Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Towering over all

Suzie Harrison

New. New. New. Rip it out. Tear it down. Bring on the latest, the

newest, the mass produced and the most inexpensive to create.

Or be like Laguna Beach, which eschews the homogeneous drone of


sameness and prefers instead to restore the history that lies so rich in

our community.

That inclination has been in full view on Main Beach as the city

restored one of Laguna’s most well-known symbols: the lifeguard tower.


Later this month, the remodeling work will be celebrated during a

rededication ceremony, part of the city’s 75th anniversary this year.

The Heritage Committee and the Historical Society will hold the

ceremony at 9 a.m. June 29. It will include a ribbon cuttingand the

rededication of the lifeguard tower by Mayor Wayne Baglin.

In addition at the celebration, Andy Alison, local historian, and

Craig Lockwood, a veteran Laguna Beach lifeguard, will talk about the

history of Laguna Beach and the tower.


Alison instigated the renovation project three years ago.

While no one said no to the idea, it took some work getting everyone

aware of what was needed to get the project underway, Alison explained.

“I approached [City Manager] Ken Frank, who was optimistic,” Alison

said. “The city was very receptive all the way, engineering the

architecture, and in terms of what we could work within the budget.”

In 1997, El Nino storms beat the tower up considerably, destroying the

entire basement, making the renovation necessary.


“With the restoration we take the whole thing apart and restore it

back to its original elements,” Alison said.

“We did a renovation to stabilize the life -- always have to go back

to the bones first,” he added. “The structural integrity was lacking, and

a good preservationist will always go there first.”

The tower’s rich history has its roots in the 1920s, when it was

formerly used as an office for the Union Oil Station located across the

street from Main Beach at the corner of Broadway and what is now South

Coast Highway.

The building was acquired with the help of Arthur Fryer, and with the

efforts of the City Council, the tower was moved across the street to its

present location in the mid-1930s.

“A team of horses pulled it over, taking the tower off and moving it

by a horse-drawn platform,” explained Mark Klosterman, chief of marine

safety for the city.

The majority of the budget for the project went toward refurbishing

the tower’s infrastructure, including re-anchoring and extensive

electrical work.

“There’s a good 25-plus years of life added,” Alison said.

The first paid lifeguards for the city were George Griffith and Jimmy

Smith in the summer of 1929. They used a wooden stand approximately eight

to 10 feet in height with a platform on top.

“They had paid lifeguards in the city at that time because of the

demands and rescues,” Klosterman said. “Lifeguards were paid before they

first started paying firefighters.”

The tower is now three stories high with a square footage of 1,000 to

1,100 feet.

“Over the years, tens of thousands of lives have been saved from the

tower with hundreds of lives saved each year,” said Craig Lockwood, a

veteran Laguna Beach lifeguard.