If you had visited Santa Catalina Island in 1895, you might have taken a glorious stagecoach ride from Avalon to the Isthmus. It was the first stagecoach ride out of Avalon since that segment of the road had been completed in June of that year. Six horses began to climb the steep, rugged dirt road that led into the heart of the island and although the excitement and danger was enough to take your breath away, it was truly a spectacular trip of beautiful foliage and wild flowers set against a sunny bright blue sky that held you and your fellow passengers in awe.
The island’s newest hotel, The Little Harbor Inn, had just opened and you were to be one of the first guests to stay in this 12 room rustic inn set between the crashing waves of Shark Harbor and the tranquil cove of Little Harbor, a few hundred feet above the sea.
As you made the slow climb out of the lush growth of Middle Ranch the coach made a brief stop before beginning the descent down to Little Harbor. The coachman, Captain G.A. Greely hoisted a white flag up a tall pole and waited while it unfurled into the ocean breeze.
As the Captain again took up the reigns and began to roll forward, you held tighter to the attached leather strap of the coach, sensing the steep descent that was to come. The six horses flew out toward the steep overlook of the open sea turning inland at the very edge of the cliff and racing seaward once again with the next turn. Each turn bringing you closer to the sea. With several more quick turns, the coach seemed to lurch in all directions at once until you felt the pull of the brake that thrust you forward and then back into your seat. As you carefully stepped onto the cobbles fronting the Inn, the fresh ocean breeze swept up from the sea. A wide welcoming veranda surrounded the Inn and the large front doors welcomed you into the dining room preciously set for the number of passengers that just arrived. The white flag had served as notice to the cook the number of people that would be dining with them that day. A relaxing afternoon and night was spent at the Inn until the following morning you boarded the coach, continuing its journey down to the Isthmus.
The Little Harbor Inn was built by the Banning brothers and opened in June of 1895. Water came from Middle Ranch or Cottonwood Creek; supplies came from the Isthmus until the road to Avalon was completed in June, 1895. The Los Angeles newspapers gave the proprietor, O.T. Fellows, great reviews of his small hotel and it remained popular until it was razed in 1931. “The Traveler” wrote in 1895 that the inn is “already a favorite rendezvous and the beautiful harbor with its twin coves are destined, at no distance day, to become a formidable rival to Avalon and vicinity.”