A Walking and Driving Tour of the charming “Spanish Village By The Sea”.
The History of San Clemente
is alive thanks to Mr. Ole Hanson, the founder of our city. His passion and vision gave our city a personality.
See his vision in the very best historical points of interest throughout the city complete with historical description, pictures, directions, and map.
Start the History of San Clemente walking tour at the Historic City Hall at the top of Avenida Del Mar. The Historical Society has a wonderfully informative museum there, run by Society members who know everything about San Clemente.
Historic City Hall - 101 S. El Camino Real
Originally known as the Oscar Easley Building, it housed the Bank of America, an early Chamber of Commerce, and city hall. Now it is the location of the Historical Societies Museum filled with all aspects of the history of San Clemente like black and white photographs, Nixon memorabilia, and my favorite, a chaise lounge of Ole Hanson’s, upholstered in the original crushed red velvet and framed in hand carved wood. The museum is open most days from 1-4pm.
Dukes - 204 S. El Camino Real
The original restaurant here was called Victor McLaglen’s Rendezvous. It was well known as a popular rest stop for Hollywood actors like Bette Davis and Clark Gable during the Del Mar racing season.
Ole Hanson’s Office - 104 N. El Camino Real
This is where the History of San Clemente begins. Built in 1928, as Ole Hanson’s Office, you can still view the room where his actual desk sat by going into the Lavender Lounge Tea Company upstairs from Baskin Robbins. Order a cold or hot tea and sit a while to rest your feet!
The San Clemente Hotel - 114 Avenida Del Mar
Built in 1927, it was originally the residence of the people building the town and for those who made the trip to San Clemente to buy property or oversee construction of their new homes. Today the hotel rooms have been made into charming apartments over a quaint coffee shop and the musical chimes from the tower are still enjoyed by shoppers and tenants alike.
Cabrillo Playhouse - 202-204 Avenida Cabrillo
Built in 1928, it was most notable as the home of Wm. J. Barry, the first city clerk in the history of San Clemente. In 1966, it was converted into the Cabrillo Playhouse which is still used today for actors to perform in theater.
San Clemente Community Center - 100 N. Calle Seville
On the corner of Avenida Del Mar and Calle Seville. Built in 1927, it was the one of the first buildings in the town and was a gift to the city by Ole Hanson. After a 1970 fire, only the “Ole Hanson Room” survived and the balance was rebuilt in a similar style.
Casa De Elena Bed & Breakfast - 516 Elena Lane
A Well Preserved original home now run as a bed and breakfast.
Ann Harding House - 420 Cazador Lane
The original home of the Hollywood actress Ann Harding.
San Clemente Municipal Pier - 611 Avenida Victoria
In 1928 the 1,200 foot long wooden Municipal fishing and pleasure pier was constructed at no cost to local citizens. In 1939, and again in 1983, strong storms damaged the pier requiring it to be rebuilt.
Casa Romantica - 415 Avenida Granada
One of the best known and impressive Landmarks in the history of San Clemente. Built in 1928 as the home for Ole Hanson, it was designed by famed architect, Carl Lindbom. You can tour the Cultural Center and Gardens for $3 between the hours of 1pm and 4pm on Tuesdays and between 11am and 4pm Wednesday thru Sunday. The facility has poetry readings, concerts, and artistic workshops.
Old San Clemente City Plaza - 111 West Palizada
Although the building design has been modified, this was once the home of the city’s original jail, Police, and Fire Department. The plaza now contains a number of colorful shops and restaurants.
San Clement’s Church - 202 Avenida Aragon
The Episcopal Church, the first in the history of San Clemente, was built on land donated by Ole Hanson. It began as a mission and today looks much like it did in 1930.
San Onofre Inn - 1426 N. El Camino Real
This is one of the few examples of apartment housing to have survived from the earliest period.
Miramar Theater - 1598 S. El Camino Real
Built in 1937, the Miramar Theater was once the most elaborate theater development on the entire south coast.
The Casino - 104 W. Avenida Pico
Was famous in the 1930’s for its floating dance floor and Big Band orchestras
Ole Hanson Beach Club - 105 W. Avenida Pico
A gift to the city from its founder, Ole Hanson. The pool was the tryout site for the 1928 Olympics. Champions Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe performed here.
Casa Pacifica -
The Western White House
By far the most famous of San Clemente Landmarks. The ocean front “country home” was completed in 1927 on 110 acres at the southern most point of San Clemente for Hamilton “Ham” Cotton. It was purchased in 1969 by President Richard Nixon and became world famous as The Western White House. The History of San Clemente was changed forever. Though under private ownership, a portion of the property can be seen from the beach by walking south of the San Clemente State Park and looking up into the bluff.
“I envision a place where people can live together more pleasantly than any other place in America.
I am going to build a beautiful city on the ocean where the whole city will be a park; the architecture will be of one type and the homes will be located on sites where nearly everyone will have his view preserved forever.
The whole picture is very clear before me.
I can see hundreds of white-walled homes bonneted with red tile, with trees, shrubs, hedges of hibiscus, palms and geraniums lining the drives and a profusion of flowers illuminating the patios and gardens.
I can see gay sidewalks of red Spanish tile and streets curving picturesquely over the land. I want plazas, playgrounds, schools, clubs, swimming pools, a golf course, a fishing pier and a beach enlivened with people getting a healthy joy out of life.”
Ole Hanson, City Founder
The Historic Society at the top of Avenida Del Mar provides a full map and tour of all the Historic Buildings and places of special interest. This concludes our history of San Clemente tour.