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Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

This circa 1900 photo of the Hemenway cabin reveals what a visitor to turn of 20th century Laguna would see on entering the village. The area is now known as Canyon Acres, and Harvey Hemenway was the original pioneer of the neighborhood. In 1880, he established what was the eighth homestead in Laguna Beach in the area just north of the now-Sawdust Festival.

Hemenway had an interesting story for his arrival to town. According to legend, he was in San Francisco and abducted onto a ship, which was taking him to South America for slave labor.

One night the shipped was docked, and Harvey noticed some lights on a nearby shore. He jumped ship and swam onto what is now Main Beach, and the rest is well – Laguna history.

During the 1890s he built this home on the southeast corner of Arroyo Drive and Canyon Acres Drive, on the very edge of the then-138-acre homestead plot. A visionary and Civil War vet, Harvey saw the big picture of Laguna and laid claim to a second 40-acre parcel in 1895, just before this home was completed.

He became known as a town leader, and sat on both the election and school boards.

He passed away in 1908, and was buried at Santa Ana Cemetery, listing his occupation as simply “farmer.”

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Hemenway cabin, circa 1900

The cabin then passed hands to a master local blacksmith – yes, we had real blacksmiths in town before Model Ts invaded the area – named “Old Dad” Fisher. He cut down the eucalyptus trees surrounding it, and covered the entire structure with them – and the “Hemenway Home” became known as the “Eucalyptus House.”

In the 1930s it became a Native American art store where large Native American blankets would hang on the rails outside, attracting buyers from locals and tourists alike.

The last occupant of the home was “Aunt Maude Parkes,” who was known to use the front porch to crochet and in the evenings play the piano in the attic. Far from a recluse, she invited Canyon Acres neighborhood kids to come play in the oversized log cabin, while serving tea to the mothers – all while encouraging local gossip to be exchanged.

The current residents of Canyon Acres would do well to raise a toast to Harvey Hemenway – Civil War vet who escaped an abduction by swimming to shore, and in the process became one of our Founding Fathers.

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Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit


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