Part 2 of 2
Editor’s note: This nugget of Carpinteria history was written by Lea Boyd and originally published in the Summer 2010 edition of Carpinteria Magazine. Part 1 of the story may be read online at coastalview.com.
In January 1929, the Carpinteria Herald reported that two Los Angeles gentlemen purchased the Cerca del Mar property with the intention of carrying forth the late owner Edward Coyle’s expansion plans. Just nine months later, however, the newspaper reported that the property was being leased for oil drilling, and “our oceanfront may become a full fledged oilfield ...”
Interested in obtaining the property to create a public park, Santa Barbara County first confronted a tangle of local and out-of-town investors seeking their share of the property value. Unraveling the knot of ownership dragged on for months; meanwhile the regal clubhouse sat shuttered as of December 1929.
Optimism returned when, in May 1930, the title cleared and the county purchased the property. “Under the supervision of the county park board it can be made one of the big attractions of the county,” trumpeted the Carpinteria Herald.
But with the country sliding deeper into the Great Depression, the grand resurrection of Cerca del Mar proved to be a pipe dream. In 1932, the State Parks purchased the property with plans to build a campground. Few improvements, however, could be made by the cash strapped state.
During World War II, a battery of the U.S. Army Coast Artillery moved into the elegant clubhouse, and the servicemen slept on cots in the ballroom. Dances with local girls were held in the clubhouse or in the Veterans Memorial Hall, and a handful of the servicemen met their future wives while they were stationed at Cerca del Mar.
Jane Bianchin and Bonnie Milne had just graduated from Carpinteria High School in 1942 when a battery of young men from Kansas moved into Cerca del Mar. The two local ladies remember afternoons on the beach flirting with the boys and evenings swing dancing to records blasting the big band music of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.
After the war, the State Beach reopened and Cerca del Mar was remodeled to house park staff and a beach store. The ballroom wing of the clubhouse and the pier were demolished. The park gained popularity and expanded regularly to meet the constantly swelling demand for sites. In 1972, park officials weighed the benefits of the former clubhouse, and, “We decided we needed more camping spaces more than we did the building,” said a park employee in a Dec. 19 Herald article. The clubhouse was razed and new campsites constructed.
The glamour of silk stockings, gourmet dinners and threepiece suits that occupied such a brief moment of the property’s history bowed out to a more comfortably Carpinterian allure—bathing suits, hotdogs and campfires. But maybe on occasion, the wind through the eucalyptus trees picks up the melodies of a ghost orchestra and the sliver of a moon over the beach grins like Edward B. Coyle on the fabulous opening night of Cerca del Mar.