Lake Arrowhead Looks Like Paradise in this 1925 Map for Tourists

Complete with “Movie Point” and an all-grass course for golfers
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Lake Arrowhead, R. Winters, c. 1925
Lake Arrowhead, R. Winters, c. 1925. Click map to enlarge

This map touting paradise on Earth—in this case, in a shiny new resort called Lake Arrowhead—demonstrates what advertisers can do with slick paper and an abundance of imagination. For years, investors and L.A.’s moneyed powers tried to mould a little lake in the San Bernardino Mountains into a mini Bavarian Alps-style resort where those with the means could cool their heels in the crisp, clean air at 6,200 feet. This whimsical map is apparently season-free; it shows folks pulling big trout out of the water (a summertime activity) inches away from skiers gearing up for runs down snow-packed slopes (a winter one). There is luxurious comfort at the (Arlington) Lodge, the Village Inn, and the famed “North Shore Tavern,” which is where Bette Davis once shared a cigarette with Paul Heinreid and uttered her famous line in Now, Voyager—“don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars.” Visitors might have been able to watch the film in the evenings after playing a fine “all grass” golf course or doing any of the other outdoor attractions available. The 782-acre lake with a sizable depth of 185 feet could accommodate water skiing, all types of boating, and fishing.

The scene reflected in this map of the “Norman style” village built mostly in the early 1920s was the result of more changes than you would see at Fashion Week in NYC. The area was once home to the Serrano Indians who roamed the Little Bear Gorge, which was named by Benito Wilson during an expedition in the 1840s. The Mormons who settled San Bernardino built a road up the grade in 1860 to facilitate a short-lived gold rush, but it wasn’t until the 1890s that land developers got the idea to build a dam to capture water at the west end of the San Bernardino Mountains for agricultural use in the valley below. James Gamble of Procter & Gamble teamed up with James Edmund Mooney but two attempts with different processes yielded the same negative results. The developers built a tramway and formed the Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company with the goal of completing a dam in two more pushes, one in 1905 and another in 1912. When Mooney died the company was purchased by nine millionaires from Los Angeles. The Arrowhead Lake Company (the millionaires’ big bucks syndicate) bought Little Bear Lake and the surrounding 4,800 acres in 1920 and set out to create the resort now known as Lake Arrowhead. The dam was finally completed in 1923. The village that glistens in bright colors on this map was built in the years that followed. Deluxe homes were put up in the “North Shore Estates” and eventually many movies—Heidi, Spitfire, Monsieur Verdoux, and Lassie Come Home (sniff, sniff), among others—were filmed near the lake.

When gas shortages curtailed tourism during World War II, Lake Arrowhead became a place of rest and relaxation for local servicemen. Business became so slow the resort ended up in receivership. The Turf Club of Santa Anita came to its rescue in 1946, buying all of Lake Arrowhead and donating much of the land to worthy causes like the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange (where yours truly attended retreats that failed to lead me into priesthood). The once lively North Shore Tavern was offered to UCLA, which uses it for conferences. Finally, in one of the strangest and most unique makeovers in resort history, the entire Lake Arrowhead Village was burnt to the ground under the supervision of local firefighters in April 1979. It has since been rebuilt, but not in the manner shown on the map.


Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.