Exploring the Charm of Balboa Island

A Journey Through the Decades

Nestled in the heart of Orange County, California, Balboa Island stands as a captivating gem with a rich history dating back through the decades. This idyllic island, renowned for its unique charm and scenic beauty, has evolved from a barren sandbar to a thriving coastal community. Let's embark on a delightful journey through time and explore the captivating history of Balboa Island as it has transformed over the years, decade by decade.


In the early 1900s, several notable events took place. These include land transactions like Robert McFadden selling land to W.S. Collins in 1902, and the construction of the Pavillion and extension of the Pacific Electric Red Car in 1906. This decade also witnessed the start of Balboa Island's dredging, the building of Collins Castle in 1907, and the first recorded lot sale in 1908.


The 1910s brought about significant changes. Balboa Island's dredging was completed in 1913, and the first bridge on Marine Ave. was constructed in 1912, later adapted for cars in 1914. World War I began in 1914, leading to changes on the island, including Collins' departure and Joe Beek winning the ferry contract in 1919.


The 1920s saw notable improvements. Sea walls were rebuilt in 1923, concrete bridges were erected in 1928, and in 1920, an interesting event occurred where a car was pushed across the harbor on a barge known as the "Fat Fairy." The Balboa Island Yacht Club began in 1922, and landmarks like Wallies Market and Rendezvous Ballroom opened their doors.


Despite the challenges of the 1930s Depression, the Balboa community persevered. Tony Hershey's nursery was established, followed by the opening of the Balboa Fun Zone in 1936. In 1938, Collins Island changed hands and was sold to James Cagney.


World War II had a significant impact, with events like the first blackout in 1941 and the Coast Guard utilizing Collins Island Cottages. The Tournament of Lights ceased during wartime in 1943. After the war, the community experienced changes, including the opening of Corona Del Mar Elementary and Orange Coast College.


The 1950s brought infrastructure improvements such as the introduction of one-way streets, the establishment of the Methodist Church, and the opening of Hoag Hospital. A notable event was the Boyscout Jamboree in 1953. The ferry rates were adjusted, and the Pavillion underwent renovations during this time.


The 1960s were marked by further changes. Ferry rates were raised, and the Pavillion underwent remodeling in 1962. That decade also saw the establishment of UCI, the loss of the Rendezvous Ballroom due to fires, and the passing of Joseph A. Bekk in 1968.


During the 1970s, efforts were made to protect the area's natural resources. This included the establishment of the coastal commission and the formation of SPON (Stop Polluting Our Newport) in response to pollution concerns in the harbor.


The 1980s brought changes related to the protection of natural resources and community engagement, including Dew Dads meetings.


The 1990s saw the continuation of community development. There was still undeveloped land, and the memory of the 1953 Boyscout Jamboree remained.


The 2000s brought new events like the Balboa Island Parade and the transformation of the Grog Shop into the Irvine Ranch Market.


In more recent years, the Balboa Island Museum has taken up residence on Marine Ave. in the former Fire Station that operated from 1927 to 1931.