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Redondo Beach Historical Museum

Vehicle in front of Morrell HouseBefore the Beginning...

1850 - California becomes the 31st state.

1854 - Manuel Dominguez sells Redondo's salt lake to Henry Allenson and William Johnson. Sale precipitates establishment of Pacific Salt Works.

1862 - Los Angeles merchant Francis Mellus acquires bankrupt salt works. Cycles of drought and floods ruin ranch economy.

1887 - Redondo Company buys 1,400 acres from Dominguez heirs. Land is bordered by Knob Hill, Herondo, Prospect, and the ocean. The name "Redondo" is derived from the round shape and amphitheater topography. State engineer William Hammond Hall conducts soundings off shore and discovers a deep canyon leading to Redondo's development as a port.

1888 - First Santa Fe excursion train arrives in Redondo. Iron pier is built at foot of Emerald Street. John C. Ainsworth and Robert R. Thompson acquire the Redondo Company.

1889 - Los Angeles County Supervisors grant Redondo Railway Company a franchise to operate.

1890 - Chautauqua Assembly is dedicated at Pacific Coast Highway and Diamond Street. Hotel Redondo opens on site later to become Veterans Park.

1892 - City of Redondo Beach is incorporated after citizens vote 177 to 10.

2001 - City of Redondo Beach official population is 63,261.

Enjoy the Museum

First Room
The Museum's main room features arrowheads, bowls and other artifacts found in the Redondo Beach area, dating back hundreds of years to when the Chowigna Indians, a tribe of the Gabrielenos, inhabited the area. Also in this room is a history of the Dominguez family. Items in the center case currently feature military influences on the town.

Second Room
Photos of old Redondo illustrate how hundreds of people enjoyed the Plunge, how Hotel Redondo dominated the landscape, and how the legendary George Freeth brought surfing to the area. A memorial window gives visitors a close-up look at the intricacies of stained glass.

Third Room
Aviation and Redondo Union High Schools bring a rich heritage to the City. Displays depict entire classes as well as rule books governing how students were expected to dress and behave. Antique cameras illustrate how the equipment has changed.

Back Room
The flavor of City services is illustrated throughout displays of old and new fire and police equipment. Of particular interest is the hand-drawn fire cart. The oil painting portrays the beach as it appeared before the roller coaster was destroyed.

Photos throughout the Museum depict not only the growth of Redondo, but the lifestyle of those who helped build the City over the past century.

Museum Hours: 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed on holidays.

Hotel Redondo: 1890-1925

The Hotel Redondo, with photos in the Museum's second room, was an imposing structure of turrets, gables and chimneys. The 225-room establishment opened on May 1, 1890, with festivities and area-wide acclaim.

The elegant grounds offered tennis courts as well as landscaped gardens. With the beach only a few steps from the lobby, the view was sweeping and unobstructed. Each room was individually decorated and the hotel boasted a bathroom on every floor.

Not only did Hotel Redondo have everything a guest could desire, it was the cultural hub of the City with its reading rooms, a billiard room, a ballroom, and steam heat.

Pacific Electric Railway

Industrialist Henry Huntington's fore- sight gave birth to the inter-urban trolley known locally as the Red Car. Powered by the Pacific Electric in Redondo Beach, the cars operated from 1905 -1940, and at the system's peak, covered 1,164 miles of track, making it the largest electric railroad in the world.

With Redondo Beach as the corner- stone of the system, the seaside village was transformed by 1910 into the premier recreation destination in all of Southern California. A person could ride from Redondo Beach to downtown Los Angeles in less than one hour.

World's Largest Saltwater Pool

The publicity of the day called the Plunge "the largest indoor saltwater heated pool in the world", and it may well have been. It was large enough to accommodate more than 1,000 swimmers at a time with its slide, diving pool and wading pool. Heat was provided by large boilers though an underground system of pipes from the nearby Pacific Light and Power's steam plant. The Plunge was demolished in 1943.

Gambling Days

In the corner of the Museum's second room is an old signal light which supposedly was used to let gamblers aboard the Rex know that police were on the way.

The Rex was the flagship of an illicit fleet owned by Anthony Cornero, who was guilty by association with mobsters such as the notorious Bugsy Siegal. Most of these floating gaming palaces were little more than barges with roulette wheels, but they gave players a way to spend their money and brought a lively economy to Redondo Beach. The vessels were anchored just beyond the three-mile limit, therefore out of reach of police and tax collectors. In 1948, Congress abolished gambling in coastal waters.

National Register of Historic Places

Four properties of Redondo Beach are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. These are the old Redondo Beach Public Library, the Women's Club of Redondo Beach, the Sweetser Residence, and the Redondo Beach Original Townsite.

The old library, now a centerpiece of Veterans Park, was built in 1930. The Women's Club was constructed in 1922 and the Sweetser Residence in 1921. The Townsite consisted of 44 residential buildings bounded by Diamond and Carnelian Streets, Guadalupe and Francisca Avenues.

The Redondo Beach Historical Museum is operated by the Recreation and Community Services Department. For information regarding donations, special tours and access to museum material, email Community Services.