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Mud Flats Grow Up to Be Posh Islands : Newport Harbor: Imagination of early developers culminates in creation of eight residential islands.

April 25, 1993|MARIAN BOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As a little girl, Diane Beardslee frequently played on a little sand spit called Shark Island in Newport Harbor while her parents fished nearby. How could she have known as she collected shells that many years later she and her husband, Randy, would buy a home on what would later be known as Linda Isle, where their two sons would play and have friends.

"Randy and I and the children had lived in Palos Verdes, where we both teach at Palos Verdes High School," said Diane Beardslee, "and we had our boat at the Wilmington marina. We decided we wanted a house with its own marina. After looking at what was available on the water and on the (Balboa) peninsula, we decided Linda Isle was perfect for us."

The 20-year-old home that the Beardslees purchased in 1986 for just over $1 million is about 4,000 square feet and has five bedrooms, a formal dining room, a large family room they use as a TV room and library, maid's quarters, and a temperature-controlled wine room that holds 700 bottles. There is also the pier where they now have their 51-foot ketch.

They were concerned about whether there would be other children on the island for the boys to enjoy.

"There are probably five times as many children on Linda Isle as we had in the neighborhood in Palos Verdes," said Randy Beardslee.

Linda Isle is one of eight residential islands within the long arm of the Balboa Peninsula and the shore of mainland Newport Beach in Orange County. All are incorporated in the city, and each is unique in form, history and today's lifestyle.

They are in what used to be a three-mile stretch of mud flats south of Pacific Coast Highway and between Newport Boulevard and MacArthur Boulevard, which are accessed by the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway, and run in a southerly direction. Four of the islands (Bay, Linda, Harbor and Collins) are private and gated.

In the beginning there was just one.

Bay Island is a natural island and even that was added onto at one time to create room for the 23 homes that are a corporation. Each owner owns shares. A windmill had been erected and houses in the pagoda style began to appear as early as 1905, when R. J. Waters and Rufus Sanborn purchased this small spot of land for $350 and organized the Bay Island Club.

The most familiar islands are Balboa and Lido. Being the largest to be envisioned by early day entrepreneurs, they also share a checkered history, as does Collins, the smallest island with just eight homes.

It was in 1889 when brothers James, Robert and John McFadden, who owned a lumber business, purchased from the state about 1,000 acres for $1 each that included almost half the existing peninsula as well as swamp and overflow land in the harbor.

When the McFaddens withdrew from Newport Beach soon after 1898, they sold 500 acres that included a major part of the undeveloped swampland for a reputed $35,000 to W. S. Collins (who came originally from Indiana). Collins operated under the name Newport Beach Co., and in 1904, railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington bought a half-interest in his holdings.

When problems in the partnership developed, Huntington took an active interest in the company and became owner of a part of the peninsula and the Lido Isle Development. (Huntington, who was a nephew of Collis P. Huntington of the Southern Pacific Railroad, also brought the "red cars" to Newport Beach.)

In 1906 a dredge was moved onto the mud flat at the east end of the harbor, and Collins began raising the area to a few feet above high tide level, adding bulkheads around the fill. It would become Balboa Island.

Collins began an advertising campaign offering improved lots and promising ferry service. The problem was that the island was submerged at high tide, except for a few high ridges. By 1914 at least 700 lots had been sold. However, promised improvements were not forthcoming. High tides overflowed the island on several occasions. Property values dropped.

When in 1916 the island was annexed to the city of Newport Beach, there were ill feelings between the islanders and people on the peninsula, which the mayor conveyed. "The Island is a dump. It was sold by a lot of damn crooks to a lot of damn fools."

Collins had staked out for himself the west end of Balboa Island, the only part not submerged at high tide. He dredged a channel surrounding the mud flat, thus creating Collins Island on which in 1908 he built a two-story home that became known as "Collins Castle." At the east point he created yet another small island dubbed Little Balboa, and it was separated from the larger island in 1913 by the Grand Canal.

Meanwhile, Pacific Electric Land Co. (Pacific Electric Trolley Car Co.) gained title to the submerged island that would become Lido Island, and it's claimed it was thrown in as an exchange when Pacific Electric brought in a rail line.

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