Thanks for coming to this page of the Getaway site.  Please read up on the rich history of Naples and Long Beach.  You will be quizzed on this information by Mike and David but more importantly, by our customers.  So read up and enjoy!  If you want to print this I suggest you cut and paste this page to Word then print it.  There are lots of photos so it may take some time to load.




David Black and Michael O'Toole



The area where Naples now stands is a part of the first land grant in California. In 1784 the King of Spain gave a Spanish soldier, Manuel Nieto, all the land bounded on the south by the ocean, on the north by the main road to San Diego along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, on the east by the San Gabriel River and on the west the Santa Ana River. This totaled 300,000 acres, but it inadvertently included land belonging to the San Gabriel Mission. After this was corrected the Nieto land grant consisted of 156,000 acres. The land passed through the hands of Manuel Nieto to his son, Juan Jose Nieto, and then to Jose Figueroa, Governor of California. After Figueroa's death the richest man in California, Don Abel Stearns, purchased the rancho in 1842. Stearns had taken a mortgage on the ranch, and in 1864 after a couple of years of drought he lost the property to the mortgage holder, Michael Reese. In 1878, John Bixby leased the rancho, and in 1881 he purchased it. By the time the rancho was in the possession of Governor Figueroa it had shrunk to 26,000 acres and was known as Rancho Los Alamitos. After the death of John Bixby in 1887, the Rancho was again reduced in size to 3,800 acres. When A. M. Parsons purchased the tidelands around Alamitos Bay in 1905, the old land grant had been owned by Fred Bixby, the son of John. 

By Arthur M. Parsons






























Strong and Dickinson and Robert March & Co., who purchased and subdivided the Alamitos Bay peninsula into about 500 lots, began the first serious development at Alamitos Bay in 1903. A, M, and A, C. Parsons joined their sales force, moved into a canvas covered shack which they built on the bay shore, and were soon busily engaged in selling lots in the new Alamitos Bay tract  which attracted buyers right from the beginning. We were so much interested that we bought 50 to 60 of these lots ourselves, on speculation besides selling that many more for the company. Two of these lots we bought were situated in the center of the tract and fronted the bay.  To help popularize the place we organized a club of Los Angeles business men, named it the "Channel Club" and built a fine Club House, with large and wide porches, 15 guest rooms upstairs, large Dining Room, Lounging Room, Card Room, spacious Kitchen, Bar and Liquor Storage Room, Etc.


This Club became extremely popular, and for a couple of years was a favorite resort for young people, and many social events were held there  such as dances, receptions, swimming parties, boating parties, duck hunting parties, etc.   We built on the San Gabriel River near Anaheim Road A Duck Club, Club House, Blinds, Lakes with flowing wells, and bought a large launch for the use of the members and many is the night this boat took a load of members to the Duck club to shoot ducks in the morning, All this time we were keeping a vigilant eye on the land across the Bay, which had never - up to this time - been considered suitable for a residential tract, owing to the fact that it was absolutely covered at high tide with overflow sea water, and it would be necessary to fill it up at least six feet before it could even be considered for building purposes. We secured the services of a former City Engineer, Frank A. Olmstead, who immediately and secretly made a thorough test of the land by boring and soundings and rendered a report which I still own. It says the black mud on the surface is only on the surface a few inches, and the whole of the land below is clean beach sand, and he highly recommended it for building purposes, As soon as we received this report we went before a meeting of the owners of the land, the Alamitos Land Co., consisting of four of the Bixby's, Jotham, George, Fred, and Llewellyn and J. A. Graves - and asked for a price on this land, which was an Island, intersected by bayous and sloughs.  At first they were skeptical and looked on the whole scheme as being the chimerical dream of a wild-eyed real estate dealer. 


We waited a week and went back, using our utmost persuasive powers to get them to let go of more land, conditioned on our starting work within 90 days, at which time we were obligated to make a substantial payment on the purchase price. We now leased the corner of 6th and Main Street in Los Angeles for the new corporation, called "The Naples Co" and had an office about 90 feet long which was furnished very ornately, building us each a private office in the N.E.  Corner, had seats made for our salesmen on either side of a center aisle, put in a secretary's desk and a telephone exchange, a fine map table with a map of a subdivided Naples under plate glass, and hired a well known Washington, D. C. artist to paint a big picture of "Naples as now building", for which we paid $1,000.   When we moved in we had about 40 salesmen, over half lived in Los Angeles, the rest either lived in Naples or worked in town and went back and forth on the street cars.  Most of them were doing a good business, some even doing exceptionally well. Among them were a few who had little experience, but one in particular, Le B, Lesperance, came here from the ship yards of Oakland, and green as he was, sold several large capitalists large blocks of lots, and induced Mira Hershey, of the Chocolate Co., to erect the Naples Hotel.  My son and myself went immediately to work to organize a company to handle this subdivision, and we advertised extensively in the daily papers for a suitable name which would fit the case and tell the story of a seaside watering place - with canals, stairways, promenades, and in fact having a decided Venetian air, crowned with red Tiled roofs fronted with 15 foot cement walks lighted with beautiful electric ornamental lights, and the Whole tract having been raised six feet above the highest tides by dredging and deepening the bay and depositing all the excavating material behind solid reinforced concrete bulkheads against a heavy pile driven wall designed by competent engineers, We soon had a strong company formed, with H. E. Huntington as president.  As a result of our advertising, we received thousands of replies from people trying for a prize I had offered for the name selected.  The name selected was "NAPLES", and Mrs. Blankenhorn of Pasadena, and a lady in East Los Angeles whose name I have forgotten won Jointly the prize.


