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Twenty Years or Two Centuries in the Making? Dana Point Gets its Due

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 3:05am.

When Nook Sales Experts match a buyer with their dream home, the only thing as important as architectural style is the neighborhood. That’s why we’re bringing you the #NookNeighborhoods series, where every Wednesday you’ll find cool history and culture to make sure you don’t overlook an area that could have the best nook for you.

Where to start with Dana Point? They use a ship as a classroom, have Whale Watching to spare, are still one of the best places to surf in Orange County, there’s an area named after the colored lanterns from ships, it’s a departure point for Catalina Island, and so much more is in the works.

We often cheer for the nooks that manage to merge their history with modern living, but Dana Point hits upon another challenge: retaining their unique culture through years of changes. It hasn’t been easy. It took twenty years of investigations into how to make a massive redevelopment plan for Dana Point work before the County Supervisors approved a plan for both public and private partnership in 2016. That opened many more doors and allowed people to take the reins where they have more experience, rather than City leaders trying to shoulder all the responsibility themselves.

The plan is to center living around the harbor of Dana Point, which all agree is the heart and the brand of their area. They pledge to keep the independent stores while welcoming new businesses, and retain the marina feel. Their first focus will be reconstruction and expansion of the existing docks - while keeping 90% of the the docks open during the process - then move into new areas, including hotels and larger scale retailers.

At the same time, their Historical Society is even stronger than it has been. In recent years, another handful of new buildings were designated as historic, including a Woodruff 4-plex from 1929, the former Bella Bazaar Building on the Pacific Coast Highway and the Blue Lantern Gazebo. The ruins of the Dana Point Inn from 1930, now called the Arches, and the nearby Bluff Top Trail was given a Significant Historic Resource Designation.

Most of the architectural style in Dana Point originates from developer S.H. Woodruff, with many of his houses focused in the historic Lantern Village, a central point in Dana Point’s historic districts. Two centuries ago, ships coming into Dana Point Harbor told locals what they were selling based on the color of their lanterns, and these streets kept their colorful and whimsical names. Homes in the Lantern Village tend toward whimsy in California Revival and Colonial Revival style.

We did say that the new development has been in the works for twenty years, but Dana Point has worked to be a weekend getaway and cultural hub since the 1920s. Woodruff, who built in New York and helped rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, unsuccessfully tried to get larger hotels to take up residence in Dana Point after his Hollywoodland development. Many of Woodruff’s lost ideas create its charm and eclectic tourist spots. Here at Nook, we’re keeping our eye on the how Dana Point will finally come into its own. You might want to check out their styles available there before the long-awaited dream of development is in full swing!


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