Nearly a century ago, chewing gum entrepreneur William Wrigley Jr. boarded a steamship with his wife Ada and their son Philip to get a first look at the island he had purchased shares in just two weeks earlier. As they neared Catalina, the fog that had obscured their view suddenly lifted, prompting Wrigley to exclaim, “My goodness, it’s a mountain. I thought it was flat.”
The Vision Awakens
During that first visit to the island, the Wrigleys stayed at Hotel St. Catherine in beautiful Descanso Canyon. At the time, it was one of the finest hotels on the west coast. In William Sanford White’s book, Santa Catalina Island: Its magic, people, and history, Wrigley recounts a conversation he had with Ada that first morning at the hotel.
"That morning, Mrs. Wrigley was up first. She walked to the window, and, after a moment, called excitedly, ‘I should like to live here.’ I joined her at the window. The sun was just coming up. I had never seen a more beautiful spot. Right then and there I determined the island would never pass out of my hands."
The “Island of Romance” captured the Wrigleys' hearts that morning, and before long William Wrigley Jr. bought out his fellow shareholders and began investing in his vision to make Catalina Island a “playground for all.”
Explore Wrigley’s Catalina
Although a century has passed since that historic first visit, Wrigley’s vision lives on in the many venues and attractions built over the years by four generations of his pioneering family. Some of these attractions are now just a memory. But many others, like the iconic Catalina Casino, which was built in 1929, continue to entice new generations of visitors to this island paradise. In celebration of 2019’s Wrigley Centennial, the Catalina Island Company is offering, for a limited time, two narrated bus tours that showcase many of these historic Wrigley venues.
Wrigley’s Catalina tour takes guests inside Catalina Country Club, which was originally built as the clubhouse for Wrigley’s Chicago Cubs. Guests will also see and learn about Avalon’s “Wrigley Field”, where the Cubs held spring training between 1921 and 1951. Other stops include the former Bird Park, once home to thousands of exotic birds; and Catalina Chimes Tower, given by the Wrigleys in 1925 as a gift to the people of Avalon.
Magnificent Mt Ada combines Wrigley's Catalina with narrated tours of Avalon Theatre, one of the first movie houses designed for “talkies,” and Mt Ada, the former Wrigley mansion, which is now a Forbes 4-Star boutique hotel. At the end of this tour, for an extra charge, guests can enjoy an exquisite 3-course lunch at Mt Ada, which includes a choice of beer, wine, sparkling wine or mimosas.
Enjoy a Taste of History
For you Foodies out there, Catalina Island Company is serving special menu items at all of its dining venues. Called Flashback Food (and Drink) Favorites, these culinary offerings were once served at historic venues such as Hotel St. Catherine, Catalina Casino, and Hotel Atwater. Dishes include Baked Pacific Swordfish at Avalon Grille, Prime Rib Sandwich at Descanso Beach Club, Plantation Vegetable Soup at Mt Ada, Corned Beef & Cabbage at Harbor Reef Restaurant, and a special dessert called the Wrigley Welcome at Island Spa Catalina’s Encanto Café.
Visit Catalina Island during the Wrigley Centennial celebration, and discover the scenic beauty that continues to capture hearts today, just as it did with the Wrigleys so many years ago.