Newport Beach

When Captain Samuel S. Dunnells successfully steered his 105-ton river steamer Vaquero through upper Newport Bay in 1870, James and Robert McFadden rushed from Northern California by stagecoach to mark the inaugural voyage.
Dunnells' trip cast new light on the bay, which many had said was too treacherous for travel. But the principal landowners in the area - the McFadden brothers and James Irvine - thought they had something after Dunnells' trip. A "new port," they mused, and the name stuck, according to the Newport Beach Historical Society.

More than 100 years later, Newport Beach's harbor is crowded with pleasure, fishing and tour boats, and its streets are busy with shoppers browsing at Fashion Island mall, tourists enjoying Balboa bars on Balboa Island and surfers tackling The Wedge or other hot spots along the city's 6.2 miles of beaches.

Newport wasn't always such a desirable place. In the mid-1800s, the state of California sold parts of Harbor, Balboa and Lido islands for $1 an acre as "swamp and overflow land," according to the Newport Beach Historical Society.

The McFaddens saw something else. In 1888, they decided their shipping business would be more successful if they moved it from the inner shores of the bay to the oceanfront, where they could build a wharf. McFadden Wharf soon became the largest business in newly created Orange County, according the the historical society.

In August 1906, residents in the booming bay town voted to incorporate. The vote was 42-12 to become the city of Newport Beach. Back then, bay front houses sold for as little as $500. Today, the median price of homes in Newport Beach is approximately $545,000.

Residents identify closely with their "villages" - including Corona del Mar, west Newport and the Harbor, Lido and Balboa islands - rather than Newport Beach itself. Homes are separated from busy commercial areas such as Lido Village, Mariner's Mile and Newport Center.

One hundred years after the McFaddens built what is now Newport Pier, the city still revels in its ocean roots. Back them, only a few dozen summer cottages could be rented, and a few dozen people called Newport home.

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