A SHORT HISTORY OF
THE STRAND NEIGHBORHOOD OF OCEANO BEACH
By Joel Anderson
The quiet neighborhood where the beach house is located has a
colorful history. In the past it has sported two major dance
pavilions, a railroad line, and a even Buddhist monastery!
Coffee Adam Rice, a wealthy entrepreneur and developer came to the
Oceano area in 1882. He purchased a track of land, laid out
town and began construction on his huge twenty room, three-story
Victorian mansion in expectation that the Southern Pacific Railroad
would soon put tracks through the area. Included was a horse
racing track and a polo field! The railroad took much longer
arrive than he expected. After the death of his young son he
his wife left the area for Santa Cruz. His beautiful mansion
still stands, and may be seen near the corner of Highway 1 and 25th
The Railroad finally reached Oceano in 1895 and a depot was
built. The depot was then located a few blocks south of where
depot museum is now located. A large Victorian style beach
pavilion was constructed near what is now the end of Strand
Utah Ave. near where Arroyo Grande Creek flowed into the
At that time Pismo Creek flowed into Arroyo Grande Creek, the dam at
Lopez Lake did not exist, nor did the flood control gates at the south
end of the lagoon, so there was a lot more water flowing
rail spur from the Oceano train depot went directly to the
pavilion. Special excursion trains would bring partiers and
dancers to the pavilion for a day of fun and entertainment, then return
them home in the evening. Remember, this was in the days
there were automobiles, and getting around was difficult except by
train. The pavilion was thought to have been destroyed in a
in the early 20th century.
In 1904 developers purchased a large tract of beachfront land in
Oceano. They built a new, large, two-story dance pavilion, called
Oceano Pavillion, on the beach just south of Pier Avenue. In
a 1,000 foot pier was constructed at the end of Pier Avenue.
Further improvements included two boardwalks. The main boardwalk was
about a mile long, running from train depot to the Oceano
Pavilion. Another boardwalk ran from the Pavilion, along The
Strand, to Arroyo Grande Creek. A large “OCEANO BEACH” sign,
similar to the famed “HOLLYWOOD” sign was also constructed. The sign
stood 10 feet high, ran south to north with the “O” just north of
Juanita Street and the “H” near Pier Avenue.
Most of the pier was torn down in 1931 in order to conduct a major
automobile race on the beach. The shortened Oceano Pier became the
start and finish line for what local promoters hoped would become the
“Daytona Beach of the West”, however sand conditions and wind made the
beach unsuitable for high speed racing. The plan was
after the initial races. The remaining stub of the pier was
removed some years later.
In 1905 the Villa Hotel was constructed at the end of Juanita Street,
overlooking the Lagoon. In 1914 the hotel was
a Buddhist Monastery. At the time it was reported that it was
only Buddhist Monastery in North America. It is unclear what
happened to the monastery; however there is still an active Buddhist
community on the Central Coast. In the 1930’s the back half
the hotel and monastery was demolished. The remaining part
used as a residence, until it was demolished in 2003.
Over the years the Oceano Pavilion served its community well.
During World War II it served as headquarters for mounted patrols by
the U.S. Coast Guard, which patrolled the beaches to make sure no
Japanese spies, saboteurs, or armed forces tried to sneak
Later it served as a roller skating rink. In 1961 Oceano
was torn down.
Over the years a number of developers came to the area with big plans.
The Oceano Land and Harbor Company planned to make Oceano a busy
seaport. The lagoon was to be dredged and a new rail line was to be run
from Santa Maria. Boat docks were to be constructed at the
Surf, York and Utah Avenues and a major drawbridge at the end of
Juanita. Nothing became of the plan. The “light
the Elk’s Club was originally a land sales office, located at the
corner of Pier Ave. and Highway 1. Unfortunately it was
before the Great Depression hit and only one lot was sold.
Another developer called Oceano the “Atlantic City of the West” and
created a brochure showing the local heavy industry belching smoke (in
those days pollution was considered “good” as it represented progress
and jobs.). About the only industries that developed in the
were vegetable growing and packing, sand mining, and clamming. At one
especially low tide in 1965 a crowd of an estimated 143,000 clammers
from all over California headed to the beach. Over 50,000
were on the beach that day, causing huge traffic jams that backed up
for miles. The clams were plentiful then, and park rangers
estimated that most clammers were able to get their legal limit of ten
clams within 20 or 30 minutes. It was estimated that over 1
Million clams were harvested on that weekend alone!
continued heavy clamming and the return of the Sea Otters, who are
voracious clam eaters, the local population clams has been almost wiped
out. It is now rare to find a legal size
“Atlantic City of the West” by Norm Hammond, 2004, Oceano
, ISBN 0-615-12557-3
A MAP OF THE STRAND NEIGHBORHOOD OF OCEANO BEACH, CALIFORNIA
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