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Newport Harbor Nautical Museum

Newport Harbor Nautical Museum
NOTE: The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum has moved to the Balboa Peninsula, at the former location of the Balboa Fun Zone. The pictures on this site are from the old location.

The following information and images are just of portion of what you will find at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum

Historic Timeline

1810   Spanish Land Grant of Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana (62,512 acres) granted to Jose Yorba and Juan Peralta at the location of Bolsa Gengara.

1812 - 1815   US War with Britain.

1832   End of the Mission era in California.

1837 - 1842   Spanish Land Grant of Rancho San Joaquin & Cienega Las Ranas (72,000 acres) granted to Jose Sepulveda.

1848   Gold discovered in Northern California.

1850   California becomes the 31st state of the United States of America.

1860   US Coast Survey Schooner Humboldt arrived at Bolsa San Joaquin began harbor survey, which had to be curtailed due to the Civil War.

1860 - 1864   Civil War rages throughout the Unites States.

1866   Partnership of Flint, Bixby and Irvine began to purchase sections of the Yorba and Sepulveda ranchos.

1870   Irvine Ranch residents met and changed name of area to New Port.

1870   Paddlewheeler, Vaquero, under the command of Captain Dunnells entered Newport Harbor to trade.

1870   McFadden Brothers established wharf at Castaways immediately across the bay from this point.

1875   McFadden steamer, Newport, launched and regular trade from McFadden's Wharf in Newport began.

1875   US Coastal Survey vessel San Luis arrived to finish earlier harbor survey.

1876   Flint, Bixby and Irvine completed land acquisition from original ranchos (105,000 acres).

1888   Construction on McFadden's Long Wharf began (1300 feet long and 60 feet wide).

1889   Settlement of the City of Newport Beach began and Orange County split away from Los Angeles County.

1890   Railroad arrived in Newport connecting the area to Santa Ana.

1892   Waterfront hotels opened.

1892   Bay excursion trips began aboard the steamboat Last Chance.

1899   McFadden holdings, including the commercial wharf, sold.

1899   San Pedro announced as the choice for the Port of Los Angeles.

1905   The Pavilion constructed at Newport.

1905   Red Car service began between Santa Ana and Newport.

1906   Collins began dredging channel along the bay shore of East Newport and Balboa.

1906   Newport, East Newport and Balboa incorporated as the City of Newport Beach.

1909   Ferry service began between Balboa and the peninsula.

1910   US Census recorded 445 permanent residents in the City of Newport Beach.

1911   Soiland established Station A of the South Coast Yacht Club at Newport.

1912   Bridge construction between Balboa Island and mainland began.

1914   Bridge construction across the back bay near the original McFadden Wharf site began.

1917   Jetty construction began, extending 1500 feet out into the ocean at the harbor entrance.

1919   Joseph Beek initiated the Tournament of Lights boat parade. The tournament continued each year until 1949. Today we enjoy the Boat Parade each Christmas.

1920   The City Channel dredging project finished.

1922   First Regatta held in Newport and hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

1924   Lido Island fill project completed.

1927   Arches Gas Station opened at the corner of Newport Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway.

1927   West jetty repaired and eastern jetty construction began.

1928   First World Surfing Championship held in Newport and hosted by Duke Kahanamoku.

1935   Flight of the Snowbird annual youth regatta began.

1936   Dedication of Newport Harbor.

1940's   Shipyards of Newport shifted to navy vessel construction for the War efforts.

1940 - 1945   World War II.

1950's   Sailboat designers and builders sprang up around Newport making the area famous for small sailboat designs.

