Dana Point is a city located in southern Orange County, California. The population was 33,351 at the 2010 census. It has one of the few harbors along the Orange County coast, and with ready access via State Route 1, it is a popular local destination for surfing and was home to a legendary surf break called Killer Dana.
The city was named after the headland of Dana Point, which was in turn named for Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, which included a description of the area. Dana described the locale, including neighboring San Juan Capistrano, as “the only romantic spot on the coast”. Although Dana described the anchorage as poor, it is now a developed harbor and contains a replica of his ship, the Pilgrim. The Pilgrim is used as a classroom by the Ocean Institute, which is located at the harbor. This area is designatedCalifornia Historical Landmark #189.
One of the very few known specimens of the megamouth shark was caught off Dana Point in 1990.
In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler and General M.H. Sherman, Director of the Pacific Electric Railway Company, created a major real estate group to develop what is known today as the Hollywood Hills, Sidney H. Woodruff, already a prominent Los Angeles homebuilder, was hired to lead the project. In 1926, Woodruff, Chandler, and Sherman created the Dana Point Syndicate. They invited other heavy hitters, company presidents, movie producers, and real estate investors, to join them in purchasing 1,388 acres (5.6 km2) of land, some of which includes the “Headlands” of today. Promising tree-lined, paved streets, electricity, telephones, sidewalks, water mains, storm drains, sewers, and other amenities, Woodruff built 35 homes and a number of commercial buildings.
Most of these “Woodruff” houses are concentrated in a Dana Point’s historic core, also calledLantern Village (currently about 12,000 residents). The streets are named after the different colored lanterns, street of the Violet Lantern, Blue Lantern, etc. (colored lanterns were used by ships 200 years ago to advertise their fares when pulled into the Dana Point natural harbor). His crowning structure was to be the Dana Point Inn, a Mediterranean-like resort hotel. After a celebratory groundbreaking in 1930, a three-story foundation was poured and a 135-foot (41 m) elevator shaft was dug. Unfortunately, the Depression caused construction to halt. Although Woodruff continuously sought financial support through the years, this project was abandoned in 1939. Subsequently, he sold the remaining holdings of the Dana Point Syndicate. Thirty-four of the original Woodruff residences are still occupied. Dana Hills High School contains recently one of the nations strongest High School Cross Country program, winning California state titles in 1988,2007,2008,2009.
In 1928, a corporate entity of the American industrial giant Edward Doheny, who had built his fortune in oil production in Southern California and Mexico, purchased a number of lots in Capistrano Beach. Doheny’s son, Ned, formed a development company, the Capistrano Beach Company, which included his wife’s twin brothers, Clark and Warren Smith and Luther Eldridge, a contractor, to build a community of Spanish style houses. According to Dana Point historians Baum and Burnes,* Eldridge favored two dominant characteristics in his homes, a typically Spanish roof line and the use of large ceiling beams in the houses’ main rooms. The roofline, covered with red ceramic tiles, incorporated a low-pitched gable, spreading out to one short and one long roof. The ceiling beams were stenciled artwork painted by artist Alex Meston. Eldridge was able to complete the original Doheny family house on the bluffs, four houses on the beach, and 18 other homes scattered throughout the area before tragedy struck the ambitious project. Edward Doheny was preparing for his criminal trial for bribery in the Teapot Dome Scandal, and on February 16, 1929, Ned Doheny and, Hugh Plunkett, his friend and secretary, who were to testify in the trial, were killed in a murder that still remains unsolved. In 1931, as a memorial to Ned, Petroleum Securities Company, Doheny’s family-owned business, made a gift of 41.4 acres (168,000 m2) to the State of California, which is now Doheny State Park. The unimproved Capistrano Beach properties passed back to Edward Doheny, and, upon his death in 1935, to his wife and heirs. By 1944, all of the properties had been sold to private parties.
The Doheny family also funded the building of the what was then called St. Edward’s Chapel in Capistrano Beach. The Chapel soon grew, received canonical status as a parish, and moved to its current bluff-top location in Dana Point, overlooking Doheny State Beach.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.5 square miles (76 km2). 6.5 square miles (17 km2) of it is land and 23.0 square miles (60 km2) of it (77.96%) is water.
Dana Point headlands are a prominent feature in Orange County geography and after years of controversy, are currently being developed as a 118-house gated community.
However 68 acres (280,000 m2) of the site is open to the public and features a nature center and walking trails exhibiting “lost” plants of the Southern California coast. Views on a clear day extend to Catalina Island and La Jolla in San Diego county.