In 1873 when James McFadden decided to fence his land south of Santa Ana, Orange County was still isolated. He ordered redwood to be sent by ship from Northern California.
When neighboring farmers begged to buy the lumber, he sold it and ordered more. They bought that load too. This gave McFadden an idea.
The result is pictured, above left, on a postcard of the day. It's the wharf built in 1888 by McFadden and his brother Robert off Newport Beach to enable large ships to easily unload cargo.
It was so successful the McFaddens opened the Santa Ana & Newport Railway in 1891 to transport goods from the wharf to Santa Ana. Their more than 100 workers handled over $500,000 worth of lumber annually.
The new line made a trip to the beach easy and quick, so a passenger business sprang up--about 12,000 passengers a year. Some boarded boats for Catalina Island.
The Southern Pacific Railroad, unhappy to have a thriving competitor, bought the McFadden railroad through a dummy buyer, then tore up the tracks. The McFadden brothers were so disgusted they sold their remaining local holdings and moved out of Orange County.
Today the Newport Pier, above right, built in 1932, stands where the McFaddens' wharf once thrived.
OC Then and Now calls, (714) 966-5973; e-mail OCthenand firstname.lastname@example.org