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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Metropole: 1915

The Metropole: 1915

Avalon, Calif., circa 1915. "Bathers at Hotel Metropole, Catalina Island." And yet another popcorn stand. 5x7 glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

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120V Vestiges

My house in California, built in 1954, was completely knob & tube when we bought it in 1969. It did have a (somewhat) more modern service entrance - two 30A main plug fuses feeding four 15 amp branches! We still have two interior walls we never opened, with k&t intact, tied into Romex in the attic.

240V actually, even as-built. Très moderne!

Catalina Memories

I remember going to Catalina Island in the 1950s with my brother and friends in a speedboat. We swam out a way from the beach in front of the hotel, pulled ourselves down to the bottom using kelp and saw many beautiful fish.


My wife and I visited Avalon in 2013, and, seeing the age and original condition of many of the houses, I rented a bicycle and rode up and down the back alleys in search of antiquated electrical wiring. I was not disappointed. This service switch and knob-and-tube wiring very likely dates back to 1915, and wasn't exactly best practice even then. The meter is a later replacement, from the 1940s.

Plus 103

Here’s the waterfront today. It looks pretty modern, but a visit reveals a time capsule of the 1950s.

I just want to know-

Is that kid on the fence coming or going?

The Black Hole of Catalina

I suspect there might be a mean, vile, hideous clown waiting for some unsuspecting sunbather to come curiously walking into that drain. That's a hard nope for me!

Vive le popcorn stand

The list of better things to have around is far shorter than the list of worse ones.

Clean(ish) water for me, thanks.

Upon noticing the sewer pipe leading directly into the ocean water, I think I'll put up my parasol and head over to the Hotel Central for some fresh roasted peanuts.


Catalina Island: Home of the Unobtrusive Fire Escape.

Surprise! It burned down.

The Metropole continued to thrive during the early years of the 20th century, right up until the disastrous early morning hours of Nov. 29, 1915.

Between 3:30 and 4 a.m., a fire started mysteriously near the rear of the hotel. Avalon’s small fire department quickly was overwhelmed by the blaze, which spread until it had destroyed fully half of the town’s hotels and buildings. Many residents were left homeless.

The 1915 Catalina fire destroyed half of the resort town.

The Hotel Metropole was a total loss, as were five other Avalon hotels: the Central, Bay View, Rose, Grandview and Pacific.

Though no definitive cause was found, the unofficial word was that a man who lived in a small apartment at the rear of the Metropole was about to be foreclosed upon, so he set the blaze in order to get insurance money.

A 52-room Hotel Metropole now stands on the site of the original structure in Avalon at the center of the Metropole Market Place development.

C'mon Billy

Let's go over to that big sewer outfall and play!

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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