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History of Carmel Mission Basilica and Carmel by the Sea
History of Carmel Mission Basilica and Carmel by the Sea
Experience the history of Carmel by the Sea. From the origins of the Carmel Mission Basilica to the early poets, authors, and artists who came to Carmel by the Sea, to the celebrities that frequent Carmel today, you can trace the path here. Learn about the building of the Carmel Mission and newly sainted Father Junipero Serra. Follow the tragedy of LaPlaya. Find out about former mayor, Clint Eastwood. Read about the burning of the Golden Bough (twice) and the beginning of the quaint Comstock cottages that have helped make Carmel by the Sea famous. Click on the tabs below to get started on your journey down memory lane.

History of Carmel CA – the 1700’s and the Mission Carmel

Under the supervision of Father Junipero Serra, the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission construction began in 1771. Originally, the mission was to be built in Monterey, but Father Serra felt that it would be better to build the mission farther away from the soldiers at the Presidio in Monterey.  He discovered that the land along the Carmel River was excellent for agriculture and provided a good source of water, so he decided to build the mission in Carmel there.

History of Carmel CA – the 1800’s

In 1850 John Martin, who was a Scottish immigrant, bought land along the Carmel River, where he build a ranch and dairy.  This property later became the Valley Ranch Club and one of the buildings was used for the Officers Club during World War II.  Can you guess which famous celebrity purchased this property in the 1980’s?  What did he name it?

In the 1880’s, Samuel Duckworth, who was a Monterey realtor, bought more than 324 acres, planning to develop a Catholic resort town called Carmel City.  There was speculation that the Southern Pacific Railroad was going to extend their track to the Carmel Mission, which would have created a boom town in Carmel.  However, the speculation turned out to be untrue.

In 1892 Abbie Jane Hunter, who had a San Francisco based real estate company, took over the land and named it Carmel by-the-Sea.  She began building and selling homes.

History of Carmel CA – the 1900’s

In 1902 Frank Devendorf and his partner, Frank Powers, began selling real estate in the Carmel mission area through the Carmel Development Company.

In 1903 Louis Slevin bought a lot from Devendorf and build one of the first commercial buildings on Ocean Avenue.  He also became the town’s first postmaster.

In 1905 Poet George Sterling and his wife Carrie came to Carmel by the Sea from San Francisco and built their home southeast of Ocean and Junipero.  Their home was a gathering place for other writers.

In 1906 Sunset School, Carmel’s first public school was built.

Carmel’s first golf course was built in 1912.  It was built near the edge of the water by Carmel Point.  Somewhat different from the courses we are used to today, the Carmel Golf Club featured gophers, cows, and sheep.  Stroll to the corner of San Antonio and 14th, where the original club house was built in an abandoned artist’s studio.  The course was eventually abandoned and the land was sold for development.  If you are visiting Carmel and you explore Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House, you could possibly be standing on the original 10th tee of the course.

Have you ever heard of “Plein Air” painting?  This practice of painting outdoors started in 1914 when well known artist William Merritt Chas took his art students from the Carmel Summer School of Art and had them paint outside.  The tradition continues today with the annual Carmel Arts Festival ‘Plein Air Painting’ celebration.

La Playa Hotel, one of the best known hotels in Carmel, was originally the winter home for artist Chris Jorgensen and his wife, chocolate heiress Angela Ghirardelli.  However, tragedy struck the couple when their niece drowned in 1909 along Carmel Beach.  In 1916 La Playa was reopened as a beautiful hotel.

Robinson Jeffers began work on the famous stone home, Tor House in 1919.  In order to build Hawk Tower, Jeffers learned how to become a stonemason so he could build it by hand.

In 1921, the first softball team in the Western United States started in Carmel.  It was called the Abalone League and it include at least one woman on each team.  The league’s name came about because so many balls were hit down to the shoreline and landed on the abalone beds.

In 1924 Hugh Comstock started a building fashion trend when he designed and built the first of the Comstock Carmel cottages for his wife to house her dolls.  Today you can still see many of his cottages hidden around Carmel.

In 1929 the Grace Deere Velie Clinic opened on the outskirts of Carmel.  It was originally for treating ‘metabolic disorders’.  In 1934 the Clinic became a general hospital and later was the location for the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP).

The Bach Festival, now known worldwide, was founded in Carmel in 1935.  Performance today are held in the Sunset Center and other locations around town.

In 1937 the Carmel Fire Department moved to its current location on 6th between Dolores and Mission.

How would you like to have your City Hall located inside a church?  That’s was Carmel did in 1946 when they relocated City Hall inside All Saint’s Church on Monte Verde between Ocean and 7th.  City Hall remains in the building today.

Do you remember Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee and maybe the movie called ‘A Summer Place’ from 1959?  You can take a walk by the Frank Lloyd Wright home built in 1949 on Scenic Drive that was used for some of the movie scenes.  If you are in town for the annual Home Tour, you may be lucky enough to find this home on the tour.

The annual Sandcastle Contest on Carmel Beach began in 1961.  Although some years the work of the artists gets washed away by the tides before the work is complete, the contest continues to this day and is a terrific spectator event on the beach.

Have you ever been to a city that has a law against wearing high heels?  Carmel has one.  In 1963 the city attorney wrote the law to protect the city from lawsuits from walkers who tripped over the uneven sidewalks.  While the law isn’t enforced, it’s fun to stop by the Police Station to get a ‘permit’ so you can legally wear those high heels!

In 1972 construction began on the beautiful Carmel Plaza.

Clint Eastwood served as Mayor of Carmel from 1986 through 1988.  As part of his duties he welcome Pope John Paul to Carmel in 1987.  Pope John Paul delivered mass at the Carmel Mission.

In 1990 the First Murphy House, which was built in 1902, was moved to Lincoln between 6th and 5th.  Architect Michael Murphy became one of Carmel’s most prolific builders.  The First Murphy House is now home to the Carmel Heritage Society.  If you are strolling along Lincoln, just north of the library, you can stop in for a visit.

History of Carmel CA – the 2000’s

The Sunset Center had a major remodel and reopened the Sunset Theater in 2003.

In 2007, the Carmel by-the-Sea Concours on the Avenue opened and joined the existing Concours d’elegance week, an amazing spectacle showcasing vintage cars from around the world.  If you plan to come to visit Carmel by the Sea during this week, be sure to book early!

Do you have a little known historical fact about Carmel by-the-Sea?  Send us a note and let us know.  We’d love to share it with our travelers from all over the world.

To be continued…..

Image of Otter for I Love Carmel California

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