1915 Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes California Missions and Landmarks El Camino Real, Los Angeles, California: 1903, Illustrated, Third Edition, Revised, 1915, 280 pp., 1915

Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes California Missions and Landmarks El Camino Real, Los Angeles, California: 1903, Illustrated, Third Edition, Revised, 1915, 280 pp.

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[p. 119] Venice

     Venice, the most interesting beach town in California, has an ideal location, a charming architectural conception and a unique historical association. It took an unusual mind to conceive and perfect the project of building a city of canals through a waste of sand dunes, but that is what Mr. Abbot Kinney has done in Venice, with the result that Venice is the most beautiful, unique and interesting coast town of the State. It lies in a great horseshoe bay with gray hills to the north and bluffs toward the south. Windward avenue, with its graceful arches and vivid coloring, reminds one of Italy; the winding canals with their gliding, silent gondolas remind one of Venice, and [p. 120] the teeming, hilarious Zone forces Cairo upon you; but still a dominant thought creeps over the mind that after all Venice is the one place in California that speaks of the native land of Saint Francis, the founder of the Order of Friar Minors, the Franciscans; it reminds one of Italy, the California of the Continent. Saint Francis was born in Umbria, the Eden of Italy, and not in Spain, as one might supposed from the macaronic Spanish mission architecture of California, and Spanish music and chants. In fact the mission architecture is the outgrowth of climatic conditions in California being similar to the climatic conditions in Italy, not Spain, and the mission music and chants are versions  of the Gregorian chants of Italy. 

     Mr. Kinney built an Italian street along true architectural lines, with arches and colonnades that have artistic finish and substantial material, and he builded well. He built for the future as did Saint Francis. The plan for Venice was to convert the streets into canals with gondolas trolled by singing gondoliers; an auditorium with Chautauquan meetings that stirred the intellect to higher education; a business street that softened commercial necessity by artistic association with beautiful and perfect architecture. It was no fault of Kinney’s if the public came to a Chautauqua lecture and played truant on the beach.  You can lead to the fountain, but that is all. He designed a perfect town, and so it will become, if for no other reason than the charm of the plan and the climate. Venice faces directly west, therefore the ocean breeze comes inland and not overland. Every foaming ocean breaker adds its atom of oxygen to the molecule of air, therefore Venice supplies the 100% ozone-charged air which [p. 121] is the most perfect tonic known for the human system. The winters and the summers are perfect. I have lived in Venice, both of Italy and America, and have seen the sunset glow on clouds that dazzle the eye, but the perfect sunset glow was in America off the shore of Venice in California. The dark ridge of low hills shouldering out into the bay forms a background for the pier at Venice, when you view it from the south. The cafe-ship Cabrillo is a thing of beauty when just as God’s glowing sun-paint grow dim the anchored ahip is outlined with twinkling, scintillating bulbs of electricity which grow into a shower of light and you realize that Venice is lighted for the night. 

     The amusements at Venice included every kind of entertainment.  A mammoth plunge and surf bathhouse; a beautiful dancing pavilion in which free Saturday afternoon parties are regularly provided for the children, and in which special events for the little ones are constantly succeeding each other.  At holiday time a Christmas tree for the children is a spectacularly beautiful event. Venice has a privately owned pier, along which attractions are kept open throughout the year.  There is a Race Through the Clouds, a Ferris Wheel, a giant safety Racing Coaster, The Rapids, The Double Whirl, Joy Wheel, Merry-go-Round, captive Aeroplane, Motion pictures, miniature railroad so dear to the hearts of children, trips in launches, rowboats, canoes or gondolas over three miles of canals. Band concerts are given afternoon and evening. The boulevard to the Soldier’s Home was laid out under Mr. Kinney’s supervision and nine miles of trees along the public roads were planted during his administration as a road commissioner for that district.

     [p. 122]  The founder of Venice, Abbot Kinney, the man whose mind saw in the sand and swamps the mirage of an Italian villa, is a tall, dignified, plainly garbed, unpretentious man. Few would think him, at first sight, to be the [round photo of Abbot Kinney] multi-millionaire founder and owner of Venice. He is a philosopher and a student of every subject of distinct value; he is an astronomer and dreamer who makes his dreams come true. He gave the name of stars to streets, for he could read their prediction of success for Venice while untutored minds only scoffed. 

     Mr. Kinney spent his youth in Washington, D.C., where he enjoyed the favored opportunity of the society of statesmen. His education was completed abroad. He was a student at Heidelburg, Germany, studied in France, Switzerland, Turkey and later spent a year in Egypt, arriving in California in 1880, from which time he had made this his home. Broad minded and public spirited, he has devoted the knowledge he gained through travel, investigation and research to the public benefit. He believes in the preservation of forests and the conservation of water. 