We compromised by dividing the prize, and the resulting publicity was such that when we opened up our office for business on July 6th, 1906, we found the outer hallway choked with people the whole length, and we were obliged to elbow our way through a mob determined To be the first purchasers of a lot in this magic city so well advertised. Sales continued heavy, and 1 must here throw a bouquet at ourselves for showing at least wisdom in making the terms of sale one third cash, one third in nine months, and the remaining third in 18 months which meant that the company would have two-thirds of their money in nine months, which would practically make it certain that nearly all the sales would stick, no matter what happened, This. Was all that saved Naples when the San Francisco earthquake and fire, which stopped everything on the Pacific Coast, including Naples - secured on April 6th, 1906. And right here, I desire to set at rest a fallacy which has prevailed in the minds of people in Southern California for the past thirty years, I wish to correct an impression which has prevailed among a large portion of the citizens, that Maples was put on 25 years too soon, and that the country was not ready For it, if   the   reader   could   have seen   the great activity in sales and the tremendous popularity of Naples itself and the promptness with which all payments were being met he would have looked elsewhere for a reason. And here is the reason.  Los Angeles was financed entirely with San Francisco money.   Practically every business block in Los Angeles was built with money furnishes by Hellman, London, Paris and American-Hilbernian Bank, Savings Union, and other big loaning institutions of San Francisco.  The day after the disaster notices were mailed to every mortgager in Los Angeles that as fast as loans in this city came due they would be called, and if necessary, collection would be enforced. Banks here were unable to step into the breach and it was necessary to find a new source for big loans.   The situation was not relieved till the New York Life Insurance Company came into the picture, followed by the other major insurance companies - and all began to make loans on business property, When this new money became available times began to get better, but not till we had passed through a period of depression during which we were on a scrip basis, and scrip was the only money in circulation. This period lasted a long time, probably two years or more.  Space will not permit more than a skeleton outline of my story, but I have tried to give at least an outline of the beginnings of Naples and what caused its promotion. The rest is history. I thank the editors for this opportunity of correcting a few false impressions.

                              Arthur M. Parsons

                                   August 1939




In 1903, company purchased and subdivided the Alamitos bay Peninsula into 500 lots. A. M. Parsons and A. C. Parsons, his son, joined the sales force and white selling lots, from a Canvas covered shack, which they had built on the Bay Shore, they became .so interested in the area that they bought 50 to 60 of these lots on speculation.

To publicize the area they organized a club of Loa Angeles businessmen, called the "Channel Club" and built a clubhouse on two bay front lots.  This club was popular and a Favorite resort with both young and old, and the scene of man dances, swimming and boating parties. 

During this time the Parsons looked out over the bay and began to see the possibility of another land development in the marshes and was I elands across the bay.  This area was covered with water at high tide and would have to be built up before it would be possible to build but A. M. Parsons saw the vision of another Venice, Italy, a land of canals, gondolas and white villas with red tiled roofs.  He hired a former city engineer, Frank A. Olmstead, to test the area.  After getting a favorable report he contacted The Alamitos Bay Land Company, and purchased the land where Naples now stands.


Parsons leased the corner of 6th and Main Street in Los Angeles and proceeded to sell real estate in the subdivision. A new company, The Naples Company, was formed with H. E. Huntington as president.  Huntington was also the man who built the pacific Electric Railway System, which brought The "Big Red Cars'' to Long Beach.  The Newport Beach Branch Line passed through Alamitos bay, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach on its way to N e w p o r t Beach, and because he was the president of The Naples Company it was not too hard for the Parsons to persuade him to install a spur track from the Newport Beach line to the new real estate subdivision.  The spur line ran along what is now Appian Way and Ravenna Drive and looped around the new Bella Fontana di Napoli, the fountain. 

One of the selling promotions was a daily Big Red Car Trip to Naples, when the prospective customers reached the park at the end of the trip they were given a picnic lunch, sales talk and shown around the area.   The lots sold for $900 to $4,000 and sales were very encouraging. The sales requirement was one third down with the balance payable in six, twelve or eighteen months at 6% interest. The Parsons laid out and developed the Rivo Alto and Naples Canals and Treasure Island. They also gave the streets their present names only at that time they were called Way rather than WALK or DRIVE as they are now.




















