Monday, March 08, 2021

Orange County in 1849

C. C. Parry

Here's an excerpt from the journals/notebooks of naturalist Charles Christopher Parry (1823-1890), written as he traveled south-to-north through Orange County along the El Camino Real in 1849. This leg of his travels ultimately took him from San Diego to Monterey, and he documented what he saw along the way. The following narrative picks up near the southernmost point of Orange County, near today’s border of Camp Pendleton and San Clemente:

March 15 -- …The best road follows the beach, but as the tide was up, we were obliged to take to the plain following along the base of the hills. The road occasionally cut up into steep gullies. About three miles on, we descend on the beach and follow under the high beetling cliffs, some 80 ft. of layers of hard clay when the tide is down. The beach where the waves roll in is hard and affords a smooth wagon road. We next follow along the beach four miles to the mouth of the San Juan River, and following up the valley three miles come to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The bottom of this river is very rich soil, and [there are] several ranches with fenced fields about them and peach trees in blossom. The road to the Mission passes over some spurs of hills on the south side of the stream and comes down upon the Mission which lies between two forks of the stream. 

The Mission buildings are in the usual style, a façade of 16 arched pillars enclosing a court and passing into the usual variety of rooms. The out-buildings are mostly dilapidated. The large and spacious church built of sandstone and cement was destroyed by an earthquake… its roof fallen in, and when I arrived its altar was being used as a pen for cattle. The Mission’s grounds are quite extensive [with] a large fine grove of olives. The grape vines have been entirely destroyed. There is a fine orchard of pear trees, also peaches, a few apple trees, pomegranates, a few scattering palm trees, and the tuna cactus complete the present assortment.

The Mission building is now occupied and owned by Mr. [John] Forster, an Englishman, twenty year resident in the country. I partook of a sumptuous dinner with his family consisting of five or six courses of different dishes. He apologized for the lack of meat on account of it being Lent. I thought it was unnecessary. We had salmon from the upper Sacramento and shell fish. Mr. Forster is an extensive landholder, his wife a Mexican or Californian. Camp in an outside court attached to the Mission. Distance 9 miles.

John Forster

March 16 – Leave San Juan at 9 a.m. after a clear evening. A sprinkling of rain fell in the night and the morning [was] cloudy, clearing by noon, which has been the usual character of weather for some time. 

We pass up the valley of San Juan, the stream beautifully bordered with Platanus mexicanus and quite sizable trees of Sambucus, the bottom-ground bedded luxuriant pasturage. Continue up the valley following its left branch till it ascends over rolling ground, soil continuing of a fine loamy character. About nine miles come upon “Rancho Alisos” (Sycamore) [a.k.a. Rancho Cañada de los Alisos] on the left bank of a small stream. From this we continue on our course and soon emerge on a continuous plain stretching out as far as the eye can reach, shut out from the sea by hills and bounded on the east by the mountain ranges. Its entire surface was dotted with herds of cattle and horses luxuriating in the rank pasturage of Erodium, Medicago, etc. This continues with a slight descent about ten miles, when we come to an edge of scattered sycamores and alder. Passing a small branch of [the] Santa Ana River, we encamp at the ranch near the main stream. High peaks of snow-covered mountain are on our right hand, which set off with the verdant hills at its base and flowering plain make a picturesque view. Distance 27 miles.

March 17 (Sunday) – Remain camped to rest and recruit the animals. The ranch is owned by Don Jose Yorba.

March 18, 1850 – We leave the ranch of Don Jose Yorba and cross the Santa Ana River, about 200 ft. wide. Its channel is bedded with quicksand through which our mules flounder, the water reaching to the saddle skirts. The wagon followed close after, the passage of a drove of mules settling the sand. The bottom is a little depressed below the surrounding plain. First after crossing the soil is sandy and the plain mostly covered with wild sage and other arid-loving plants. Passing this the depressed plain is composed of a stiff clay and our proximity to the ocean is evidenced by a saline efflorescence. [We] pass several muddy gullies, sometimes with a running stream of clear water in which a succulent plant is floating. The edge of the plain is swampy and the road then rises to a rolling ground of hard gravelly soil and good road. Here some ranches are situated. The plain continues pretty much of this character till we reach the San Gabriel River, marked by a line of trees.

