holiday Parade of
Lights boat parade began in 1908, and the Pavilion was always the center
of the activity. In 1932, the Pavilion hosted the first surfing contest
held in the U.S., as Hawaii at that time was not yet a state. Surfing's
Duke Kahanamoku was a frequent visitor, as were Hollywood's social elite.
In the 1960s, the facility expanded to include whale-watching,
sportfishing out of Davey's Locker and became the home of the Catalina
Flyer. The general store is still there and maintains its early 1900s
charm. Kayaks and other small-boat rentals are also available through the
The Tale of the Whale Restaurant and Spouter Saloon bar has hosted
everyone from royalty to reprobates. Celebrities such as John Wayne,
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, James Cagney, Tony Curtis, Clayton Morse,
Jayne Mansfield and others could frequently be seen in the restaurant and
bar. The banquet facility can host receptions of of up to 500 guests and
has held more Newport Harbor High School proms and reunions than anyone
I love the majestic look of the Balboa Pavilion, and I'm thankful we
have such a structure radiating its turn-of-the-century charm and
elegance. But we live in Newport Beach, a place where historical
significance is sometimes overlooked.
Is it possible it could be torn down and replaced by a hotel? Nah.
It's a registered landmark and, besides, legions of people would protest
and uphold our right to maintain structures and organizations of
* TERRANCE PHILLIPS is the Daily Pilot's boating writer. You can reach
him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.