Lake Arrowhead Village celebrates 100th anniversary this Sunday

Jun 23, 2022 | Mountain Events

Staff Writer

This Sunday, June 26, Lake Arrowhead Village will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Village in 1922. At 11:45 a.m. the McKenzie Water Ski School, one of the oldest family-owned water ski schools in the country, will kick off the celebration with a water skiing exhibition.

At noon, the Arrowhead Queen will arrive to its dock in the Village with significant fanfare. For the next three hours, a marching band and a parade of characters and entertainers will flow throughout Lake Arrowhead Village, entertaining the visitors. They invite residents and visitors to enjoy the ongoing live music and fun, including magic shows and a tightrope walking demonstration. There will be caricature artists, arm and face painting, balloon artists and more to entertain the visitors.

This is just the first of several events this year to celebrate the opening of Lake Arrowhead Village, 100 years ago this month. It was the creation of the village from almost nothing that is being celebrated, and it wasn’t easy.

The story of the construction of Lake Arrowhead Village began in August of 1921 when a group of Los Angeles investors purchased all the properties previously owned by the Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company. The entire company had been owned by a bachelor, James Edgar Mooney, who had died during the flu epidemic in Cincinnati in 1919. His nephews and nieces of his Cincinnati family were happy to sell what they considered a losing investment; actually, they called Little Bear Lake a “money pit,” way out there in California. They were happy to sell it.

On Aug. 21, 1921, a syndicate of Los Angeles area millionaire businessmen – including Morgan Adams, A.I. Warmnington, A.J. Salisbury, Harry Lee Martin, R.F. Gross, O.F. Brant, William Allen, O.P. Clark and J. Benton Van Nuys – purchased the Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company property around Little Bear Lake, which had assets of almost $5 million and 47,000 acre-feet of water. They said they planned to continue to carry out the Arrowhead Reservoir Company plans, but with some changes which included raising the dam an additional 31feet to enlarge the lake surface and changing the name of Little Bear Lake to Arrowhead Lake.

That name was not acceptable to the U.S. Postal Service because they predicted confusion with the mail going to the Arrowhead Springs Hotel at the base of the mountain, so the name of Lake Arrowhead was adopted instead.

The syndicate revealed plans for construction of a road from the north side of the lake out to the desert area of Hesperia (the now closed Highway 173) and building dance pavilions, a grand hotel, lodges, a boathouse and many other roads. They proposed to build a golf course, a fish hatchery and an ice plant. They would build a power system of 50 million kilowatts and other utilities, including a sanitation plant. Plus, the plans for a European style village for businesses was advertised, which became Lake Arrowhead Village.

The new Arrowhead Lake Company owners closed the lake to fishing so they could plant fish from their new fish hatchery, and they prohibited duck hunting to protect the 275 men who were building a reception area on the lake’s north shore, only a mile and a half from the gatehouse. They built living quarters for the workmen and a dining room, along with bungalettes. They began increasing the height of the dam by adding 16 more feet of concrete on top of the cement core wall, raising the height to 184 feet and they surfaced the front of the dam with a riprap of rocks and stones. They cleared a roadway around the lake under which they placed cement sewer pipes and iron water pipes. Those pipes were brought to the roadway by barge from across the lake.

Within six weeks, the road to Hesperia had been mapped out and 100 horses and men with equipment were in place grading the first five miles of the route. These plans were interrupted by two-day-long rains in both November and December, which raised the water level in the lake. This much additional water was not yet wanted and was in the way, so they opened the outlet gates on the water tower, which delayed the planned opening of the Hesperia road.

The blizzards during the winter of 1921 frequently closed the roads for many weeks. A hurricane force storm attacked the mountain in mid-December, bringing snow and rain, measured by Squirrel Inn’s winter caretaker, John Dexter, at 30.64 inches for the December storms, raising the level of the lake even more. The deep snows interfered with the extensive plans of the new company.

There was a brief lull in the winter weather in January, but it returned, disrupting the time schedules again.

On Feb. 6, 1922, the snow was so deep the Arrowhead Lake Company officials, who were arriving to see the progress being made, were stuck in it. They had been on their way to the clubhouse and ended up using sleds they bought at Greg Dexter’s Year–o-Round Store in Strawberry Flat to get there, leaving their cars stranded in the snow. The road wasn’t cleared until the company brought in a four-wheel tractor up the mountains around the middle of March. However, then on March 23, three more feet of snow fell.

By the middle of April, the Arrowhead Lake Company was finally able to begin working on their plans. They built eight camps around the Arrowhead Valley to house the 600 workers they hired. One of the camps built was Camp Fleming, with 40 cabins and 60 tent cabins, near the former LaPraix-Fleming Sawmill.

One of the first projects was the removal of the rustic, former Little Bear Fishing Resort. The next was the building of a 1,000-foot-long retaining wall, protecting a level area they created for the construction of the future business village from the raising water level of the lake.

Orchard Bay was picked to build a pay-auto camp, which would be able to hold 1,000 cars of camping fishermen. The plan was, if they stayed at the camp, they could fish in the lake. They built sanitation facilities, camp stoves, tables, piped in water and hung strings of electric lights at the auto-camp.

On May 3, the Arrowhead Lake Company entertained the county supervisors and laid out its plans for spending eight million dollars over the next 10 years to develop the village and lake into a first-class resort. They were shown the location for the hotel on the peninsula and a 60-room hostelry overlooking the future village, the newly named Lake Arrowhead Post Office and the 12-sided dance pavilion, which would have a lantern on the top of its spire. They showed them the plans of the Normandy-style buildings they were planning to build in the new tracts near the village.

The supervisors were invited to return in June for the opening of the first facilities and they were impressed to have plans for such a quality resort, since it would be a great asset to the county. The company had no problem rapidly building the village and other area amenities. The Arrowhead Lake Company had an $8,000-a-day payroll and, since they were working simultaneously in numerous locations, the projects were moving right along.

Property sales in the newly developed housing tracts were booming. Several movie stars were among the first to purchase, including actor Wallace Reid and race car driver Eddie Meyers, who wanted not only a home, but a large garage for his cars and a boathouse for his speed boats and hydroplane. He was willing to invest almost $10,000 on these buildings.

The June 24 grand opening of Lake Arrowhead Village was celebrated by the Arrowhead Lake Company in grand style. They invited 250 newspaper men and women to Camp Fleming’s cabins and tent cabins for the maximum news coverage possible. They were brought up the mountain by horse-drawn stage and served dinner “camp-style” and were entertained with fishing, boating on the lake, dancing to live music, horseback riding and entertained in the 150 log seat amphitheater at Camp Fleming.

Included in the festivities were Senator Lyman King and California’s Treasurer Friend Richardson who, as a child, had visited Blue Jay because his uncle had run the sawmill there. The next year, Richardson was elected governor of California.

The advertising worked and soon the Motor Transit Line began offering two round-trip routes a day to Lake Arrowhead, which were actively used.

The Lake Arrowhead Village dance pavilion was dedicated on July 4th weekend with 300 couples crowded onto the dance floor. When the village was destroyed in 1979 during the “burn to learn” exercise, the 12-sided pavilion building was the only building saved from destruction. It is now used as a restaurant and retail space.

Then, in September, A.L. Richardson, the owner of the Arlington Hotel in Santa Barbara, which at the time was considered to be one of the finest hotels in California, was brought to Lake Arrowhead and was persuaded by A.E. Warmington to undertake building a hotel at the lake. He and Lake Arrowhead architect McNeal Swasey collaborated on the design. Within a month, 150 carpenters were working double shifts to begin the construction of the new Arlington Lodge hotel.

By 1923, the Norman-styled village, which included a dance pavilion, outdoor movie theater, restaurant, beach and bath houses was completed. Three hotels were soon completed, including the Arlington Lodge, Village Inn and the North Shore Tavern. A nine-hole golf course was built on the site of the present golf course and, within two years, Lake Arrowhead became the premier resort community that had been promised to the supervisors when the syndicate purchased the land in 1921 and continued to grow as the decade proceeded.

The Village management welcomes all to join in this 100th anniversary of the opening of Lake Arrowhead Village this Sunday from 11:45 to 3 p.m.



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