Located in Newport Beach, California is the harbor side community of Balboa Island, which is accessible by ferry and by a bridge, and it also has some public docks. Its community has a boardwalk paved of concrete for pedestrians. Marine Avenue in Balboa Island is the home of the small local businesses, such as bakeries, restaurants, including many local crafts. They also have a post office and fire station of their own.
The history of Balboa Island
Balboa Island in 1921
In the beginning, Balboa Island was more than just a mudflat with swampland around it. The Newport Harbor of today only emerged because of the millions of tons that had been dredge of silt. A huge portion of Newport’s future home-site back in the 1860’s had been brought up by two brothers, James McFadden and Robert McFadden. The property included Newport Beach (the oceanfront), sandbars, and a lot of Balboa Peninsula, which would eventually become Balboa Island, as well as Newport’s Harbor, and many other of the islands. Afterwards, they immediately started subdividing and selling off the property.
They owned a fishing wharf that was located along the Balboa Peninsula, in the same spot that Newport Beach’s town site would be later on. Then, in the 1860’s, this bay was being used for the landing of loads, such as tallow, hides, hay, and many other exporting goods. A steamer ‘Vaquero’ by the name of Captain Samuel S. Dunnells’ went venturing out in the September of 1870 and ended up at the bay off-loading a cargo consisting of shingles and lumber. Soon after, Captain Dunnells established Newport Landing by building a wharf with a warehouse on the west end of what is presently the Coast Highway and Newport Bay Bridge.
The two McFadden brothers got ownership of the landing in the year of 1875, and they had a commercial trade business, along with a shipping business that was successful over the following 19 years. However, at this time the bay had not yet became a real harbor for its sandbars and the entrance to the bay was so treacherous that the two brothers decided to put their shipping business on the oceanfront, so they built a huge pier over the sand spit, which later on became the Balboa Peninsula. It was a good place for their business, they thought. The Newport Submarine Canyon was already there, which was where the Great White Sharks would come to breed, and it had the Santa Ana River running alongside that helped in calming the waters near the shore. In 1888 the McFadden Wharf was completed.
Next, rails were used to connect the Wharf to Santa Ana. Throughout the next eight years McFadden’s Wharf continued to boom commercially, and the shipping center continued to thrive and that is when a town of companies started growing. Although, the Federal Government had allocated the money to have major improvements performed on another harbor located in San Pedro in 1899, and in years to come it was this harbor that became the major seaport of Southern California. Also, in the year of 1899, Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the railroad and the McFadden Wharf, which was a sign that the Newport Bay was coming to an end as being their commercial shipping center.
It was in the year of 1902 that James McFadden sold his property consisting of the future Newport town site and nearly half of the Balboa Peninsula, also the swampland’s to William S. Collins and C. A. Hanson, which later was occupied by Balboa Islands, Harbor, and Lido. Altogether the property contained about 900 acres and rumor was that it all sold for cost of $35,000 dollars, having a down payment of $5.00 dollars.
The small Island of Balboa
Balboa Island has a public dock and is located in Newport, California. Newport Bay was seen by Collins and Hanson as having a recreational and resort potential. The Newport Beach Company was owned by Collins and Hanson, who later on was joined by another partner by the name of Henry E. Huntington. It was good to have Huntington as a partner for he now owned the Pacific Electric Railway system and they were able to benefit from it by using it in promoting other communities on the outer side of Los Angeles. In 1905, the Red Cars of the Pacific Electric had extended all the way to Newport. Before 1906 rolled around, the line for Red Cars at Pacific Electric were servicing Balboa Pavilion and also Balboa Peninsula. It was not much later before the Red Cars were bringing thousands of visitors in all the way from Los Angeles.
Newport Beach, California’s Balboa Island’s docks
By 1906 Collins had already built a dredge and started dredging out a channel towards the north end of Newport Bay where he had sand and silt deposited upon the tidelands that would later turn into Balboa Isle. Between the years of 1902 and 1907, a lot of the Newport Beaches of the waterfront communities had been subdivided, this including East Newport, Balboa Isle, Bay Island, Balboa, and West Newport. The grid system was then established in small lots and for the narrow streets, including alleys which exist still today.
Main Street in Balboa Island
Within a couple of years promoters from real estate offices had started sending their salesmen around to places like Pasadena and Los Angeles, as they were both connected to one another by Red Cars, in order to promote property located in the Newport Harbor area. A lot of the property of Balboa Island had been sold in places like Pasadena. With permission from the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Collins carried his small dredge over to Newport Bay’s east side and there was this mud flat referred to as ‘Snipe Island’, he then started the channel going down the bay’s north side, later on this became Balboa Island.