If you’re interested in reading more about Parry’s trek through California, find a copy of Parry’s California Notebooks, 1849-1851 with Letters to John Torrey, edited and annotated by James Lightner and published by San Diego Flora in 2014.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

The naming of MacArthur Boulevard

General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), U.S. Army

On February 6, 1942, disabled war veteran and former Santa Ana Valley Hospital manager Martin Bernard Alexander Noren (1898–1955) suggested that the “South Main Extension” – which had opened to the public the previous day -- be renamed in honor of the commander of the U.S. armed forces in the Philippines: General Douglas MacArthur

Sgt. Noren himself had served in the Medical Detachment of the 254 Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I. At some point during his service, he ended up with a “crippled spine.” He spent a while at the base hospital at Camp Merritt, New Jersey and later lived at the Sawtelle Veterans Home in Los Angeles before making a new life for himself in Santa Ana.

On March 10, 1942, County Supervisor N. E. West of Laguna Beach took up the cause of Noren’s suggested street name change, moving that the name MacArthur Boulevard be adopted for the new southern leg of Main Street. The resolution read, in part,…

"WHEREAS, the national crisis calls for maximum intelligence, courage and sacrifice and these qualities should be recognized and appreciated wherever found, and that

"WHEREAS, General Douglas MacArthur has exhibited a degree of intelligence, courage and sacrifice as to inspire all Americans, and that

"WHEREAS, it is deemed by this Board that the least that may be done as a lasting recognition of his courageous effort, be to name a permanent monument for and on his behalf so that full remembrance may be had as an inspiration.

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors of the County of Orange respectfully request the State Highway Commission to give and designate the name of "MacArthur" to South Main Street Extension, as a small but lasting remembrance and deserved tribute to General MacArthur, that those that may travel this highway be forever reminded of his courageous performance as a soldier."

Unofficially, West also suggested that other roads intersecting the boulevard could be named after Orange Countians serving in the Philippines. But this idea never caught on.

The Board passed the MacArthur resolution unanimously. But soon their plans melted, like sweet green icing in the rain. The State Highway Commission turned down the request on March 23, saying that only the state legislature could change the name of a state highway.

Undaunted, the Board of Supervisors decided that the name MacArthur Boulevard would be used locally, regardless of the state’s decision. By late August, the name MacArthur Boulevard was already in regular use.

Today, MacArthur Blvd runs through portions of the cities of Santa Ana, Irvine and Newport Beach.

Office park at MacArthur Blvd and Fairview St., Santa Ana, 2021

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Don Dobmeier retires from O.C. Historical Commission

At the 75th anniversary of Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, Don Dobmeier holds up a photo of himself from a 1977 Knott's historical plaque unveiling. Steve Adamson and Marion Knott in background. (Photo by author) 
The retirement of Don Dobmeier from the Orange County Historical Commission in late January 2021 marks the end of an era. He was appointed in 1974, missing being a charter member by only a few months. He stayed for 47 years. Don also served as the Commission’s chairman for numerous terms including throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. As a Commissioner, he was deeply involved in the battle to save and restore the Old Courthouse as well as Key Ranch, the Peralta Adobe, Modjeska’s Arden, and the oaks in Irvine Park. He was also involved in the publication of A Hundred Years of Yesterdays (both editions), Visiting Orange County’s Past, the O.C. Centennial Map (1989), and AAA’s O.C. 125th Anniversary Map of historical sites (2014).

Never one to blow his own horn, Don calls himself an “avocational historian” and “a collector of Orange County material, especially postcards.” Actually, he has served as the institutional memory and the connective tissue of the local history community for more than four decades. When a “new” idea is raised, Don’s the one to say, “We tried that 25 years ago, and let me tell you how that went.” Or when someone sets about writing an article, Don will remember otherwise long-forgotten sources of relevant information.

“Don has a deep and abiding interest in the history of Orange County, and a rich connection to the place he calls home,” said historian Phil Brigandi. “His decades-long service on the Orange County Historical Commission shows a level of commitment few people can match. During those years he had doggedly advocated some of the Commission's most important projects -- sometimes despite real opposition. While not an author himself (though he has published a few brief articles) he has been a great help to other authors and historians. He is always eager to share what he knows and encourage the work of others.”

Don is probably thanked in the acknowledgements of more Orange County history books than anyone else. He has also provided historical and photo research for publications like Steve Emmons’ now-ubiquitous book, Orange County, A History and Celebration (1988).

