Old Salt Lake

"Where are the buried springs of yesteryear?"
- Charles Hillinger, from his 1960 historical essay about the lake site and salt works.


Current Exhibits

Portfolio (reports, analysis, projects, initiatives, etc.)

Archive (of exhibits)

About (who created this online museum and updates it)

Lobby Display

Connecting the Documents - Series 1, What Happened to the Salt Works, aspect 1:

The above image shows where the salt works solar evaporation vats were located. This is a detail of a subdivision map in the 1901-09 Los Angeles County Assessor Map Book for the Old Salt Lake site . Note "Salt Works" and the newly planned "Street" drawn through the works.


This above image is a detail of a 1905 City of Redondo Beach Board of Trustees meeting minutes which describes a solar evaporation vat as interfering with a new street and ordering the removal of the vat. This is the only reference in any city document from that time as to what happened to the salt works. No artifact from the salt works buildings or any it's equipment exists today. No salt either.(* see update note below) Or fresh water aquifer either which was right there and the basis for the origin of the city. The water was overpumped and depleted in about fifteen years by the land company that obtained ownership of the land in 1886. The water of the "salt lake" was actually from the ground water of a large rain catchment area. The source of the salt? See: The Oldest Mystery in the Land .

* Note: recent inspection of the site by the California Coastal Commission noted salt crust where the lake was.


Detail of the classic Redondo Salt Works Photo (1898-1906) showing the salt works in production. The solar evaporation vats are shown on the lower part of this image. Photographer unknown.

Introduction to this Web Site

This web site is a virtual museum. The museum is the result of research which studies and documents the natural history and archaeology of an interesting ocean waterfront area about four miles in length on the southwest coast of the Santa Monica Bay, in southern California. The area from the ravine and bluffs at Malaga Cove north to the salt lake (see figure below).

This virtual museum is named after the lake. It was a world famous natural resource. One of several such resources in the study area. The lake is gone and a power plant occupies that site now. People living in the study area today refer to what was the lake site in terms of the name of the power plant owner - currently an international energy corporation. However, early Americans living here called the lake "Old Salt Lake". The Spanish called the site "Las Salinas". The Indians may have called the place "Engva".

The significance of the entire study area is what happened here and continues to happen. Remarkably, the place is a microcosm of the universal and well-known relationship between human complexity and ecological footprint. The area is a sufficiently epic type site.

The research idea was to take a fresh look at what happened here by finding and examining the original documentation. This ocean waterfront area has been researched. Numerous primary resources have been obtained and scrutinized. The result of this investigation is presented here in brief.

In addition to the exhibits shown, this museum reports in detail on the following aspects of reality discovered about this study area: (1) The place was indeed world-class famous for its natural resources; (2) The area has been occupied by multiple cultures of people for 7 to 8 thousand years; (3) Each culture living here has exploited the local natural resources; (4) Cultures here come and go (have life cycles); (5) The earlier cultures when they left - happen to leave the local natural resources intact, in effect, enabling another culture with the capability to exploit the resources and complete another cycle; (6) The current culture occupying the area has devastated the local natural resources; (7) Another culture cannot simply exist here again based on what was the local natural resources; (8) The current culture has been and is attempting to legitimize itself in the face of having ravaged this instance of coastline; (9) This type of legitimization is in the form of a remarkable corporate framing of the past (and future); (10) The corporate framing caused an historical footprint - and it's ongoing; (11) This historical footprint is further compounding the cumulative effect of the ecological footprint.

The interest of this museum is to try and salvage waterfront culture here based on local natural resources by leveraging a combination of techniques in environmental studies, history, fieldwork and web development. This virtual museum is an independent presentation.

The Study Area

Southwest coast of the Santa Monica Bay in southern California.

1896 Topographical Map - Redondo Sheet, (detail), U.S. Geological Survey, surveyed in 1894

Google Earth screenshot with markup indicating general location of waterfront study area: