Descanso Bay, Santa Catalina Island

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Descanso Bay, Santa Catalina Island (Descanso Beach), the next harbor located to the north of Avalon Bay, is located at the mouth of Descanso Canyon. It was the site of the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Hancock Banning, built in 1895. In 1918 the Banning home was moved to make way for the construction of the elegant St. Catherine Hotel, where William Wrigley, Jr. stayed on his first island visit in 1919. The yacht Valiant burned and sank a couple hundred yards out from Descanso Beach. It had about $75,000 worth of jewelry on board, which has never been recovered. Dives are by harbormaster’s permit only. Descanso Canyon is shown on a map in The Islander on August 1, 1916.

In the News~

August 7, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Mrs. Hancock Banning is entertaining a house party at her summer home in Descanso Canyon, the guests having arrived this morning. They were escorted by Captain Hancock Banning in a special car on the Southern Pacific Railroad, connecting up with the Cabrillo at San Pedro…”

September 18, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Music is seldom heard to better advantage than last night when the Catalina band gave a serenade at the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Hancock Banning at Descanso Canyon. It is the custom of the band at the close of each season to give a serenade at each of the Banning homes… “

May 5, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “Mrs. Hancock Banning is here making preparations for summer at Descanso. Many interior alterations are planned on the Banning residence. Mr. and Mrs. Banning will spend two months of the summer at Descanso.”

November 13, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “Washed up at Descanso Bay by the tides, the body of an unknown man was found Sunday morning by a party on board a fishing launch. It is thought that the man’s initials are J. H. W., and that his home was in Los Angeles. The body was much decomposed, especially about the head and neck. Almost every tooth in the man’s head was capped with gold. The pockets of the clothing were full of rocks, and those who found the body believe that the man took his own life. On Saturday, November 3, a man answering the description of the deceased was seen in Avalon. He did not register at any local hotel… The body was taken in charge by Constable A. Sutemeier, who is awaiting instructions from relatives located at Grand Junction, Colorado.”

November 27, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “The grounds at Descanso beach are being cleared of all underbrush.”

December 18, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Not exactly from the ashes on the former site of the Hotel Metropole, on Crescent Avenue, will the two magnificent hostelries, which have been announced by the Santa Catalina Island Company, spring into existence. One stately edifice is to be erected on the excavation just completed at a cost of $30,000 on Sugar Loaf Point, to be known as the St. Catherine, and the second—the Annex, will be located in beautiful Descanso Canyon…”

January 8, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “The old Banning mansion at Descanso Canyon has reached its new location on the north side of the canyon, has been leveled up, and a substantial new foundation will be placed under it. It is probable that another story will be put under the front of the building, as its height from the ground will readily permit such enlargement.”

March 19, 1918 [TI/Avalon]: “A series of blasts on Friday afternoon, on the mountain side beyond the Tuna Club, furnished an abundance of rock and earth for widening the boulevard to Sugar Loaf and Descanso Canyon. Incidentally, the Moorish cottage on the crest of the ridge is now perilously near the edge of the bank.”