Born in Orange on July 5, 1944, Donald Joseph Dobmeier attended both parochial and public elementary schools in Westminster and Garden Grove. He graduated from Garden Grove High School in 1963 and then went to Orange Coast College for a couple years, followed by California State College, Fullerton (now CSUF). 

Don’s friends will appreciate knowing that his unique style has been “a thing” since an early age. Morris Walker, who attended Garden Grove High School at the same time as both Don Dobmeier and famed comedian Steve Martin, wrote, “There was a particular fellow named Donald Dobmeier who was such a distinct individual that Steve really admired him. Despite social attitudes toward clothes and styles, Donald would wear a vested wool suit with a neat watch and chain draped carefully from one vest pocket to the other. He also sported spats occasionally.”

Don at Peters Canyon, 1964 (Courtesy Don Dobmeier)

Martin, later noted for his thoroughly original approach to comedy (and banjo music), learned a thing or two from Don about successfully marching to the beat of your own drum.  

Today, Don only disputes one part of Walker’s anecdote. “I never wore spats,” he says. “I tried a pair on once, but the price was kinda high.”

Don married Sue Anne Stoecker of Tustin in 1967 and they would have five children and eventually eight grandchildren. Don and Sue live in the historic heart of Garden Grove.

Don joined the Orange County Historical Society in 1968 and became a member of the Society’s board of directors in 1971. He served on the board with only a few breaks until retiring in 2016. His work for the Society has been extensive. He was Vice President and Curator of the Society in 1977 and was still V.P. in 1981. Beginning in 1992, he took an “at large” position on the board and served as the Society’s “History Advisor.” He served as OCHS’ Historian in 1994 and 1995, and in the late 1990s served the Society’s Membership chair. He also helped create the Society’s booths for the Orange County Fair in the 1990s.

Over the decades, Don has also spoken occasionally (often as part of a panel) before the Society on topics ranging Orange County’s wine industry to postcard images of the Old Orange County Courthouse.

Although Don’s historical interests encompass all of Orange County, no local historian can help but have a warm spot in their heart for their own hometown. He was already active with the Garden Grove Historical Society by 1970 and shortly thereafter served a term as that organization’s vice president. More recently, he served on a City committee to identify historic sites in town.

I initially met Don during my first week of work at the Orange County Archives in 2003. Over the years he’s remained a regular at the Archives, visiting every Tuesday morning before heading upstairs to work on Orange County Historical Commission projects, and again on his way back out to his truck in the afternoon. With his soft-spoken thoughtful manner, distinguished appearance, corduroy sport coat, and memory for all things historical, I was under the impression for months that he was a college professor or perhaps a professional researcher (the kind who has his own reader’s card at the Huntington Library). I was later surprised to learn that he was none of those things but had both a bartending business (Don the Bartender) and a gardening business – both catering primarily to doctors, business leaders and other well-to-do folk around Orange County and particularly in the North Tustin area. He’s a man of many skills, but his heart is in local history.

Jim Sleeper, Don Dobmeier, Lecil Slaback and (unknown) at Blue Light Mine ruins, Silverado, circa 1983. (Courtesy Don Dobmeier)

His gardening work helped put him in touch with some of that history, as he met and worked for various pioneer families (like the Grahams of Huntington Beach) and other local notables (like Mr. Carbon C. Dubbs of Easter Hill).

Don also combined his gardening and history interests in helping propagate and tend a number of Mission grape arbors around Orange County – the same variety of grape grown by the padres at the California Missions and by the pioneers of Anaheim. 

“In January 1978 a grape arbor was dedicated behind the Mother Colony House,” said Jane Newell, the City of Anaheim’s Heritage Services Manager. “Presented by the Ebell Club of Anaheim in honor of Sarah Fay Pearson, the arbor featured Mission grapevines provided by the University of California, Davis. I’m not sure of the details of how or when Don Dobmeier became the caretaker for these grapevines [Anaheim’s Opal Kissinger and Elizabeth Schultz both served on the O.C. Historical Commission], but when I became Heritage Services Manager in 1993, Don had held that unofficial position for several years. He certainly deserves the credit for the vines continued health and annual crop of grapes through the development of Founders’ Park.  And during that time, he never accepted any payment or public credit for his work.”

