Dana Point History

Spanish Mission Padres with hides being thrown over Dana Point cliffs (1769-1821), Coutesy of First American Company
Richard Henry Dana III (1851-1931)
The Pilgrim replica tall ship is based off of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. journey mentioned in his novel "Two Years Before the Mast." Dana made two visits to Dana Point in 1835 to collect cattle hides, or "California Bank Notes" that was exchanged like currency. Learn more at the Ocean Institute and Dana Point Historical Society.

“On its 1835 visit to this coast, the Pilgrim carried a seaman whose name would become part of the local culture. Richard Henry Dana, Jr., far from his native Boston, was struck with rugged beauty of this anchorage within Capistrano Bay, calling the rocky coves and bluffs, ‘the only romantic spot in California’ in his descriptive volume, Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840.” “Dana Point, Doris I. Walker, A Hundred Years of Yesterday

Richard Henry Dana III was a sailor, lawyer, and politician. He was a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson and a friend of Herman Melville. He married Edith Longfellow in 1877 who was the daughter of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Dana Point Historical Society is pleased to introduce its virtual historic walking map of the Lantern District in Dana Point to be used via computer or smartphone.  The tour comprises 18 stops and includes brief descriptions at each stop with one or more photos.  We encourage you to take the tour from the comfort of your home computer, or, walk the actual tour with your smartphone to get an all inclusive experience.

Before After
Aerial view, Dana Point Harbor, 1930s
Dana Point harbor construction, courtesy of OC Stories

Development as a Harbor: In the early 20th century, efforts were made to develop Dana Point as a harbor. In 1923, the Dana Point Syndicate purchased the land with the intention of creating a resort town and harbor. However, these plans were delayed due to economic challenges and World War II. They harbor was completed in 1971. Dana Point was officially incorporated as a city on January 1, 1989. The harbor redevelopment project is underway.

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