Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Most of the buildings on this block appear in 1938 aerial photos, although I don't have a definitive construction date for any of them right now. (During the 1890s it was the site of Horace Salter's feedlot.) The shipyard's main "period of significance," however, was World War II, when the 103,000 square-foot facility was, according to the Los Angeles Times, "among the West Coast's most booming building and repairing shipyards." Then known as South Coast Boat Builders, they won war contracts to build rescue vessels, convert aging tuna clippers into wooden minesweepers, and outfit other Navy vessels. Some of those ships, like patrol frigates, were surprisingly large for Newport Harbor.
In a sign that residential development was faring far better than ship building, the South Coast Shipyard was sold to a swimming pool company in the mid-1960s. But by 1970 (when I suppose every house in Newport already had at least one swimming pool), the shipyard was cut up into smaller properties. There were a lot more spaces than tenants. Cranes and equipment were left to rust, and the property was soon put up for sale again.
In 1974, the historic shipyard was "renovated and restored" by William Blurock & Partners and became the South Coast Shipyard & Design Center, with a variety of shops selling nautical equipment and decor in addition to the shipyard's usual services. (The Shipyard was also initially discussed as a potential home for the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum.)
Over the past three decades, the South Coast Shipyard specialized in restoring vintage watercraft. The adjoining mix of shops became more eclectic as the years went on.
The photo above shows some of those shops, including one with a pretty nice 1930s deco facade, surrounded by green construction fencing. Please note that the Crab Cooker is not fenced and is in no danger. The photo below shows the interior courtyard of the shopping area.
It's truly a shame that the developer made no attempt at adaptive reuse of the main Shipyard buildings, which played such an important role in history. Certainly, there are some good examples of that kind of "recycling" in Orange County, with a hotel now in the old Irvine bean warehouse, a gourmet food court in the old Anaheim Railroad Depot, CSUF's Art Center in Santa Ana's old Grand Central Market, etc., etc., etc.
In discussing this site a few years ago, a Newport Beach City Councilmember said that it was only feasible to save "super-historic buildings, like the Balboa Pavilion." Sorry, Charlie,... You don't get to invent a new category of "super-historic." Either something is historic or it isn't. And the South Coast Shipyard most certainly is.
Posted by Chris Jepsen at 7/11/2012