H. E. Huntington”s “Clifton-by-the-Sea” Cottage in Redondo, CA (1907-1914)

A early 1900’s postcard of the Sea Gull Inn Café located at Clifton-by-the-Sea., Redondo Beach, CA. Once the seaside cottage of Mr. Henry E. Huntington. Built in a u-shape with several bedrooms & 2 stories overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In the background the hills of Los Palos Verdes (Rancho Palos Verdes) & Point Firmin Lighthouse. Check out all the seagulls flying of the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day one can see Santa Catalina Island.

By Nancy Armitage

Redondo Beach, a big draw of buying property at the beach communities in early 1900’s was the train. Mr. Huntington’s Pacific Electric “Red cars” headed down to Redondo beach, Seal Beach, Long Beach, & Huntington Beach .

This little Huntington cottage by the sea has been a mystery to me for quite sometime. I was told by the HEH Collections Curator, Dan Lewis, that Mr. Huntington owned a seaside cottage named “Clifton-at-the-Sea” down by Redondo Beach, CA. What I found out by a Southern California map: is Clifton-at-the-Sea was actually the community name. It became a 1000-house community (each property a 1 acre ea.) that Mr. Huntington & his partner, Mr. Walter Martin were trying to create. Remember that Mr. H. E. Huntington owned a railway to the Pacific Ocean. It was called Los Angeles -Redondo Beach Railway Co…. It makes sense that Mr. Huntington want to create a beach front community & then a means of travel to get to Downtown Los Angeles.

Searching through Mr. Huntington’s archives I did find this. In Mr. Huntington’s Bio File: “Mr. Huntington bought the little property on July 14, 1907 for $15,000.00, a small 200 sq. ft. lot. Document: HEH Coll. MS 19/5 (3rd box) uncat (HEH Bio file; Huntington Land & Improvement Ledgers) . When Mr. Huntington bought this property, it was used as realty office; HEH could also spend the night there too, it had several rooms.

Mr. H. E. Huntington about this time period.

In the summer of 1909, H. E. Huntington’s brother-in-law Burke Holladay mentioned HEH’s “Clifton” in his journals: “Mon. Jun. 6, 1909, Motored with Edwards [HEH] out to Redondo [Beach] & Clifton – dined with Harry Ainsworth & wife, returning to LA in the afternoon. We motored out to Edward’s new house again [Huntington Mansion on San Marino Ranch]- he calls it “the Ranch” & taking bread & milk dinner there returned to LA & the Hotel for the evening.” Document: HEH Collection MS 53/2/2 uncat (E. Burke Holladay family papers) – who was HEH’s brother-in-law

The hotel Burke Holladay mentions is the Hotel Van Nuys in downtown Los Angeles. It was a very elegant hotel that Mr. Huntington & his Howard Huntington lived at before Jonathan Club in LA, Calif. When his Huntington family (HEH’s mother, his daughters and his sister (that lived in SF, & the Holladays) they all stayed at the Hotel Van Nuys.

Between 1908-1911, the Huntington Mansion was being built on the San Marino Ranch. But in May of 1910, Mr. H. E. Huntington (a single divorced man) moved into the mansion with a small household staff (Cook, chauffeur, Housekeeper, Night watchman, & a laundress.)

Every California beach has great seafood restaurants. They often include on their menu: Manhattan & New England Clam Chowder, Seafood Ceviche & Seafood Cioppino (SF) & Lobster Bisque. The beach seafood menus always have Oysters, Clams, Shrimp in a herb garlic butter sauce, , Crab cakes, Calamari, Fish Tacos, Sauteed Sea Scallops, & Salmon.

Did Mr. Huntington ever stay at his seaside cottage at Clifton-by-the-Sea? I don’t know, he could have. When Southern California gets really hot in the summertime, going to the local beaches is quite a relief. Especially in July, August, & September. The beach/coastal areas are usually is 10-20 degrees cooler then inland properties.

