Avalon – the metropolis that almost never was

AVALON—A trip to Catalina Island sometimes means a visit to the landmass’s largest city, a metropolis in name only: Avalon. But Avalon might not have been Catalina Island’s sole urban destination. That title might have went to a place called Queen City, which once existed near Two Harbors.

Queen City was almost emerged out of a mining community on the west end of Catalina Island. Mining activities were quite ripe near Fourth of July Harbor and Cherry Valley, both located northwest of Two Harbors.

Plans were in store to build out Queen City as Catalina Island’s so-called metropolis, but nothing ever materialized, according to a thesis paper on Catalina Island.

“In 1863 a mining boom at Santa Catalina centered around the Fourth of July Harbor and Cherry Valley; the [William Hazeltine & Co.] mentioned considered the place ripe for a township, and filed notice of location on May 24, 1864, of ‘forty acres of land for a Town site which we have this day surveyed and located in Town lots, known as Queen City, situated one-half mile from Wilson’s Harbor and running Southerly covering Wood or Beach Valley, running southerly towards the Main Ridge and lying west of Silver Hill and East of Boushey’s new Road to the mines,’” Adelaide Le Mert Gregg wrote in “A History of Santa Catalina Island from 1542 to 1919.”

“But this town was an unborn project of the hectic mining days, and in actuality not a store was erected nor a street laid out in it, except perhaps in the dreams of R. I. Shipley, William Hazeltine & Company,” Gregg continued in her thesis for the University of Southern California.

Avalon, at the time, was merely a camp/settlement known as Timm’s Landing. The area was named after a Mr. Timm of San Pedro. _ Shatto purchased the island in 1887, leading many to rename Timm’s Landing as – you guessed it – Shatto.

“Shatto himself did not favor the name, and did not record the maps bearing it. Avalon was named in 1887, and was not recorded on any maps of the Island before that time,” Gregg wrote in his thesis.

Avalon was barely noticeable during its early days.

“The population of Avalon in its early days was small. Previous to 1887, the site was a ‘houseless waste’ used by occasional campers. Twelve years later, in 1899, the population had grown but little. It was a summer tent city, and the permanent population is estimated as about one hundred persons, _ wrote. “During the summer, however, it was sometimes overflowing with as many as 3,000 persons.”

The Bannings acquired Catalina in 1891, and Avalon started showing signs of life.

“After the Bannings acquired the Island, in 1891, the town of Avalon began to show signs of industry and growth, and its permanent population tried to make it a real home for themselves. The first church, The Congregational Church of Avalon, was organized in 1889, pastored by the Rev. Charles Uzze1, Gregg wrote. “The first meeting of the Board of Trustees of Catalina School District occurred on July 4, 1891, and the first teacher of the school was Mrs. M. P. Morris.”

As many as 500 people lived in Avalon by 1909, Gregg added. Avalon became an official city four years later.

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