Although he’s now retired from boards and commissions, Don still plans to keep a hand in the world of Orange County history. I’m very glad. It wouldn’t be the same without him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

How Santa Ana's Lyon Street got its name

It seems like Lyon St., being near the Santa Ana Zoo, might have something to do with lions.

Instead, it appears to be named for local pioneer George B. Lyon (1806-1890), who owned most of the land through which the street now runs. His land was east of Santa Ana in an area which was, in the early 1880s, often considered part of Tustin. 

Lyon arrived to make his home "in the Tustin district" around 1871 or 1872, according to pioneer C.E. Utt who spoke about Tustin's history at a 1931 Orange County Historical Society meeting. A mention of Lyon building a two-story home in Tustin appears in the newspapers in 1882. 

Like many landowners, he took it on the chin when the big railroad boom of the 1880s went bust. All his carefully subdivided land went back to farm acreage which is how it remained for many decades.

Today, an impressive monument marks Lyon’s grave at Fairhaven Memorial Park.

By the way, another zoo-adjacent street, Elk Lane, has nothing to do with animals either. It's a reference to the fact that the Santa Ana Elk's Lodge was located there.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Kilson Drive and Kilson Square, Santa Ana

Ad for Kilson Square, Santa Ana Register, June 28, 1923

The Kilson Square subdivision in Santa Ana (Tract 466) is named for its owner/developer, George Elmer Kilson. He came into the world in Iowa in 1857, fifth of the seven children of Lewis Kelson (born Lars Kjellson Bøe) and Caroline “Carrie” Kilson (born Milvey Erickson) who had emigrated to America from Norway in 1838 and eventually homesteaded a farm in Butler County. George was educated in Bristow, Iowa and worked on his father’s farm until the age of 21.

“At that time he came to California to carve his own destiny in the land that offers so many inducements to the worthy citizen, arriving in the Golden State February 7, 1882,” wrote Yda Addis Storke in her 1891 Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura Counties. “He had already obtained some knowledge of telegraphy, and his first move was to finish learning that business, at Pino, Placer County. He was afterward sent to Arizona and at different times had charge of several stations: was three months at Yuma, one year at Dragoon Summit, the highest point on the Southern Pacific Railroad, and was two years at Nelson” in Butte County, California.

The Kilsons’ home in Kilson Square, 1923. 

George married native Californian Laura F. Williams on December 17, 1886. While still in Nelson, their first son, Lewis, was born. The left Nelson for Saticoy, in Ventura County in November 1887. 

George worked for over thirty years as the local ticket agent and operator for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Saticoy. Their second son, Elmer, was also born there. 

Original tract map for Kilson Square.

George retired in 1916. By late 1919 they still had an address in Saticoy, but also had a home at 402 McFadden Ave in Santa Ana and were in the process of building a six-room bungalow at 425 McFadden. They were settled into this second McFadden address by 1920. Orange County’s real estate market was booming and the Kilsons would stay and make the most of it. 

1923: Supposedly a view of both John L. & Ida Rudolph’s home at 921 Hickey St. and Michael P. & Elizabeth Lynch's home at 926 Halladay St. in Kilson Square. Both John and Michael worked for the City Water Dept.

By 1923, George had purchased a walnut grove bounded by McFadden on the south, Halladay St on the east, Oak St on the west, and approximately the line of E. Wisteria Place on the north. They built a home for themselves there and (in conjunction with the Guaranty Finance Co.) they subdivided the land as “Kilson Square.” Sales began in 1924 and went well. The new tract including at least eighteen houses built “on spec,” including ten homes built by local contractor Verne E. Maynard. It was prime real estate, being close Spurgeon Elementary School and the new (still under construction) Lathrop Intermediate School. The sales pitch also promoted the fact that most of the lots included four mature walnut trees, which might produce enough nuts to pay for the interest and taxes on the property.

In 1925 the Kilsons moved to another house they’d built for themselves the year before on the 820 block of S. Broadway. They were still living there as of 1926, but by 1928 they were living at 2438 N. Park Blvd. It was at this address where George E. Kilson died on November 16, 1932.

Kilson Drive during the development of Kilson Square, 1923.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Downtown Santa Ana's disappearing historic churches

First Methodist Episcopal Church of Santa Ana

The number of old church buildings in Downtown Santa Ana continues to dwindle. Last year, the long-vacant United Presbyterian Church burned (arson). And in recent weeks the (also long-vacant) Santa Ana United Methodist Church was torn down to make way for new development. 

Founded in 1873 as the First Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church of Santa Ana, the church’s first location was at the southwest corner of 2nd and Main Streets. In 1902 they built a larger church on the corner of Sixth and Spurgeon Streets which was, in turn, demolished in the mid-1960s and replaced with a more modern church building on the same site. The church’s Education Building (1928), however, continued to stand at French St. and Santa Ana Blvd. for many years. The church’s name eventually was changed to the First United Methodist Church of Santa Ana and then to Santa Ana United Methodist Church, which moved to 2121 N. Grand Ave.

The move was just one piece of the post-World War II trend of churches moving out of downtown and relocating to the edge of the city. Land was less expensive and more readily available than it was downtown, allowing churches with swiftly growing congregations to build larger sanctuaries and campuses and to provide plenty of parking.

At first, some of the vacated downtown church buildings were used as overflow space for the Superior Court. (Jokes were made that some churches ended up the site of more divorces than marriages.) Another example of adaptive reuse was United Presbyterian Church, which (before it fell into disrepair) was used as the practice hall for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra for many years.

But many of the downtown old church buildings disappeared long ago. For instance, the First Christian Church was torn down to make way for the current County Hall of Administration. And the old Spurgeon Methodist was replaced with a segment of Civic Center Drive, but their fellowship hall remains as the headquarters of the nonprofit Taller San Jose.

Despite the losses of recent years, a few historic churches still remain near the heart of old Downtown Santa Ana, including the Episcopal Church of the Messiah at 614 N. Bush St.; First Presbyterian Church of Santa Ana at 600 N. Main St.; and St. Joseph Catholic Church at 727 N Minter St.

(This article first appeared in the Feb. 2021 issue of the Orange County Historical Society's County Courier newsletter.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The naming of Anaheim

Seal of the Los Angeles Vineyard Society.

How and why did the Los Angeles Vineyard Society name their wine colony Anaheim? “Heim” is the German word for “home.” And “Ana” was a reference to the town’s main water source and the area’s key geographic feature: The Santa Ana River. As historian Don Meadows put it, Anaheim was “a name suggesting a home on the Santa Ana River.” 

The river had been named “Santa Ana” by the Portola Expedition in 1769 because it seemed to emanate from the Santa Ana Mountains. The same expedition had, only days earlier, named those mountains in honor of St. Ann.) Thus, the name Anaheim was a blending of Spanish and German influences, which seems especially appropriate for such a diverse community.

In his book, Campo Aleman, Anaheim historian Leo J. Friis wrote about the meeting of the Los Angeles Vineyard Society at Leutgen’s Hotel on Montgomery St. in San Francisco during which its members – mostly German immigrants – selected the town’s name:

“At a general meeting of members on January 15 [or perhaps 13], 1858, the most important item on the agenda was to give a name to the new town. Three names were suggested: Annaheim, Annagau and Weinheim. On the first ballot Annaheim received 18 votes; Annagau, 17; and Weinheim, one. ‘There being no deciding majority a second ballot was taken, the count showing 20 for Anaheim and 18 for Annagau. [There seems to be an error here as only 36 shares were present.] The name, Annaheim was then declared the name of the colony and to be henceforth always spoken of as Annaheim.’

“…Theodore E Schmidt is generally credited with suggesting Annaheim. A short time [several months] later an “n” was omitted from the name. 
Theodore Edward Schmidt, circa 1900. (Courtesy Anaheim Heritage Center)

The Los Angeles Star reported on the meeting in its January 23, 1858 edition: “They resolved to give the name Annaheim (heim is the German for home) to their vineyard in the Santa Anna Valley..." 

The Star covered the same meeting again on January 30, reporting that the Society members "named their estate at Santa Ana... Annaheim. This name is not only euphonious, but expressive. It is suggestive of the most pleasant associations, reminding one of the wide-spreading and highly cultivated vineyards of Fatherland. The termination ‘heim’ means ‘home,’ but in a broad and expressive sense, suggesting rather the comforts of a homestead, with its well-cultivated fields, substantial fences and teeming granaries – rather than a mere domicile. Hence the name, ‘Annaheim,’ is peculiarly fit and appropriate for the extensive vineyard about to be laid out at Santa Ana.”

The modern city of Santa Ana had not yet been founded and the old town of Santa Ana (now the community of Olive in Orange) was farther east. So the Anna/Ana portion of the name Anaheim undoubtedly referred to either the Santa Ana River or to the Santa Ana Valley (which takes its name from the river which runs through it). Aside from the Star’s January 23 article, most contemporary sources point to the river itself as the source of the “Ana” prefix, rather than the valley.

On October 14, 1909, the Anaheim Gazette recalled that Theodore Schmidt “selected the name ‘Anaheim’ as meaning the home of Anna, or the river of the saint of that name, from whose life-giving waters the prosperity of the original colony enterprise was and continues to be due.” There were still founding members of the Vineyard Society in town in 1909 – including Schmidt himself – and none of them refuted this statement.
Notice to shareholders, published in the Los Angeles Star, 11-21-1857.
Numerous false theories (“folk etymology") about the origins of the name Anaheim have surfaced over the decades and are hard to quash. For instance, some claim, without evidence, that the Anna/Ana portion of the name honors the daughter of one of the colonists or, alternately, honors Queen Anna of Bavaria (which is not where Anaheim’s colonists originated). It is curious how certain parts of our history develop folklore around them and that those false narratives seem impervious to the hard light of facts and solid evidence. 

Phil Brigandi often said, “I expect to go to my grave still trying to debunk the myth that Orange got its name in a card game.” And indeed he did. I fear the familiar bunk about the naming of Anaheim won't disappear any time soon, either.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Temple Hills and Mystic Hills, Laguna Beach

Artist's concept of Temple Hills, 1924

Charles Upton asks: "What is the history between 'Mystic Hills' and 'Temple Hills' in Laguna Beach? And might you have any history specifically on the 'Mystic Hills' timeline?”

Well, after a little digging, I do now, Charles! Thanks for asking. Here's what I found out:

TEMPLE HILLS - Laguna Beach pioneer and real estate speculator Joseph S. "Joe" Thurston bought some hilltop land that had belonged to George Rogers. Thurston dubbed it "Temple Hills" and by 1924 was trying to sell parcels there for residential use. But Thurston faced financial problems. In 1927 Clifton J. Platt of Pasadena took over the development process and subdivision maps were filed. Platt made Volney B. Cox (who developed Beverly Hills) manager of the project.

In his 1947 book, Laguna Beach of Early Days, Thurston wrote about Temple Hills: "The hills have always had a fascination for me. I enjoy walking over their sloping, graceful contours, the hills that I have been so familiar with ever since I was a small child. Everyone would wander in the hills seeking inspiration, and get acquainted with them, while they are furnishing physical as well as spiritual strength. They are the temples of creation and it would be a drab country if we did not have the hills. Some years later, the question arose as to what we should call them, and in casting around for a name it was finally decided that they should be called TEMPLE HILLS.”

However, the name may actually predate Thurston's real estate aspirations. Historian Don Meadows writes, "During the early days of the art colony the [entire] range of hills behind Laguna Beach was called Temple Hills. Later the name was applied to a subdivision on the same locality."

As for lots in Mystic Hills, Los Angeles Times, 3-20-1960

MYSTIC HILLS - While some homes in the Mystic Hills area – high above Main Beach – were built as early as the 1920s, the name Mystic Hills didn’t begin appearing in real estate advertising until June 1959. The development of wide roads and utilities at that time marked the start of Coast Realty Co.'s development of the Mystic Hills Estate subdivision. The building boom at Mystic Hills extended well into the 1960s. Newspaper ads promoted "Ocean view lots. Wide avenues. Model homes open for inspection. Free membership to Laguna Beach Country Club."

I don't know why or specifically by whom the real estate marketing name "Mystic Hills" was selected for this neighborhood. But it does have an artsy ring to it that works well with the "artists' colony" image that Laguna retained long after most artists were priced out of the market. 

Mystic Hills was one of the worst-hit neighborhoods during the big Laguna Beach Fire of 1993. Between 199 and 286 homes (depending on which reports you read) burned down in Mystic Hills, partly due to inadequate water pressure in the area. These suddenly-vacant lots launched a second major building boom there in the months and years that followed.