Catching limits of halibut, perch, and yellowtail! Was commonplace for Naples fishermen? Best of all residents could get hundreds of scallops from canals at their front doors.



























This is how the little park in Naples looked long before the three-tiered fountain was installed. A vent stack for a septic tank was centered in the grove of palms. The Naples Hotel was finally in use at the time that this picture was made in the early'30s, but a Sot of land still was vacant.


The Colonnade (in the photo above, the long white patch) originally was a canal and the Parsons planned to build a restaurant across the southerly end with Gondolas sailing beneath the restaurant and on to the outer canals. This restaurant was never built. The original brochure Showed an other canal, the Gabriella Canal, which was to flow along what is now Second Street. In 1906 the earthquake and fire in San Francisco caused a depression and money became very scarce with many foreclosures, the Parsons lost every thing including their dreams of a city built on the canals. This was also the year that the first home was built at 4 Savona Walk.  In 1909, the economy was better and land started to sell again, but it was not until four years later, in 1913 that the bridges were built across the canals.  Around 1919 the Belmont Shore development began, Alamitos Bay was dredged and the Shore filled at this time. The west end of Treasure Island was dredged away as part of the fill for Belmont Shore.  The Colonnade Canal was also filled in at this time and became a street.




 Arthur M. Parsons, founder of Naples, led a colorful life, full of varied interests and activities.   Born near Cleveland, Ohio, in November1858, he came west at an early age and took a leading part in the growth of the west. Mr. Parsons was a close friend of Buffalo Bill, and helped him organize the first Wild West Show.  Besides selling and subdividing large tracts of land, including most of the commercial district of Los Angeles, he found time to write a number of stories and books.  His "Eyes of the Wilderness", written around the early days in Ohio, was a best seller in 1905. Later he wrote a detective story entitled, "The Mystery of Volume 5", and "The Mud Lark", a racetrack story.  Around 1939 motion picture companies were considering filming some of his manuscripts but it is not known whether or not this occurred.




























































































The first Christmas Parade


In 1946, was actually a parade of small boats? The first boat held a spotlighted Santa Claus then came boatloads of carders From Bay Shore Congregational and St. Bartholomew Churches, a recreation commission patrol boat and a lighted float carrying children dressed In white.  The parade wan held on the four nights preceding Christmas, The second year of the parade a raffle for a television set was the means of defraying the costs of the caroling program.   The fourth night of the parade was dropped, The third year the parade was held three nights and afterwards the group moved to The Colonnade for more Christmas fun.  On one of the nights the Naples Improvement Association. Was joined in the bay by a parade of lighted boats sponsored by organizations in Belmont Shore and Naples. Strolling carolers paraded the streets of Naples during the early years of the parade. In 950,the N.I.A. invited all boat owners of Alamitos bay to take part in the parade by decorating their boats and joining in the fun.  Since then, the Naples boat parade  lighted trees in the bay and the beautiful and elaborately decorated homes have become a traditional Yuletide  Event.



















































Almira Parker Hershey, a spinster and a member of the Hershey Chocolate family, built the Naples Hotel in 1909.  It was a beautiful and elaborate structure, and a copy of the old Hollywood Hotel, which Miss Hershey also built. She was so pleased with the original that she commissioned her architect to create a smaller version for Naples. The building cost was $87,000. This was in the days when carpenters were paid $2.50 a day. Miss Hershey never opened the hotel, and during the years the hotel stood empty she received many offers to sell, but it was not until 1927, during a land boom, that she finally sold to C. F. Higgins.  Mr. Higgins completely redecorated the hotel in a modern theme and opened for business in 1929. The great depression caused the hotel to close two years later and prevented it from playing a major role in the life of Naples. The hotel was razed in 1959 and replaced by the apartment building adjacent to Fountain Park.


































































The Naples Sabot, a 7 ft. 10 in. sailing pram indigenous to Alamitos Bay. Was designed by Roy McCuliough and R. A. Violette  During World War 11.  The first Naples Sabots were Built in the garages of Naples and sailed exclusively by adults. Many were used as dinghies for large yachts. The Naples Sabot One-Design Association was formed and official plans were drawn by L. M. Dengler in 1946. More and more boats were built, some professionally and some by hobbyists.  In the summer of 1946, races of 20 boats were common and skippers ranged in age from 10 to 50. Today the age range is even greater. In  May  1949, a four-page illustrated article in Popular Mechanics Magazine made the Naples Sabot internationally famous.   In Southern California the Sabot has been the standard training boat for several years. Sail numbers are in the nine thousands and boats can be found in most of the United  States and several foreign countries.   However, Alamitos Bay and Mission Bay at San Diego support the largest Sabot fleets.
























As you can see by these gondolas on our bay so long ago, the Gondola Getaway has a very special place in our community. So please take pride in your work because you truly are carrying on a legacy.




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