     [p. 123] [Square picture, Canal, Venice] As a home place Venice can offer charming villas bordering the canals, or beautiful larger houses facing the ocean. There is an excellent grammar school system and a modern polytechnic high school that has been built at a cost of $250,000 and has twenty-nine acres of grounds. 

      The Venice Auditorium seats 3400 people, has a spacious stage and splendid pipe organ. Once a year, on the 30th of May, this beautiful hall is transformed into a memorial to the sailor-soldier dead, It is draped with flags and banked with flowers, which are made into forms of ships and life-belts, into anchors and capstans, into harps and lyres and crosses that are later taken to the end of the pier and cast into the sea in memory of those whose bodies went down in ships, but whose souls have gone aloft forever. Mr. Kinney has exemplified the naval memorial service and made it a ceremony of magnificient beauty.  [p. 124]

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[p. 259] El Camino Real

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     [p. 262] In the seventeenth century the caminos reales of Spain were the envy of the world. They were beautified by trees, enhanced by picturesque ventas, or [p. 263] inns, and enriched with national and memorial monuments. With the discovery of America, Spain gave to her colony of California the attractive and picturesque system of civilization that evolved the chain of twenty-one missions, three pueblos, and four presidios, all linked together by a camino real, or royal road. In place of ventas, missions were built, and the road that joined them was embellished by the unfettered beauties of luxuriant sylva, flora, and wild vegetation, varied with the silver trail of water-fall, and the deep green-blue of billowy sea. 

     . . . In time portions of El Camino Real became beautified, excellent highway. But it is a mistake to think that the Franciscans ever made of the American Camino Real one that compared with those of Spain, for they did not. Yet in the project to revive the sentiment of the historic road there is the [p. 264] opportunity to make of El Camino Real a Rambla such as they had in Spain, with long vistas of California’s glorious trees, with small groups of radiant flowering trees, varied by artistic hedges of interesting cacti, and trellises of creeping, sweet Castilian roses leading to some memorial monument, fountain or shrine erected to the memory of some discoverer, navigator, Indian or padre

     This would in a manner compensated for the loss of the virgin beauty that must have enveloped California’s historic road before civilization began to farm away the charms of the wild. 

     The project to revive and reconstruct so far as possible and practicable this first route through the West, crystalized in 1904 after a decade of propaganda tending to arouse interest in the old missions and El Camino Real. A meeting was called by the Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles and after a great deal of discussion it was decided to appoint a committee to make arrangements for forming a permanent organization. This committee called a convention of delegates to meet at Santa Barbara April 19th and 20th, 1904. The delegates represented cities, Chambers of Commerce, County Supervisors, Highway Commissions, Automobile Clubs, Women’s Clubs, Historical Societies, Native Sons and Daughters Parlors, Pioneer Societies, Camera Clubs, Farmers’ Clubs, Landmarks Club and League Improvement Associations, League of American Wheelmen and Driving Clubs—in fact no convention could have had, nor desired, a more representative meeting. People were aroused to the fact that the time was opportune to begin work on the rehabilitation of the old historic [p. 265] road. An organization was formed under the title of The Camino Real Association of California. A Committee on Location was appointed with instruction to study the road, prepare a map, and then report to the State Executive Committee. The report was given in 1905 and says: We have had an abstract and map made for us of all old roads in Los Angeles & Orange counties made for us by the Title Indemnity & Trust Co., now merged with the Title Guarantee & Trust Co.  From this abstract and map the works of re-locating El Camino Real was begun by the committee on location appointed for that purpose. The names of the committee are Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes, chairman; Hon. R.F. Del Valle, Col. J.B. Lankershim, Rev. Juan Caballeria and Mr. O.W. Longdon, county supervisor. The work on location has been verified by church records, disenos of ranchos, and valuable information from old Spanish settlers, until now there is not one mile of the old road that once joined the twenty-one missions that has not been investigated, and we find that El Camino Real of old is the main traveled road of today and that it joins the missions, the county seats, and the centers of population in the counties through which it passes—as is shown by the general route of El Camino Real as given below: Mission San Diego to Old Town, via Rose Canon to Oceanside, then inland to Mission San Luis Rey and Pala. From Oceanside, El Camino Real leads to Mission San Juan Capistrano, Myford-Irving, Tustin, Santa Ana, Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton, La Habra, Whittier, Mission San Gabriel, to Los Angeles; or from Mission San Gabriel the Camino Real de San Bernardino goes to El Monte, La Puente, Pomona, [p. 266] Claremont, Uplands, Cucamonga, Etiwanda, San Bernardino, Redlands and Colton.

