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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Exhibit 21

Bertha Fuller and the 1940 California Historical Landmark Application "Old Salt Lake"

See the web page for the California Historical Landmark (373), Old Salt Lake

In 1940 Bertha H. Fuller of Inglewood, California, did a brief survey of the famous salt lake site at Redondo Beach for the purpose of establishing it as an historical landmark. She took three photographs and contacted people and interviewed them about the famous old place. She then created an application titled "Old Salt Lake" and submitted it to the state of California. Her application for historical landmark status was approved and the site was designated the following year.

The landmark registration process today requires considerably more detail and however brief the 1940 application to the state was - Bertha Fuller understood the significance of lake site as a natural resource and landmark and took action to document the place. A naturalist for over 35 years, Bertha Fuller was president of the California History and Landmarks Club of Los Angeles, the Director of Conservation for the California Audubon Society. She was leader in the state for the study and protection of wildlife, including an early advocate of protecting wetlands and lakes for migratory waterfowl.

This exhibit displays the original two page "Old Salt Lake" application and the three photographs Bertha Fuller took of the lake site. Also included in this exhibit is a brief collection of additional resources about Bertha Fuller and her work to study and protect nature.


This is a photograph of Bertha Fuller (Mrs. Edwin S. Fuller) from a February 19, 1942 Los Angeles Times newspaper article about her aiding Southland Girl Scouts
with a project in cooperation with the United States Forest Service to help prevent forest fires.

The Old Salt Lake application letter by Bertha Fuller to the state of California, dated September 19, 1940. This application letter is fully transcribed at the bottom of this page.

The (3) Photographs

Granite marker

The Old Salt Lake received designation by the State of California on September 6, 1941. Today a granite marker denoting this landmark stands outside the AES Redondo Beach Generating Station, at the southeast corner of Harbor Drive and Yacht Club Way. It was presented by Tierra Del Rey Parlor #300, Native Daughters of the Golden West, on March 27, 1955.

Selected newspaper reports about and writing by Bertha Fuller

1929, March 19 - San Pedro News Pilot report:

1935, September 22 - Los Angeles Times report:

1935, Nov.- Dec. California Garden Magazine, pages 3,4 "The Serious Migratory Waterfowl Problem by Bertha H. Fuller":

1949, March 25 - Los Angeles Times report:

1960 - Bertha Fuller correspondence about Palos Verdes coast (4 pages):

The Old Salt Lake application letter by Bertha Fuller to the state of California, dated September 19, 1940 - transcribed:

[ Begin Transcription ]

In Application for registration of historical point of interest

Name of Historical Point: Old Salt Lake

Location: Between Pacific and Francesca Avenues, at the northern end of Redondo Beach--just outside of Hermosa Beach.

Name of Owner: Thomas H Simmons, 555 South Flower St, Los Angeles

History and Description: This old salt lake must have had a long, long geological history. From the "Star" of September 26, 1856, one who wrote a history of Los Angeles County quoted somewhat like this: Situated about 16 miles southwest of the city of Los Angeles is a salt lake or pond from which is manufactured salt of first rate quality. The lake is nearly 200 yards wide by about 600 long and is supplied by springs on its western bank. It is about 200 yards distant from ocean, above which it is elevated 6 or 10 feet. It would appear at first sight that it was supplied from the ocean, but such is not the fact, as has been proved by frequent experiments.

The existence of this lake has long been known to the natives of the country and from it they were, formerly, in the habit of drawing their supply of salt by shovelling it up from the bottom. The missionaries who first settled here also knew of its existence and claimed its proprietorship, but made no attempt to improve the natural resources of the lake.

Some years ago this valuable property came into possession of two gentlemen of this city., Messrs. Johnson and Allanson, who have expended a large amount of capital in the erection of the necessary works for the manufacture of salt, by artificial as well as solar evaporation.

Water is drawn from the lake thru an iron pipe by means of a force pump, and is conducted into a reservoir, from which it is led by a wooden pipe into the kettles in the boiling house. This building is about 80 feet long, and contains 48 kettles, which are kept constantly heated. As the salt forms in the kettles it is removed and water added in proportion to the evaporation. The salt on being removed from the kettle is ready for market only requiring time to dry. The process is very simple and the production of salt abundant, from the intensely saline quality of the waters of the lake. In regard to the amount of fuel consumed it is estimated that each cord of wood produces a ton of salt. By solar evaporation the salt is produced at the cost of the tanks and attendance. There are five tanks in operation; they are cleaned up this week for the first time and found to have answered all the expectations of the proprietors. That one in which the water was of least depth proved most productive. The daily average of the kettles is five tons.

Each tank, or vat, yields about a ton of salt in a crystallized form. Salt at present is hauled to the landing at San Pedro at a large expense.

The water of the lake is so strongly impregnated with saline constluents that a stick placed in it will be coated in ten days, an inch thick with crystallized cubes. We saw some of them which were very beautiful.

It is singular that within 20 yards of the lake good fresh water is obtained, within 15 feet of the surface. Two wells, about this depth, and about 20 feet apart, supply fresh water to the workmen.

Johnson and Allanson intend sending specimens of their salt, packed in satin bags, to the State Fair."


The writer of the history of the county himself adds: "Since then works have passed thru a variety of hands. They are now owned by Mrs Trudell, widow of the late proprietor (1880). Salt is extracted by solar evaporation simply by cleaning out the vats twice a year. The yield for 1879 was 450 tons. Crude salt sells for $9 to $13 a ton--ground it sells for $18 to $24 a ton. Mrs Trudell has a salt mill in Los Angeles where It is ground".


We went down to Redondo Beach several times to find men who were supposed to remember the old salt works. Each time we failed to find anyone. Finally we telephoned the Patten and Blinn Lumber yards on Francesca Avenue as that firm has been there since 1880. No one is now connected with the firm who is that ancient but we did find a very careful observer in Mr Trankel who has been employed with the lumber concern since 1908.

When he came in 1908 the old salt works were practically abandoned. At least they were not being used to extract salt any more. On the walls of the lumber company's office are two long panorama photos taken in 1909. The photographer was someone connected with the West Coast Art Company of Los Angeles. Likely those plates still exist but that particular company is no longer listed in the directory.

In one of these photos the old salt works are plainly shown. The houses stood just back of where the Salvation Army Summer Recreation buildings are now, just across the old long disused railroad tracks that used to bring the lumber from the wharves at Redondo Beach.

When Mr Trankel came there were kettles for boiling the water and for evaporation. The boiling tanks were huge metal vats--about 15 feet wide by 80 feet long. The out of doors evaporating tanks were of concrete. So far as he recalls the buildings were taken down about 1923, 4 or 5.

We went over the area carefully but found no trace of concrete or other building structure that seemed to be part of the old salt works. The end of lake where the building stood has been used for a dump for a long time and likely what remained has been covered with this refuse.

As the attached photos show the lake is quite dry during the summer months and as it is the natural drainage basin for a small acreage to the eastward in winter the water may be several feet deep. It is the wintering place of shorebirds but otherwise lies desolate and unvisited except by those who have made paths for shortcuts across and around it.

One very interesting thing about the lake is that the fresh water vegetation is on the ocean side while the salt grass and atriplex grows on the land side. Where that great deposit of salt came from can hardly be definitely told. Had the lake been formed as most salt lakes are: either from limitless numbers of years of deposits from the sea with the arm finally shut off by delta like deposits from a stream, or from being a pool without outlet, its presence would seem even more unusual. There does not seem to be a sufficiently large drainage basin for any stream ever to have carried a large quantity of saline products into an outlet-less basin---and also while the sea might form a lagoon there by the currents carrying the sands into the mouth of the river thus shutting off the pond the vast quantity of salt present in the old days would have taken so many eons of years that this does not seem possible for even this energetic sand depositing sea to do.

On the historic map of Major George W Kirkman the two roads leading inland from this salt deposit are described as "Old Salt Road" and "New Salt Road"----and he has said they likely are as old as any road in this part of the world as they were made originally by the Indian feet as the tribes exchanged products of inland and shore production. Major Kirkman also notes the presence of an old Indian village on this spot. So far as we know no one has ever dug here for relics. Undoubtedly they must be under all that debris and it is hoped someone sometime will try to find what may be there.

[ End Transcription ]