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Chautauqua Hall

Pacific Grove had enchanted may of the followers and they began camping year-round. By 1887 homes were being built for permanent residents. A number of these homes, many still standing, were built with the actual tents framed in as insulation. Thus, accounting for streetscapes with tiny A-framed Victorian houses in in the Retreat Area of Pacific Grove . The Pacific Grove Retreat was a “gated community” in an effort to preserve the quality of life for followers of God. However, sometime around 1886, “Judge” Langford, grew tired of walking to the office on Grand Avenue for the gate key and chopped down the gate. It was not repaired, and by 1890 most of the fence around the Retreat was gone.

Chinese Fishing Village

Monterey’s fishing industry was booming and, in 1863, a Chinese settlement sprang up in the coastal area of Pacific Grove now occupied by Hopkins Marine Station. These fishing families were known for their use of lanterns to draw the fish to the boats at night. It may have been these lanterns that fostered the idea of closing the annual Chautauqua season with a Feast of Lanterns. The first Feast of Lanterns was held in 1880.

 

A History of Pacific Grove

Point Pinos Lighthouse

By the mid-1800s, The City of Monterey was already a bustling port of call. The “piney paradise” we now call Pacific Grove, at the tip of the Monterey Peninsula, lay quiet and unpopulated until Point Pinos Lighthouse was built in 1855. In 1874 a road (Lighthouse Avenue) was constructed to reach it. Thus began the populating of Pacific Grove.

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: Point Pinos Lighthouse is
the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the
West Coast.

It was the following year, 1875, that the Pacific Grove Retreat Association was founded and a Methodist seaside resort and campground was established on land owned by local surveyor and businessman, David Jacks. During Pacific Grove’s Chautauqua season, tents sprang up amidst the pines and followers would gather to learn. A bathhouse was built at Lovers Point for worshipers to relax. It was during these earliest religious gatherings that people first took notice of the large numbers of Monarch Butterflies overwintering amidst the pines.

At the close of Chautauqua the tent covers would be folded up and stored for future use. In November 1879, after the summer campers returned home, Robert Louis Stevenson wandered into the deserted campgrounds and noted his experience in his book, The Old Pacific Capitol: “I have never been in any place so dreamlike. Indeed, it was not so much like a deserted town as like a scene upon the stage by daylight, and with no one on the boards.” ____________________________________________________

 

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Pacific Grove, on Southern Pacific Railway’s “Road of A Thousand Wonders,” was fast becoming a stop for well-heeled travelers and businessmen. With so many new-comers, the Retreat Association felt a need for a set of “Rules and Regulations.” Little good it did to stop the world from encroaching on this piney paradise.

Pacific Grove was officially incorporated as a City in 1889. HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: A number of our city’s streets are named after important members of the Pacific Grove Retreat Association.

In 1908, a mysterious fire destroyed the Chinese village and its residents were forced to relocate. Although it will never be known what really happened, many believe the fire was arson, set to rid the community of the sights and smells associated with the Chinese fishing industry. HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: There are still a number of descendants from the Chinese village living in Pacific Grove and surrounding areas today.

Holman’s Department store was built in 1918, and grew to become the largest independently owned and operated department store between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Holman’s received mail orders from around the world. HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: Holman’s was sold in 1985. It was R.L. Holman who masterminded the building of the portion of Highway 68 from Pacific Grove to Carmel Hill in an effort to make his department store more accessible.

Times had changed, fairly dramatically, and in 1926, the final Chautauqua gathering was held in Pacific Grove. By this time many artists and writers had been drawn to its beautiful landscapes and quiet atmosphere. Writer, John Steinbeck spent time in Pacific Grove in the 30s and 40s, and he and his family owned a number of homes here. His buddy Doc Ricketts also had his biological laboratory on Fountain in Pacific Grove. HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE: A short street nearby has been named in his honor. Look for Ricketts Row just off Fountain Ave., between Lighthouse and Central.

Today, the City of Pacific Grove boasts over 1,200 historic structures on its official Historic Register, and is home to a half dozen structures that have earned a place on the National Historic Register. Many of these buildings are utilized in the same manner as originally intended, such as our historic downtown area. Others have been modified to best serve the needs of the 21st Century. All add to the charming streetscapes that make Pacific Grove so very unique.

FUN FACTS About Pacific Grove

• Pacific Grove has been visited by three Presidents: Harrison (1891); McKinley (1901); Roosevelt (1903)

• Pacific Grove’s Official Flower is the Fuschia

• Until 1969, Pacific Grove was the last Dry Town in California

• Pacific Grove drew international attention in 1939 when it passed an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to molest a butterfly

White House

Discover Pacific Grove, P.O. Box 51811, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 • riddell1@comcast.net • (831) 643-9900
Butterfly Town USA • Home of the Migrating Monarch Butterflies • Named the "Most Romantic City in The US" by Life Magazine
Selected as the "Best Seaside Sanctuary" By Via Magazine • Dubbed "A Dreamy California Destination" by Coastal Living