     From Los Angeles El Camino Real leads to Hollywood, through Cahuenga Pass to Sherman Way, thence to Mission San Fernando, or from Sherman Way to Calabasas, Camarillo, Mission San Buenaventura, Mission Santa Barbara, Gaviota, Mission Santa Inez, Mission La Purisma (near Lompoc), Los Olivos, Santa Maria, Mission San Luis Obisbo, Paso Robles, Mission San Miguel, Jolon, Mission San Antonio de Padua, ruins of Mission Soledad, Salinas to Monterey and Mission Carmel, or from Salinas to Mission San Juan Bautista, San Jose and Mission San Jose, Hayward, San Leandro to Oakland; [ . . . ] or to the water front where the boats went over to Mission San Rafael, which is totally gone. The old road is well known that joined the two Missions of San Rafael and San Francisco Solano de Sonoma.” The report was accepted unanimously, and it was decided to mark the route by an appropriate and distinguished marker. In 1906 the executive board approved the design of the Mission Bell’s guide-post and adopted it as the official road-marker for El Camino Real. The design was drawn by Mrs. A.C.S. Forbes of Los Angeles, who secured a copyright and design patent in order to preserve the bell for exclusive use on El Camino Real

     The greater portion of El Camino Real has been incorporated in the splendid system of State Highways of California. It is with but very few exceptions route No. 2 of the State Highway through the coast [p. 267] counties.  It is a continuous road over seven hundred miles in length and passes through scenes of varied beauty and interest, ranging from sun-kissed hills to snow-crowned mountains, from foaming breakers to expansive fields of golden grain, from miles of orange and lemon groves to equal miles of beets and beans. Along the road are hamlets and cities divided from each other by broad stock ranges flecked with the native live-oak and here and there trickling springs. It is now marked by four hundred Bell guide-posts. The bell was adopted as being emblematic of the work and intent of the founders of the missions. Church bells are a part of the Catholic service and when the padres El Camino Real came to California they came with the cross and the bell. They swung the bells in the trees and rung them to call the wandering Indians together to assist in establishing the missions—so Association created bells to draw the wavering sentiments of this day of golden lust to an appreciation of the work accomplished by a band of noble pioneers and at the same time to mark the historic road of California in such a manner that a stranger need but follow the Bells of El Camino Real and find the way from San Diego to San Francisco over the best and most direct route. 

[ . . .  p. 268]

      [Round portrait of A.S.C. Forbes, President, El  Camino Real Association of California]

     El Camino Real Association of California is the outgrowth of a Good Roads movement formulated many years ago and which was exemplified in a proposed California Road to be known as El Camino Real. The first wide publicity given to this movement was made when the general plan for the project was formally presented before the Sixth Biennial of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs held in Los Angeles May 1902, and unanimously endorsed. It was presented through the General Art Committee, of which Mrs. Albert H. Brockway was chairman. In presenting it through this committee the Pasadena Exhibition Association, Miss Anna B. Pitcher, director, suggested and maintained the fact that the California Franciscan Missions as “”Stations” on the Camino Real, were the most important art treasures in the possession of the United States. The general plan is as follows, and gives the object of the Road movement.

     “1. Tracing the original Government Road of Spanish California from San Diego to San Francisco [p. 269]  Solano, through present succeeding counties and recording the history and traditions of this Road.

     2. Proving the present adaptabilty of portions of the road for the purpose of a California State Highway, with the 21 Franciscan missions as both stations and landmarks, upon it, one Spanish day’s journey apart.

     3. Petitioning County Supervisors to assist the movement and record County Suveyors the present road where it exists, and its intersection with other roads and boulevards suitable for a State Highway. 

     4.  Further petitioning Supervisors to unite in asking State of California to survey the existing  portions of this Camino Real and put mile-stones upon it which shall record its history. 

     5. Interesting residents and strangers in making gradually of this road a MEMORIAL HIGHWAY preserving its Spanish name, as well as a “model” road  meeting Government approval.”

     The following month, that is June, the plan for the restoration was presented by Miss Picher to the Grand Parlor of Native Daughters of the Golden West, then in session, and received endorsement. By reason of the serious illness of Miss Pitcher, who had worked assiduously for over ten years on this prop[sic]ect, Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes, of Los Angeles, then State chairman of the California History and Landmarks Department of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, became her successor, and continued the crusade for this historic road. The work was placed in the Department by Miss Pitcher and Mrs. Bulkley, State President of the Federation, as is seen from the quota- [p. 270] ion from a letter from the former to the latter under date of December 30th, 1902, as follows: “Nothing would be quite so desirable as the presentation (at the State Convention) of the Camino Real by Mrs. Forbes. I would like the road plan taken up both as California History and Landmarks work. Let me say again how anxious I am to reach Oakland and the north for the Camino Real plan.”

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 Kelyn Roberts 2017