Monday, May 27, 2019

Pirate Tower

William E. Brown was a California State Senator in the 1920’s.  His politics were progressive, and campaigned using the slogan, “Let the people rule.” He was particularly known for his attempt to outlaw prize fighting which he felt were brutal slugging matches that fostered illegal gambling.  His legislation failed, and in the 1920’s he decided to retire from politics and move his family to pristine Laguna Beach.

He built his home on a bluff above Victoria Beach with sweeping vistas up and down the coast, with the sun setting daily (how else?)  by or behind Catalina Island.  The spot was perfect, except for one thing. Even though the house was right on the water, high on the bluff made it a long and sometimes difficult walk to the beach below. So William came up with a plan. He would build a staircase to the beach, and disguise it as an old lighthouse.
photo by roadtrippers

Nearly 100 years later, the lighthouse still stands, thanks to the many who have resided in that home since Brown passed on, including singer-actress Bette Midler, who spent some good time and attention restoring it.  The Divine Miss M no longer lives there, but owners are careful to keep their personal landmark well maintained.

During the 1940’s one of those owners was a man named Harold Kendrick.  Kendrick was a retired Naval officer, and evidently quite a character.  Kendrick was known to frequently dress up as a pirate, and swagger around town telling tales of treasure to be found down by the tower on Victoria Beach.  He would place coins around the tower for children to find, and soon everyone was calling Brown’s staircase “Pirate Tower.”  The name continues today.

Since it is actually built on public property, from time to time the California Department of Parks and recreation checks out the structural worthiness of the building. They describe it saying “the architecture of the house and tower are closely interwoven with the natural precipitous quality of the cliffs… The style on both is outstanding. The house rightfully serves as one of Laguna’s landmark homes.”

Pirate tower is a popular sight for those in the know.  Next door neighbors have also built a tower reminiscent of a medieval castle to disguise their staircase too, so the rocky outcrop has a bit of a Game of Thrones feeling to it.  One caveat: Time your visit carefully, because you can easily be caught by high tides.  You can get to Pirate Tower via any of the public access pathways to Victoria Beach. Parking along Pacific Coast Highway can be tricky, so be careful, and follow the signs.

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