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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

The Historic Springs (and the Castle) on the High Bluffs at the beach north of the ravine or hollow at Malaga Cove

Part 1

Also see:
 |  Part 1 - Introduction
 |  Part 2 - More resources
 |  Part 3 - "A Seven Weeks' Journey" by Louis C. Dart, The "Hermit" of Flotsam Castle

The historic record shows two (2) fresh water springs on the high bluffs north of the ravine or hollow at Malaga Cove. One of these springs was known across the world on the news of Louis C. Dart's "castle". The other spring is the one indicated by Malcom Farmer when he was at the 1936 Walker archaeological excavation at Malaga Cove (CA-LAN-138). In his notes, Farmer sketches the location of a spring on the side of the bluff right below the famous archaeological site which was at the high point of the bluffs north of the canyon. Presumably the spring Farmer noted was a fresh water spring.

Previously I was under the apparent erroneous idea that the fresh water spring which Louis Dart made world-famous (see below) was the same spring noted by Malcomb Farmer. Farmer's site drawing shows the spring on the side of the bluff which is similar to the description of the location of the spring used by Dart. Also, there are contemporary (1920's) photos of a structure at the base of the bluff below LAN-138. However, I may have been wrong about where Dart's castle was. The castle looks to be the structure in the photos further north of the Malaga Cove archaeological site. So, this means there are two (2) known historic fresh water springs on the bluffs north of the ravine.

Farmer's sketch of bluff at Malaga Cove archaeological site (detail):

See this Palos Verdes Historical Society photo here and zoom in to see the buildings via the Online Archive of California (OAC). There was a structure at one time under CA-LAN-138. [ Location indication added to static photo ]

The text description of the above photo on the PV History Society page reads:
"Image shows elevated view looking northeast along the coast toward Hollywood Riviera from atop the cliffs of Malaga Cove. A building known as Flotsam Castle (sometimes called "Hermit's Castle") is visible on the beach in the background, with another coastal structure in the distance. Piles of seaweed are visible along the shore."

However, this next Palos Verdes Historical Society photo shows the structure to the north - but the structure to the south and the one under CA-LAN-138 is not there. See this photo here and zoom in to see details via the OAC.

A collection of resources about Lous C. Dart and his "Castle"

1920 - Torrance Enterprise article

  Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume XLII, 7 December 1922, Page 8 New Zealand

_____ [ Text still needs to be cleaned up ]

A CHEAP HOUSE. - In actual money, 20 cents (lOd). iky the cost of the house, three times reconstructed and enlarged, whicii has Ijeen built by Louis Dart at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, above Redondo Beach, near Los Angeles (U.S.A.). The dwelling, is aptly named Flotsam Castle (says tne-Los Angeles correspondent of the Central News), because everything that entered into its make-up was washed up by the sea. Dart was formerly a lawyer in Nebraska. His health failed, and he was given up by the, doctors. At length He found himself; "broke on the sands near Redondo Beach, so ill that he could hardly stand. An old Spanish woman, looking for clams, who found him there, pointed to a little spring that gushes out of the rock. She told him to drink plenty of water and he would get well. He found a shabby tent somewhere, pitched it near the spring, drank often and ate nothing —because he had no food. He lived-6a month on spring water and sea air. and his sickness disappeared. Goaded^ by a fierce appetite, he found strength* to climb the bluff, cameupon some ripe tomatoes growing | wild in a grain field —and physical salivation! He ate his fill then and many times afterwards, and soon was sound i from head to foot. That was three . years ago, but he is"' still at the wonderful spring. He determined, that his home should be there. The'breakers brought the lumber free for the taking, and a structure soon appeared—first a rather tiny habitation, since expanded into a four-storey pile. Lithe, upstanding, muscular, and powerful, Dart laboured with prodigious energy from dawn until night, placing even the heaviest timbers alone. Among the wreckage that came ashore he found all that he required for fitting the house up inside, including a stove. The castle soon "attracted'much- attention. Boy ' Scouts "made" it their jendea*— »us and ! artisfc _ came to, paint- ift Dart; being a good cook, began to^make and serve pies, his customers sitting down- at large circular tables made of the four ends of two cable spools. The '20 cents expended on the castle was'for shingle nails, needed in haste to roof some exposed part when' rain threatened. The waves brought-all the other spikes and . nails requisite for solid construction.

1922 - Popular Mechanics

1927 - Redondo Union High School Yearbook, Source: Redondo Beach Main Public Library

1928 - Torrance Herald article, Sept., 13

1926 - Photos

date?   Interior

The Dearborn Independent - article date? Source: Redondo Beach Historical Museum

Images of the transcription of the article:


Voter List - "Dart, Louis, C. prop. Flotsam Castle, R", source:

Book - "History of the Early Hollywood Riviera", by Marshall E. Stewart, (self-published, no date), Marshall Stewart (1923-2011), local historian

_____ Excerpt _____

Before the development of the Hollywood Riviera the area was dry-farmed. The farmhouse was situated on the land just east of the Hollywood Riviera Club site. The other residents of that time were squatters that lived at the base of the bluff. They too had found the springs. The lumber and cargo piers at Redondo spilled or threw away unwanted lumber, which would drift south to Malaga Cove. The "castles" were built on pilings and out of the available flotsam. Years ago, evidence could be seen where the residents had cut into the diatomaceous cliff for their fireplaces, as well as remains of the pilings that the two structures were built on. There was also a soft drink stand, north of there, where the Lifeguard building now stands. Dwellers lived there for health and economic reasons, and sometimes to evade the taw. Like the Indians, they lived off the available food on the land and in the ocean.

The development of the Hollywood Riviera caused the Corporation to discourage these residents by evicting them and burning these structures.