1963   Replica Paddlewheeler, Rueben E. Lee, constructed at this location near the Back Bay Bridge.

1967   Fashion Island construction began.

1995   Rueben E. Lee rechistened the Pride of Newport and opened as a Nautical Museum.

Newport history From Uncharted Waters to a "New Port"

In 1860, the marshy lagoon that became Newport Harbor was first reported by the U.S. Coastal survey schooner HUMBOLDT, warning of "..a narrow mouth 50 yards in width blocked by a narrow bar and a frightful swell rolling at all stages of the tide, making it dangerous to cross in boats of any kind". Ten years later, Captain Samuel S. Dunnels ignored the warning and brought his small sternwheel steamer, VAQUERO, over the dangerous bar and established a small shipping business just across the channel from where the museum now stands. A "New Port" was established, and the name stuck.

In 1875 the steam-schooner NEWPORT challenged the still dangerous shoals outside the harbor entrance with regularly scheduled trips carrying passengers, lumber and other goods to what had become known as McFadden's Landing. However, the unpredictable conditions at the mouth of the harbor took such a disasterous toll on vessels attempting to enter, that the shipping business was moved to a large ocean wharf at the site of the present day Newport Beach municipal pier. The turn of the 20th century brought a new interest in the resort and recreational possiblities of Newport Bay. A west jetty was built in 1917 at the harbor entrance and dredging began to take place creating the harbor's now famous islands. On May 23, 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt sent the telegraph message from the White House that officially opened Newport Harbor, today considered one of the most beautiful recreational harbors in the world.

Topsail schooner
Topsail schooner of the same class as the
Coast Survey Vessel

Outboard Motor Display

Outboard Motor Display Outboard Motor Display Outboard Motor Display

Outboard Motor Display

Sportfishing Displays

Note: The following is a temporary display, but is included on this webpage to give you an example of the types of displays you will find at the museum. Check their official website for the current displays.

Sportfishing Displays Hooked on Sportfishing

Recreational fishing is America's top outdoor leisure time activity. More Americans fish than play golf and tennis combined. According to the U.S. Wildlife service, 44 million people went fishing last year, meaning one in every five Americans is an angler. Anglers span all racial and ethnic backgounds and fully one third are women. The economic impact of recreational fishing is over $116 billion annually and more than one million jobs nationwide are related to the sportfishing industry. Sportfishing is an important aspect of both our way of life and our national livelihood.

Because of our harbor's relationship to the sea, this exhibition deals primarily with the history and lore of saltwater fishing, although recreational anglers may be found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers, each location requiring its own specialized methods and equipment. Southern California saw the worldwide birth of big game angling in the late 19th century when the first bluefin tuna, weighing 183 pounds, was caught by rod and reel off Catalina Island. The first "party" or "day" boats began operation out of Newport Harbor in the 1930's and grew in popularity throughout the war years.

Newport Harbor has played an important role in the history of sportfishing and continues today as one of Southern California's most popular charter fishing boat harbors.
Sportfishing Displays Sportfishing Displays Sportfishing Displays

Sportfishing Displays Sportfishing Displays Sportfishing Displays


Since there were sailors, people have used their boats for pleasure. In ancient times, boats used strictly for pleasure were called "barges" and reserved for the rich. The Egyptian Pharaohs enjoyed cruises up and down the Nile in their luxury barges. Roman Emperor Nero kept his luxurious barges an Lake Nemi outside Rome. Queen Elizabeth I called her small pleasure barge, The Rat of Wright. Everyone else used their workboats for the occasional pleasure sail.

Then in 1660 Charles II returned to England from exile in Holland and brought with him a small Dutch craft with a fore-and-aft gaff-rigged sail, known as a "jacht." He called her Mary. The design became very popular. Soon other nobles commissioned yachts to be built and began to race against one another. Thus the modern age of yachting was underway.

Yachting Displays Yachting Displays Yachting Displays

Yachting Displays Yachting Displays Yachting Displays

Ship Models

There is also a display of historic ship models from various periods in history.

Ship models Ship models Ship models

Ship models Ship models Ship models

Newport Harbor Nautical Museum

The Newport Harbor Nautical Museum is located at 600 East Bay Avenue, in Newport Beach. See map.

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