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Historical Information

Time Line Santa Catalina Island &  Catalina Island Company

About 9,000 years ago, Santa Catalina Island was inhabited by Native Americans
Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo sails to island.  Claimed the island for Spain and named it San Salvador after his flagship
Sebastian Viscaino lands on the island on the eve of Saint Catherine’s of Alexandria Day and names the island Santa Catalina in her honor
American, Russian and Aleut Indians hunt sea otters around the island, eventually eliminating otters from the area
Mexico gains independence from Spain and Catalina becomes a Mexican territory
Thomas Robbins, a Yankee trader, becomes the first private owner of the Island.  He was given a Mexican Land Grant by Mexico’s last Governor of California, Pio Pico.  Possibly traded for a horse and a silver saddle.  Santa Catalina Island is now part of the United States
Island is settled by fishermen, leaseholders and squatters who bring sheep and cattle to the island
The entire island is owned by Trustees of James Lick Trust.  Land is leased to ranchers with estimated amounts grazing the island i.e. 22,000 sheep, 4,200 cattle, 15,000 goats
During the Civil War, Union troops scout Island for a possible Indian Reservation.  Barracks were built at Two Harbors.  Barracks still stand today as Isthmus Yacht Club
George Shatto buys Santa Catalina Island.  Dreams of building it into a tourist destination.  Built first hotel, Hotel Metropole, established “Tent City.”  Shatto’s sister-in-Law, Etta Whittney names Avalon, inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Idylls of the King”
Shatto builds what is now the “oldest house” still standing on the west side of Avalon
First church was built, Avalon Community Church
“Lookout Cottage” was built by Peter Gano.  Cottage now called “Holly Hill House”
Shatto defaults on his agreement with the Trustees of the James Lick Trust.  Island reverts back to the Trust
The Banning Brothers purchase Santa Catalina Island from the Lick Estate (sheriff’s auction)
They establish the Golf Course (three holes then later nine.)  Oldest course west of the Mississippi.  Added tennis courts, freshwater and sewage system, toilets with salt water flush, fire hydrants with saltwater, brought electricity to Avalon, improved roads and offered police and fire protection

  • Bannings formed the Santa Catalina Island Company.  
  • William Banning named President of SCICo
  • First stagecoach tours to island’s interior

Zahn Brothers start carrier pigeon messenger mail service to mainland
The Avalon Tuna Club was founded.  Oldest sportfishing club in the United States
1899 Aquarium built by Bannings near site of present Antonio’s Cabaret
1900 Isthmus township (Two Harbors) survey initiated

  • Electrical generation system installed.  
  • First Glass Bottom Boat launched (Cleopatra.) 
  • Company assumes operation of tent housing franchise


  • Stagecoach road from Avalon to Isthmus (Two Harbors) completed
  • The cross channel vessel “Cabrillo” was launched

Avalon land sales by Bannings – includes flats and eastern terrace lots
Pleasure Pier built, commonly known as the Green Pier
Avalon Freeholders Improvement Association formed and given title to Pleasure Pier
County-wide ordinance prohibits sale of alcohol in Avalon providing initial push toward cityhood and thus self-determination on temperance issue
City of Avalon incorporated
Bond issue to raise funds for City to buy utility system from SCICo fails
Fire devastates one-third of Avalon beginning with the largest hotel, Hotel Metropole
Hotel St. Catherine at Descanso Canyon begins construction
Hotel St. Catherine opens for summer season

  • Bannings sell SCICo to a Pasadena real estate syndicate that included William Wrigley Jr.
  • David Blankenhorn named president
  • William Wrigley Jr. acquires majority stock of SCICo and the Wilmington Transportation Company


  • J. H. Patrick named president
  • Steamship “S.S. Avalon” is purchased.  Meteor Boat Company acquired and the Hotel Atwater was built


  • Built Sugar Loaf Dance Casino at Casino Point
  • Ballpark was built for Chicago Cubs spring training.  Cubs trained from 1921 to 1951 season – took a break for World War II

Mining operations started

  • “S.S. Catalina,” “Blanche W.,” and “M.V. Princess” launched
  • Thompson Reservoir built near Middle Ranch

Deagan Chimes Tower was built
Mining operations halted

  • Wrigley Ocean Marathon with $25,000 prize, from Two Harbors to Palos Verdes
  • Catalina Tile and Pottery operations began
  • The Bird Park was created


  • Catalina Country Club was built for Chicago Cubs Clubhouse
  • Pebbly Beach Road from Crescent Avenue to site of present Cabrillo Mole deeded to City 


  • D. M. Renton completes construction of Catalina Casino
  • May 29, 1929 Grand Opening of the Casino Building    


  • Catalina Jaunting Car Company acquired
  • Catalina Island Golf Course expanded to 18 holes
  • “M.V. Emperor” destroyed in storm (paddlewheel glass-bottom boat)


  • “M.V. Phoenix” built (paddlewheel glass-bottom boat)
  • Catalina Airlines begins amphibian air service to Hamilton Beach


  • William Wrigley Jr. passes away
  • Philip Wrigley named president of William Wrigley Jr. Company and the Santa Catalina Island Company
  • Artists Dorothy and Otis Shepard arrive to create Early California Spanish ambiance in Avalon.
  • Construction begins on El Rancho Escondido – mid-island – where champion Arabian horses are raised.

Big Band music is broadcast by CBS across the nation, live from the Casino Ballroom

  • “M.V. Empress” destroyed by storm (paddlewheel glass-bottom boat)
  •  Dorothy and Otis Shepard’s “Early California Spanish” theme construction begins in Avalon

SCICo exits tile and pottery business – sold molds to Gladding McBean 
SCICo built a float and entered the Rose Parade on January 1, 1940
Construction begins on the Airport-in-the-Sky
World War II – The Island became a Federal Military Zone and became a training base.  Maritime Service located in Avalon, Coast Guard at the Isthmus, OSS at Toyon Bay, Signal Corps at Camp Cactus and the Navy at the Isthmus.  The “SS Catalina,” “SS Avalon,” and the “Blanche W.”  were used by the military.  The Island was closed to visitors

Airport-in-the-Sky completed and opened for commercial use
“M. V. Toyon” launched
Isthmus renamed Two Harbors by Philip and Helen Wrigley
Inland Motor Tour begins
Final spring training season in Avalon for Chicago Cubs
Assistance provided in formation of and providing a home for the Catalina Island Museum Society

  • Range and wildlife management program started
  • Year-round small boat cross-channel service experiments begin in effort to find ways for more frequent, faster service as the future of the steamers are uncertain

Arthur Meyerhoff Associates establish agency office in Avalon.  William Wrigley Jr.’s Chicago agency
Doug and Audrey Bombard take over Catalina Cove and Camp Department – includes Two Harbors
Pavilion Lodge opens
“M.V. Princess” sold.  “M.V. Nautilus” launched
Long-range land use planning program started by SCICo
Southern California Edison acquires water, electricity and gas utilities for the Island
“S.S. Catalina” steamship is sold to MGRS
SCICo grants University of Southern California 5.3 acres at Big Fisherman’s Cove (next to Isthmus Cove) for a Marine Science Center
Hotel St. Catherine torn down

  • Construction begins on USC Marine Science Center
  • Cabrillo Mole shore area and Avalon Cemetery given to City of Avalon

Steamer Pier taken down
Casino Walking Tour begins
Agreements signed for condominium project at Hamilton Cove
An additional 8.8 acres of land was made available to USC for construction of housing and food service complex at the Marine Science Center
Santa Catalina Island Conservancy formed
Santa Catalina Island Company and Southern California Edison involved in early studies into seawater desalination viability for the Island
SCICo signed an Open Space easement with Los Angeles County

  • Stockholders of SCICo and members of the Wrigley and Offield families donate shares of SCICo to the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy which were redeemed for title to 88% of Santa Catalina Island land area to be preserved and protected in perpetuity
  • SCICo grants four oceanfront parcels to City of Avalon