Looking at a Southern California map, Clifton-by-the-Sea (just called “Clifton” now on local map). It is situated on the north cliffs of Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Huntington cottage was north of Rancho Palos Verdes & south of Redondo Beach. His Spanish Mission style cottage was at the corner of Esplanade & B street. Now part of Redondo Beach State Park.

This last month I found out some more information. In a article in the LA Herald Newspaper with no date, but most likely around 1909 or earlier. It was in 1909, Mr. Huntington with several partners was selling off parcels of land in Redondo [Beach].

Titled “$10,000 Beach Residence” a newspaper article states. It went on “Henry E. Huntington has given orders to Hunt & Grey [famous architects -Myron Hunt who was also building the Huntington Mansion on the San Marino Ranch at the very same time] to prepare plans for a handsome beach residence to be erected on the corner of “B” street & the Esplanade at Cliffton-by-the-Sea, south of Redondo [Redondo Beach]. The house is to be of the Spanish Mission style with plastered exterior & the red tile roofing. The Huntington residence will be followed by others of similar architectural beauty & arrangement. The cost will be about $10,000.00.” Document: LA Herald Newspaper article with no date (1909-1914)

By this article it almost sounds like Mr. Huntington & Co. built the little cottages & then sold them. I’m assuming all of them being Spanish Mission Style architecture.

If you are selling beachside property. And you have a cute little beach house over the Pacific Ocean looking towards Santa Catalina Island. Showing what it could be like for people to own themselves… maybe a 1 or 2 or 3 bedrooms with a dinette, small kitchen, a living room with a fireplace & a bathroom (s) & a amazing view of the ocean and a cute little garden. What a draw! I guess it was quite a feeding frenzy in 1909 when they started to sell. Having only 1000 lots to sell, they went quick. They most likely used Mr. Huntington’s house as a realty office of sorts & to show people the architecture and the interior, how the interiors were set up, & so on.

Another newspaper article of the Los Angeles Herald Newspaper Volume XL, Number 86, 10 February 1914 headlines: “NEW BEACH IS A PLAN FOR L. A. MEN” & goes on with the story: “H. E. Huntington & Walter S. Martin, owners of 1170 acres, including the high class seashore suburb adjacent to Redondo known as ‘Clifton-by-the-Sea”, have turned the property over to a syndicate headed by Henry S. Judson, who announced today plans for turning the property into a residential & recreation resort. Golf, polo, & tennis will be provided. The residence built by Mr. Huntington, facing the sea, some years ago [1909], is to be converted into a café, & the Martin residence will be turned into a clubhouse. A thousand lots [at a 1 acre each] are to be placed on the market at once by Campbell & Bentley of the C. F. W. Palmer syndicate, who have been selected as selling agents for the tract.”

Huntington sold his seaside cottage & it became a cafe/teahouse called Seagull Inn in Redondo, CA. Behind the cottage on the left, you can see part of the sign. With lovely sitting on the grassy area surrounding the cottage, for a alfresco dining experience.. Document: Opening of Sea Gull Inn, Los Angeles Times VI:2 date: 3-18-1914

When Mr. Huntington sold his little seaside cottage it became a cafe/teahouse for the residents of the area. It had a really garden and nice grassy area surrounding it & a lovely view of the Pacific Ocean. Then the café was turned into a teahouse called “Seagull Inn” in Redondo Beach, California. Another amazing place to visit & stay at this time was the Hotel Redondo Beach, quite a grand seaside hotel. It looked like the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego in the black and white photographs.

The Seagull Inn was a lovely teahouse/café for the residents of “Clifton by the Sea”. Once the seaside cottage of Mr.. Henry E. Huntington. With a wonderful sidewalk to enjoy the fresh salty air. One can see Santa Catalina Island from this vantage point on a clear day. And the sunsets are amazing on the coastline. Document: Opening of Sea Gull Inn, Los Angeles Times VI:2 date: 3-18-1914

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