Island History


Catalina History



Catalina Island is rich in history. This page is a stroll through the last hundred years of Avalon. It is this history, combined with the Pacific Ocean and southern California climate, that give Avalon such charm.
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ca. 1900 .....


Tents lined the streets in the flats. A tent lot (20 x 40) then was auctioned for as little as $150.00. Today, every inch of these "tent lots" is a cottage and the price ... its a bit higher than $150.00. By 1910, there were about 400 permanent residents and the Casino had not yet been built.
ca. 1920's .....



The picnic and today's kayak area of Descanso Beach was once the site of the majestic Hotel St. Catherine, which was lost to fire. Following the fire of 1915, most of Avalon needed to be rebuilt. With Mr. Wrigley's purchase of the island in 1919, the future of the island was changed forever. Mr. Wrigley built the casino, brought the Chicago Cubs to the island for spring training and Catalina Pottery Works was launched.
ca. 1930's .....

By the 30's, prohibition was the law of the land. Some of the islanders, being resourceful folks, took to making moonshine. When revenue agents found their stills, they would break them open and let the moonshine run down the streets. When the moonshine fermented, it took on the smell of vinegar. To this day, many old time islanders still refer to Marilla Street as Vinegar Hill.
ca. 1940's and 50's .....

After numerous wartime uses including anti-aircraft guns at the casino and surveillance for a possible Japanese attack, the island's tourism rebounded quickly following the end of World War II. The beaches were filled and the quality of island life continuously grew and improved. Today, Catalina Island is a beautifully preserved oasis. It remains, thanks in large part to the Wrigley family and the Santa Catalina Island Company's long range vision, a picture of California's pre-development beauty punctuated with the gorgeous seaport village of Avalon.

For views of the Island today, take our home and activity photo tours.