  • Philip Knight Wrigley passes away
  • Claude Brooks named President of SCICo

City of Avalon buys fire station location

  • Local Coastal Plan for Santa Catalina Island approved and certified
  • Tour bus garage and service station relocated from Tremont Street to Pebbly Beach

Portion of Terminal Building, destroyed by fire, is rebuilt and reopened as Busy Bee and Armstrong’s Seafood restaurants

  • William (Bill) Wrigley named President of SCICo
  • Twilight Dining at Two Harbors begins (“Blanche W.” transportation)


  • Visitors Information Center opens at corner of Crescent and Catalina Avenues
  • First units of Hamilton Cove condominium project sold


  • SCICo resumes operation of Pavilion Hotel and Hotel Atwater from outside management company
  • In-house publication, “Water Lines” was launched
  • Telephone reservation department established for SCICo
  • “Tugs, Tours and Tempers Golf Tournament” started with 35 participants


  • “M.V. Toyon” decommissioned (glass bottom boat)
  • “M.V. Moonstone” launched (glass bottom boat)
  • SCICo assumes operation of the Casino Ballroom and other SCICo properties


  • William (Bill) Wrigley named CEO 
  • Paxson H. Offield (great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr.) named President of SCICo
  • Second phase of “Old Terminal Building” construction project completed with opening of Antonio’s Cabaret, Catalina Gear and Big Olaf’s
  • SCICo assumes operation of Avalon Theatre
  • Hermit’s Gulch Campground opened


  • Refurbished Casino Ballroom
  • JazzTrax concerts begin 
  • 15 Year Concept Plans presented to the community
  • Desalination engineering cost study concluded


  • Pavilion Lodge remodel began
  • Pointe Builders selected for Descanso Resort project
  • SCICO works with City to enable Eucalyptus Hill housing project


  • Sightseeing Plaza redesigned
  • Descanso Resort and 15 year Plan Environmental Impact Report completed


  • Pavilion Lodge receives AAA 3 Diamond Award following completion of remodel
  • City of Avalon certifies Descanso Resort and 15 year Plan Environmental Impact Report


  • Paxson H. Offield named CEO
  • Avalon Theatre remodel started
  • Contract for the construction of a semi-submersible is signed
  • Improvements begin on the commercial areas of Pebbly Beach
  • SCICo donates Joe Machado Softball Field and Avalon Canyon Road to the City of Avalon


  • Santa Catalina Island Company turns 100 years old
  • The Pointe Resort’s Development Agreement is submitted to the City for approval
  • Tremont Hall made available to the City for ten years, to be used as a Community Center
  • “Starlight,” the company’s first semi-submersible is built
  • Avalon Theatre is renewed.  Murals restored, seats re-covered 


  • “M.V. Phoenix” sold
  • Carnival Cruises begins weekly calls
  • The Pointe Resort terminates their SCICo relationship and P.O.E (Paxson Offield Enterprises) takes over their operations
  • “Emerald,” the second semi-submersible is built

The Atwater Hotel is remodeled

  • Catalina Country Club building has a seismic retrofit and is remodeled
  • A new ticket booth is built on the Pleasure Pier
  • SCICo goes on-line with Company website

1997 and 1998

  • Wilmington Transportation Company (WT Co.), a subsidiary of SCICo is sold
  • Purchased Doug Bombard Enterprises (DBE) and established Two Harbor Enterprises (THE)


  • William (Bill) Wrigley passes away
  • Paxson Offield is elected SCICo Chairman of the Board
  • P.O.E.’s Two Harbors operations are acquired by THE


  • Catalina Island Resort Services is established and acquires P.O.E. Avalon operations
  • Catalina Cruises exits the commercial PUC regulated cross channel transportation


  • 9/11 impacts tourism dramatically
  • Ron Doutt named SCICo President

Cape Canyon Tour begins

  • Pavilion Lodge remodeled
  • Catalina Country Club Restaurant remodel


  • Adventurous  tours introduced when Unimog is purchased
  • El Rancho Escondido Trophy Room and Gift Shop remodeled
  • Three more Flxible buses added to the two 1953 original models
  • All Flxibles switched to power steering and “sky” windows added


