NEWPORT BEACH — The $2,700-a-plate charity dinner held in their honor last July at the posh Four Seasons hotel reaffirmed the high-society status long enjoyed by builders Alfred E. and James P. Baldwin.
Auxiliary Bishop Michael Driscoll of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange extended a blessing for the brothers and their enterprises. And, as guests sipped champagne, real estate industry peers, including legendary builder William Lyon, praised the tuxedo-clad Baldwin brothers for their business acumen.
Heady stuff, some observers said, for two brothers who started their construction industry careers in the 1950s when, as teen-agers working for their dad, they dug the foundation for a home on their family's chicken ranch near Rosemead.
That first house sold for $16,000. Baldwin homes now range from entry-level condominiums that sell for $110,000 to posh luxury homes that go for nearly $600,000.
The Baldwins moved their growing home-building business to Orange County in the early 1970s, subsequently becoming synonymous with achievement. From its Newport Beach offices, Baldwin Builders grew into one of the top 15 builders in Southern California, with more than 15,000 homes completed.
The Baldwins have remained as busy off the job as on.
In recent years, the Baldwin name, particularly that of Al and wife Deeann, was a mainstay in society columns. During the late 1980s, particularly, the couple appeared in print regularly, alongside Judi and George Argyros, Rick and Nancy Muth and Lawrence and Dee Higby.
The Baldwins made substantial donations to local organizations, including the City of Hope, the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Orangewood Children's Home and the Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian cancer center. Al and Deeann were once crowned King and Queen of the Catholic Charities' annual Mardi Gras fund-raiser.
Jim Baldwin, 55, overcame polio to become a collegiate skin-diving champion. He is an accomplished off-road racer, a former U.S. national spear fishing champion and an avid deep-water fisherman who pilots his motor-sail yacht, Osprey, to a vacation home in Baja California's Cabo San Lucas.
Jim Baldwin and his wife, Nancy, were married after he was graduated from Woodbury College in Los Angeles with a degree in business administration. The couple have four children and live in Emerald Bay.
Al Baldwin, 50, has a passion for fly-fishing and is an avid hunter. The USC graduate and his wife also have four children and live just doors away from Jim and Nancy Baldwin in Emerald Bay. In fact, Al is building a vacation home in Cabo San Lucas near his brother's home.
The October, 1993, firestorm that raged through Laguna Beach spared the homes of both Baldwin families, but Deeann Baldwin watched the flames reach into the air, thinking that the wildfire would "take the whole Bay."
Al Baldwin reached Emerald Bay by racing in his boat from Newport Harbor, and then jumping into the Pacific Ocean and swimming to shore.