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Laguna Beach

Barbara’s Column

Laguna Beach life / past / present / future


The Laguna Beach Historical Society will present a history of early homesteaders from the 1870s at 7:30 p.m. on December 4 at the Susi Q.

Carol Viebeck Lloyd is the great, great, great granddaughter of Henry Rogers, who brought his family to Laguna Beach in 1874, a year after he arrived in California. She will share stories of her family’s history in Laguna Beach, other homesteaders, and the town’s origins researched by her mother, the late Beryl Wilson Viebeck, who unearthed the homestead records of all 40 early Laguna landowners. 

Rogers’s son, George, purchased 155-and-one-half acres of the downtown village in 1881. He subdivided the area into 310 lots, recorded at the county courthouse in 1888. 

The large original homestead map created by Viebeck will be displayed at the program and copies will be for sale. Proceeds will benefit the society, honoring Viebeck’s wishes.

All programs presented by the society are free. The goal of the all-volunteer society is the collection and preservation of the city’s historical documents and the dissemination of these materials to interested individuals. Several programs are presented every year, with speakers that have included board member Eric Jessen, former board member Gene Felder, and former Police Chief Neil Purcell

Currently, documents are stored in a vault – which is not open to the public – in the Wells Fargo Bank.

“My dream is to find a place where people can come and use the material,” said society board member Anne Frank.

Frank has been involved with the society since its formation, following a meeting at the Laguna Federal Savings and Loan on the site now occupied by Wells Fargo. The meeting was held to determine if there was enough interest and support to start a new society.

Laguna Beach house

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Courtesy of LB Historic Society

The old ranch house that was built by Carol Viebeck Lloyd’s great-great-uncle George that sits on the site that is currently City Hall

Michael Onorato and Richard Ayotte were prime movers in the new group, said Jane Janz, historian and a native of Laguna, whose grandfather Nick Isch ran the Laguna Beach post office, a grocery store, and a livery stable in Laguna’s early days.

It was not the first historical society in Laguna. 

“The previous society had struggled for years and folded overnight, its archives scattered,” said Janz. “There is no connection between the two societies.”

However, Janz and Ayotte managed to recover some of the historic articles.
Frank was a member of the first executive board of the new society, in office in 1991 to 1992. “She served as the first president of the fledgling society,” according to Janz.

Board member Glenna Matthews also has deep roots in Laguna Beach. Her father, Glen Engles, was editor of the South Coast News and later the Laguna Post, which were subsequently merged by the late Vernon Spitaleri into the Laguna News Post.

Ed Storke, a retired academic, is the president of the board. Board members include directors Doctor Gregg DeNicola, John Hoover, Jessen, Diane Keplinger, Jeff Loge, Laurie Sanders, and Heidi Miller, owner of Tight Assets and the World Magazine Stand on Ocean Avenue.

“I joined the board because I love history,” said Miller. “I have lived in Laguna for 40 years, and I am still fascinated with our history. We had the ‘Laguna Woman’ [or at least a piece of her skull, found on St. Ann’s Drive in 1933, believed to be 8,000 to 17,000 years old].” 

Nelda Stone is the board secretary. Johanna Ellis responds on behalf of the board to all questions and emails and Karen Lagrew edits the society’s monthly newsletter.

The Murphy-Smith Bungalow on Ocean Avenue serves as the society’s headquarters. The bungalow was built for the Murphy family in 1923. It is listed in the city’s historical inventory and is described as “a builder’s bungalow” with a box plan, multi-gabled roof, and clapboard siding. Wide wood posts support the porch gable. The main door has sidelight windows and French doors open onto the bedroom.

Laguna Beach Murphy Smith Bungalow

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Courtesy of

Murphy-Smith Bungalow built in 1923 

It also has a cellar where Mr. Murphy stored illegal booze during Prohibition. 

Lottie Evaline Clapp, known as Eva, purchased the bungalow in 1935 and later sold it to her daughter, Blanche Clapp

During WWII, Blanche rented one of the bedrooms to service personnel and their wives. She married in the early 1950s, becoming Blanche Clapp Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Smith moved to Los Angeles but returned to their Laguna Beach bungalow in 1953 when he became ill. Mrs. Smith was a familiar figure, often seen working in her garden and sweeping the porch and was known for her daily walks to Main Beach. 

She lived in the house until her death in 1991 (born in 1901). The bungalow is now owned by Wells Fargo Bank.

 “We’d like to find a place to display more of our archives, but real estate in Laguna Beach is very expensive,” Storke wrote recently. 

And the price is right for the bungalow, which is adjacent to the bank, which leases it to the society for a nominal fee.

The Murphy-Smith Bungalow is open to the public most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. It will also be open on Hospitality Night on December 6. The public is invited to come and enjoy the festive decorations, music on the porch, and holiday cheer. 

Docents staff the bungalow, which is furnished and decorated in the period. 

“We welcome new members and we really need docents,” said Miller. 

Two spots are open on the second Sunday of each month and the fourth Friday.

 Frank serves as a docent one Friday a month and is always delighted to share her store of information with people curious about the old days in Laguna, and that includes a surprising number of locals, said Frank. 

“The most common request we get is people looking for a historic picture of their house,” said Storke. “Sometimes we have it, but we don’t have a picture of every home. We try to alternate our exhibits so people can see different things.” 

New members are welcomed. Memberships range from $1,000 for Historian Platinum/corporate status to $25 for a single person. Memberships provide almost all of the society’s operating funds, Storke wrote in the November newsletter. 

Donations are also welcomed and tax-deductible. The Laguna Beach Historical Society is a Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Payments can be made by PayPal or credit cards on the society’s website at or by mailing or dropping off a check to the society at 278 Ocean Ave. 

Artifacts can also be donated.

Just recently, the society received a painting by Lucy Jencks, portraying the beach south of Sleepy Hollow. 

For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading Contributions are welcomed.


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