  • Severe rains closed mainland boat terminal and interior roads
  • Website upgraded; internet sales capability begins


  • New pier and dinghy docks at Two Harbors
  • Thirty-two new moorings approved and installed at Two Harbors
  • Island Press Block was upgraded


  • Ron Doutt named Chief Executive Officer
  • Ground breaking grapevine planting at El Rancho Escondido
  • Casino lighting renovation
  • John Anglin steps down from Board of Directors.  Fetter, Lanza and Stephens join Board
  • May 10th a major fire began in the interior of the island
  • Cross channel service limited.  Boats were provided for people to evacuate island
  • Randall Herrel was hired as Executive Vice President and COO of SCICo

Randall Herrel named President, Kenny Loggins performs at Casino

  • Ron Doutt, President, retires 
  • Randall Herrel named Chief Executive Officer and President
  • Geoffrey C. Rusack elected Chairman of the Board
  • Marie Knowles joins Board of Directors
  • First grape harvest commenced September 1st at El Rancho Escondido
  • Old Tremont housing renovation
  • Triana housing added to portfolio
  • SeaTrek (with Scuba Luv)
  • Casino exterior renovation
  • New Gas Station at Two Harbors


  • Zip Line opened
  • Pavilion Hotel is completely remodeled and landscaped
  • Avalon Grille opens
  • Descanso Beach Club remodeled with cabanas and lounge chairs, new restrooms and landscaping
  • New Casino Theatre sound system installed
  • New Casino Behind the Scenes Tour
  • Grand Prix motorcycle race returns after fifty-two years 


  • Launched Quality of Service Program
  • Climbing Wall installed at Descanso Beach


  • New information technology solutions
  • Reorganization forms Santa Catalina Island Resort Services
  • Pebbly Beach Road easement granted to City who re-opens the road


  • SCICo offices open in Irvine
  • Island enters Stage 1 water rationing
  • Bluewater Avalon Opens
  • Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation is formed
  • Project Catalina Renaissance launched


  • Island Spa Catalina opens
  • Stage 2 water rationing implemented
  • Second phase of Descanso Beach Club improvement to facility
  • Shops at the Atwater opens


  • Paxson H. Offield, former Chairman of the Board of SCICo passes away
  • Catherine’s Terrace, banquet and wedding venue, opens at Descanso Beach Club
  • Inn on Mt. Ada added to hotel portfolio
  • Pavilion and Riviera Block receive facelift 
  • Launched the island’s first homemade bakery – Ben’s Bakery
  • Helped launch new Latitude 33 retail shop
  • General Store at Two Harbors received interior facelift (new flooring and fixtures)
  • Golf Gardens picnic area installed


  • Aerial Adventure and Cyclone vessel being planned
  • SeaTrek discontinued
  • Land in Island Plaza sold to Vons for new grocery store
  • Implemented free non-potable water program to help island residents better cope with drought restrictions
  • Opened Two Harbors Business Center
  • Launched Catalina Dreamin’ loyalty and reservation program at Two Harbors
  • Launched Catalina Falconry Experience at Descanso Beach Club
  • Entered Stage 3 water rationing
  • Major renovation on five units at Country Club Apartments
  • New Camping check-in office in the Tour Plaza (former Hen House/original Island Villa)
  • Field of Dreams returned to SCICo from City
  • Avalon Freight Service selected as new freight operator


  • Aerial Adventure opens in time for summer season and Cyclone begins operating Flying Fish Trip and trips to Two Harbors
  • New Avalon Harbor Lights tour begins in July
  • Harbor Sands opens at Two Harbors (outdoor restaurant/bar and palapas)
  • Record rainfall of 23 inches.  Island returns to Stage 1 Water Rationing
  • Mr. Nings Chinese Restaurant announces retirement
  • Company’s operating name changed to Catalina Island Company