Author homes in on Corona del Mar

Nobody knows why Corona del Mar's flower streets got their names, according to author Douglas Westfall, but there are clues.

For instance, Westfall knows that a landowner named F. D. Cornell changed the way the streets were identified in the early 1900s from numbers to names as he tried to sell lots to home builders.

The new names probably mirrored the wildflowers that blanketed the nearby hills at the time.

"That's the only thing we can come up with, that it was covered in all these different, beautiful flowers," Westfall said during a book signing Saturday outside Martha's Bookstore on Balboa Island. "But nobody knows."

Those historical facts are among the multitude contained in Westfall's latest book, "Corona del Mar: My Kind of Town," which features dozens of previously unpublished pictures of the area intertwined with stories of its past.

The book's concept was born last year when a friend went to Westfall with about 2,000 slides of old photos of surfing in Corona del Mar.

The 150-page tome follows Corona del Mar from its geological beginnings, through its development as ranchland and finally the sprouting of a small beach town.

It was a personal labor for Westfall.

"I've been coming here since I was 4 years old," he said, recalling day trips with his family from their home in Los Angeles County.

"We'd eat down here in one of these little restaurants, and we'd go down to the tide pools in Little Corona, and you'd play around with the crabs."

The book, he said, is something that belongs on the shelf of anyone who has a connection to this area of Newport Beach.

"It's not a tourist piece," Westfall said. "It's for the people who are here, who have been here so long."

The author seems to thrive on personal connections to history. He said he loves tracing family stories passed down from generation to generation.

"You have to," he said. "It's the backstory of the backstory of the backstory."

One woman who bought Westfall's book told him about her grandparents, who bought a lot on Carnation Avenue for $500.

But they needed a floor plan to build a house, so they picked up a Popular Mechanics magazine for a quarter and found a diagram for a two-story home inside.

"I said, 'That's a true story?'" Westfall recalled. "She said, 'I don't know, just something that was passed down.'"

So the author tracked down a 1947 copy of Popular Mechanics with a house floor plan in it. Sure enough, it looked just like the home on Carnation.

"I just wrapped it up and mailed it to her as a present," Westfall said. "She called me crying. She said, 'You know I always wondered why the kitchen was in that corner.'"

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