Larry Culbertson
Larry Culbertson

By Larry Culbertson

The Ole Hanson Beach Club has just undergone a four-year, $5.6 million rehabilitation, and it is beautiful.

How is San Clemente so fortunate to have such an elegant building?

It all goes back to Ole Hanson, the real estate developer who founded San Clemente in 1925. He had conceived an idea for a “Spanish Village,” where the architectural style of all buildings would be Spanish.

Ole had a team of architects designing buildings for his new town. He directed one of his best architects, Virgil Westbrook, to design the Beach Club in 1927. The Strang Brothers, who built many of the early San Clemente buildings, began construction of the Beach Club in December of 1927. Construction was completed in April of 1928. It was completed just five months later—it’s too bad we did not have Ole managing this recent rehabilitation. The Beach Club was formally dedicated on May 27, 1928.

Promotional sales brochures boasted the “Olympic-size” swimming pool to be one of the finest and most equipped in America. Unfortunately, the pool was later found to be a bit short of Olympic length.

The Beach Club was used for tryouts for the 1932 Olympic Games. Champion swimmers and divers who tried out included Johnny Weismuller, Dutch Smith, Duke Kahanamoku and Buster Crabbe. Renowned coach Frank Holborow was brought in to train swimmers and said, “The Beach Club walls are covered with trophies,” according to newspaper accounts.

San Clemente swim team prowess was documented in the Santa Ana Daily Register on Oct. 29, 1928 in the article, “San Clemente Natators Win Coast Crown.” Our team beat the Los Angeles Athletic Club and the Hollywood Athletic Club in the Pacific Coast indoor swimming championships held at the Beach Club.

The most exciting race of the day was the final relay race for women. The San Clemente women, led by Cecily Cunha, won despite intense competition. “The pace was so strenuous that two of the girls collapsed and had to be carried into the clubhouse,” the article read.

By 1980, after 50 years of continuous use, the Beach Club was in need of rehabilitation. Plans were drawn to reconfigure the downstairs from mostly locker rooms to meeting areas, offices, a kitchen and retain some locker room space.

On April 9, 1981, the “San Clemente Beach Club” was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first of five buildings in San Clemente to make the list. This listing enabled the city to obtain grant money for the planned rehabilitation.

In 2012, the Beach Club was again in need of rehabilitation. The poor quality of work done in the 1980 rehabilitation necessitated a much more expensive project this time around. Some previous exterior modifications have been restored to their original specifications. Notably, one of the two round windows on the front of the building had been plastered over and is now back. The locker rooms, office spaces, first aid room, kitchen and meeting room fit together in a logical way. The elevator is a great addition. The pools are pristine and inviting.

The Historical Society was opposed to having doors placed in a decorative-arch feature on the pool side of the building, where doors had not been before. But the city decided adding doors would not hurt the historic integrity.

Ole Hanson’s vision for San Clemente may be expressed better by the Beach Club than by any other single building in town. We thank you, Ole!

Larry Culbertson is a former president and current member of the San Clemente Historical Society and has been a resident of San Clemente for more than 10 years.

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comments (4)

  • no compromise on wood windows ,,,,,,,,,, not one local job,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,looks like a afghan compound behind cement wall ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,did not open up multi million dollar view pool wall,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,lost all that income over 4 years at least 2 mill. during build out ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and your jack ass architect put all the equipment ,, water heaters and such in the beach side room down stairs another million dollar view squandered ,,,, id like to see the 300 foot radius increased on these type of projects.. ie.. notifications and workshops

    how wasteful and selfless

  • Some of the realities of this $1.5 Million project, finished at $5.6 Million or $4 Million over budget and delivered years late, have been overlooked. Some of us wonder where the $5.6 Million came from? Did we miss that city council bake sale? City council unwisely put Parks and Rec in charge of this project and now admits that was a huge mistake. Anyone else wonder if anyone at Parks and Rec ever managed a $5.6 Million project like this? At the end of the construction our beautiful long anticipated historic pool club was turned over to a private operator, 24 Carrots for $15K per month rent. City staff recommended council approve an awful deal, which virtually gave 24 Carrots everything they wanted including 20 year control of the place. Reminds me of what a bad job the city has done recently at the pier restrooms, Pico/El Camino intersection pavers (installed and removed) and T Street Bridge renovation (twice) to name a few.. Thankfully when that bad deal came to light it was re-negotiated just in time before Baker signed the contract. Two key issues have now come to light. The pool will be closed to public access most of the time including prime weekend hours because the City did not plan on staffing it, as we now have two public pools. I wonder how much public access will be allowed during the spring to fall wedding season? Hold everything! Can the North Beach parking lot accommodate simultaneous weddings at OHBC, Casino, public beach, rail commuters and the “soon to be” refurbished Miramar Theatre? Didn’t anyone take that into consideration before refurbishing the OHBC? Woops, we are giving back the $10 Million parking fees that would have paid for more parking. Maybe we’d have been better off converting it to a community stage/theater hosting concerts and stage performances where the swimming pools are? North Beach has been designated as a place for music and arts. Sadly now that the work is done, the city may not have a clue how they’ll run two pools. Did we/do we need two pools? Especially in light of the annual $900,000 budget short fall for the Vista Hermosa investment. If we really need two pools, shouldn’t they be open to us from morning to evening every day until we know when off prime hours would indicate closings times. During a recent visit to check out the OHBC my wife and I were run off property by 24 Carrots staff. We can understand they have risk management insurance/security issues, but they were very abrupt and acted as if they owned it and had a “who the heck are you?” attitude. As we walked around the exterior of the project we noticed what $5.6 Million does not include. The walk way from the sidewalk to the front door is nicely landscaped in the center planter but decomposed granite was used along the border. Which is exactly the wrong material. Those of us that have had DG know it tracks into our homes damaging floors. The border should have been planted to match the center planter. As we approached the front door I looked to the left and was amazed that the Ole Hanson walkway tiles were cracked, crushed and badly damaged and not replaced or repaired. Who at Parks and Rec did the punch list job walk? Unfortunately the project may become a symbol of how our city is run. Good intentions but poor execution. Not to start another topic but, on the way home we walked back along on the beach trail and became even more depressed as we once again noted that the bridges are continuing to rust away. We’ve been wondering for year why this is the case. Just a little TLC each year and they’d be well maintained. Preventive maintenance is always the best way to take care of an asset. We smiled knowing that this is another fine example of how corrosive our city government has become.

    • Quick clarification. The Parks and Rec Dept have been over all of these kinds of projects for decades until the current city council intervened, because of issues like this, and put future projects under the engineering dept.

  • resign Donchak
    if you removed a bike lane from in front of a school and did not replace it you should resign

    if you misappropriated safe walk to school moneys and other sidewalk moneys to remodel a park you should resign

    if you spent 14 million dollars on a narrow dirt trail you should resign

    if you spent 200k on a special election to force your agenda to enrich your crony friends you need to resign

    if you took the repair remodel and redevelopment request for the Hanson pool house and turned it into a ,,restoration,, for millions of dollars you have to resign

    if you closed the pool house to transfer clients and business to you crony friends you need to go to jail

    if you voted to remove utility poles from alleys instead of sidewalks you should resign

    if you use the ocsd to harass your opponent you should resign

    if you voted to persecute micro businesses because they have a ladder on their truck and stated buy a van ,, ,, Marie Antoinette Donchak you should be ashamed

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