Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Richfield tower, Dana Point & Doris Walker

The Richfield tower in Dana Point, next door to Flake Brothers Burgers.
Brent Walker continues to find, scan, and share more great photos taken by his mother, the late local historian Doris Walker. The image above shows the Richfield Oil tower on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point in February 1969, shortly before it was taken down. It was built in 1928 -- not coincidentally the same year construction began on Richfield's corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, which featured a very similar tower at its apex.
At night, the five-foot-tall blue neon letters cast a glow on PCH.
I blogged about the Dana Point tower back in 2008, but didn't have images anywhere near this good. It was one of 36 such towers constructed 50 miles apart from each other along the California coast. Drivers saw it from great distances along PCH, especially at night, and it was visible far out at sea. But Richfield claimed they were "aerial beacons," guiding airplanes safely up and down the California Coast. The ad shown below, which I found in the Dec. 13, 1928 edition of the Huntington Beach News, promotes the radio broadcast that dedicated the whole string of Richfield towers.
You may also remember KHJ as the pre-1989 call letters for TV's Channel 9.
Speaking of Doris Walker, I attended the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for the Doris Walker Overlook at Heritage Park (at the end of Old Golden Lantern) in Dana Point. It's kind of a park within a park, and offers an outstanding view of the harbor, the headlands, and down the coast to San Clemente.
Civic leaders and Blair and Brent Walker dedicate the overlook, April 17, 2013.
 The entrance is decorated with "Disney rock" surmounted by several plaques, including one that reads, in part,...
"Doris Walker was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and began writing for publication at the age of eight. After studying English and journalism at Case Western Reserve University, Doris moved to Dana Point in 1963. She worked as an editor, reporter, photojournalist and public relations director while raising her two sons. A member of the Orange County Historical Commission, and a founder of the Dana Point Historical Society and Annual Festival of the Whales, ...this area's history comes vibrantly alive in her many books, including: Dana Point Harbor/Capistrano Bay: Home Port for Romance, Sections of Orange: Orange County, A Centennial Celebration, and the Adventurer's Guide to Dana Point."
The most scenic spot on the overlook features a very attractive bronze "book" depicting various elements of local history that appeared in Doris' work. The center of the site incorporates an existing cement depiction of a large compass, as one might find on an old nautical map.
Doris would have loved this.
It's hard to imagine that anyone -- even Richard Henry Dana -- was ever more enthusiastic about this section of California coast than was Doris. There couldn't be a more fitting tribute to the woman and her work.


Anonymous said...

very nice Dana Point articles. (Dana Point Manny)

Tris Mast said...

Great 1928 ad. Makes me want to hear the broadcast.

JB said...

The good news is I'm old enough to remember the Richfield tower. The bad news is I'm old enough to remember the Richfield tower. We used to drive by it on our way to San Diego from Palos Verdes in the mid 60's. Since I live in TX now I rarely get to that area.

Jasperdo said...

A few of these Richfield towers still exist. Here's one that's still standing in Mount Shasta City in Northern California:

Ricky Blake said...

Doris Walker is a treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to Dana Point and History..she helped out so much with my facebook page Historic Dana Point Surf Break....There are still so many stories out there about this vanished jewel of Orange County...there were many surf breaks other than Killer Dana that were destroyed with the construction of the harbor..

Unknown said...

Great shots! There's a fairly terrific piece about the Richfield beacon towers and associated hotels here: