December 27, 2020

Photo Essay: The 1920s-Era Treasures of Laguna Beach's Victoria Cove

California hasn't been known for being pillaged by pirates as much as, say, the Caribbean—but we still have Pirate's Cove Beach (in both Malibu and Corona del Mar), a Pirate's Lair in Disneyland, and the Pirates Dinner Adventure in Buena Park. 

But the Orange County town of Laguna Beach also has a "pirate tower," tucked away under the cliffs at Victoria Cove on Victoria Beach. 

And after knowing about it for a couple of years, I decided it was finally time to find it for myself. 

It was the day after Christmas and—having no other plans—I was fully prepared to lose my way or not even make it to the tower. A friend described it as a "walk" and not a "hike," but you never really know until you face it yourself. 

The biggest challenge, as with many parts of Southern California, was the parking. 

But after snaking my way through the narrow, winding streets above Victoria Beach, I finally snagged a spot on the other side of the PCH and set off on foot. 

I walked down Sunset Terrace to reach the public access staircase between 2703 and 2713 Victoria Drive—only to find that it was closed, with a sign posted redirecting me to Dumond Drive.

Of course, there had been signs posted on the PCH that public beach access would be closed until May 2021—but either I didn't believe it or I was certain that there'd be some other way to get down there. 

I'd even driven past that closed staircase and Dumond Drive while searching for a parking spot, but hadn't noticed anything but the lack of parking. 
So I double-backed up Victoria Drive and back to Dumond...

...where I descended an emergency vehicle access ramp...

...all the way down to the beach. 

I was nearly ready to quit as soon as I reached the sand, having no idea how much farther down the shoreline the pirate tower would be. 

What a pain!

And although I'd tried to time my visit to coincide with low tide, I was running late (as usual). 

The tide was already coming back in, which meant that I couldn't walk the beach to the tower. I'd have to climb the rocks, up and over the tide pools, directly along the bottom of the cliffs. 

The hassle I experienced was exactly what Senator William Edward Brown was trying to avoid when he had the 60-foot tower built in 1926 to enclose a staircase that led down to the beach from his Normandy-style Norman House (a.k.a. "La Tour," a name that means tower in French and that sometimes also refers to the tower itself). 

Senator Brown—who represented the 37th district of California, which is the greater part of Los Angeles—spent summers in Laguna Beach with his family and is also thought to have built a circular, concrete pool just adjacent to his property.

The former swimming pool's wall is now partially buried—even in the winter, when the tide erodes much of the beach away. 

And in the summertime, the pool sometimes still fills with ocean water (and swimmers). 

The tower was built with poured concrete atop a foundation made of ocean stones and capped by a cone-shaped spired covered in shingles.  

The Medieval-looking door is now locked. 

It's in the stones, however, where the secret to the tower's "pirate" nickname is revealed—because it's where its second owner, retired naval officer Harold Kendrick, would dress up in pirate cosplay and tuck away coins for the neighborhood children to find as "buried treasure."

It looks as though visitors continue to dig and chip away at the mortar, hoping to keep the current owner to the rule of "finders keepers."

Although you can't go inside the tower—as it's still privately owned, by the current owner of the house above it—it's still quite an unusual and fascinating landmark to go visit. 

As the 1981 Laguna Beach historic register states, the architecture of the tower is "closely interwoven with the natural precipitous quality of the cliffs."

The only problem with making it all the way down there?

I had to climb back up the way I'd come, with the incoming tide having advanced even further. But it was worth it, even just to dip my toes in the ocean once before the end of the year. 

Watch a video I produced, featuring the scenery at low tide, below:

Related Posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment