Thursday, July 23, 2009

Founder of Palos Verdes

By a stretchy coincidence, the day before I took the July 21st picture (previous post) looking toward Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes, a regal lady passed on who personified the history of Palos Verdes. A long time ago (1946) Elin Brekke, a secretary from Norway, married the son of Frank A. Vanderlip, Sr.--the man who pretty much 'created' the tony peninsula.

Elin died Monday at the age of 90. She was quite a character. Her autobiography is titled Eccentric, Obstinate, and Fabulous--not an idle boast. You can read John Bogert's tribute and see a picture of her at the Daily Breeze site. I learned there that Elin raised money for (among many other things) the restoration of the Queen Anne Drawbridge in Dinan--a beautiful town in Brittany that I've actually visited. . . oooh, I'm getting chills.

So why is the Vanderlip family important? The Palos Verdes Peninsula was first owned by the Sepulvedas, part of the land granted to them in 1827 by the Mexican government. In 1882, that Rancho was divided and the Bixby family (a big name in Long Beach) acquired the peninsula. In 1913, George Bixby sold 16,000 acres (basically, the entire peninsula) to the president of City National Bank in New York, Frank Vanderlip. It was a complicated maneuver, and you can read all the details at Maureen MacGowan's excellent history site. Bixby kept a thousand acres, which is today's Harbor City.

Vanderlip gathered a group of investors to make something of the place. The top picture at right rather complements the previous post, but it was taken on May 5, 1927. (OMG! May 5 is my b-day...another coincidence!) The man in the picture is landscape architect George Gibbs, Jr. The Palos Verdes Library has a huge on-line collection of pictures that anyone can access.

Here a photo of Mr. Vanderlip himself. The occasion was the Second Annual Bird House Competition at Malaga Cove School in 1931. I thought the kid on the right might be Draco Malfoy, but the library identifies him as Tod Snelgrove. Right. The other boy is Gordon Andersen.

OK, one more bone-chilling coincidence. Vanderlip's wife (Elin's mother-in-law) was named Narcissa. PotterManiacs will appreciate that.

1 comment:

Latestarter said...

Very interested in your post, especially the photo of 5-7-27. I was born three days after that precise date to the then-assistant to Frank Vanderlip and a pivotal player in the sale of the Bixby property, Harry E. Benedict--and my mother, Frances, of course. They were then in New York, but my father was continually back and forth on Palos Verdes matters for Mr. Van. He built a house, Villa Francesca, completed in 1930, on 12acres he acquired, at Mr. Van's urging, at Portuguese Bend (#2 Pepper Tree Drive, still very much intact). Also, I'd not seen the photo of Mr. Van with the Malaga Cove students. Several years later, the fall semester of 1933, then six years old, I was in second grade at the school. I actually found my old classroom several years ago.

So thanks for your message and photos. I plan to have more to say soon in other forums, after a friend sends me Elin Vanderlip's book.