Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum
Report by Galen Hunter
A project to create replicas.
[ Page updated - May 16, 2019 ]
There was a stone boundary marker monument with an intriguing history in the City of Redondo Beach. This stone or rock, goes back to 1815, and is apparently no longer where it was - at least as recorded in 1854. For decades various people have wondered about this boundary monument and not found it. Also, not found are any historical photographs of it. The last known person documenting the stone marker in situ was a Los Angeles County Surveyor in 1942. The idea now is to create one or two replicas of this monument stone - based on the known historical documents describing it.
The stone marker was originally put on top of a hill here by Spanish authorities as early as 1815 to be a fixed orientation point for an artificial line to connect with the adjacent orientation point to the west - the salt lake ("Salinas" as it was called then) - in order to establish the boundary between the two major ranchos occupying this area at the time. However, the stone marker itself may (or may not) have been moved by the Americans (?) sometime around 1853 over a scheme to gain legal possession of the salt works at the salt lake. The salt lake is now gone. However the artificial line established between the stone marker and the salt lake is still there - having persisted through Spanish, Mexican and American rule. Today, this same artificial line is the northern coastal land use jurisdictional border of cities of Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.
There is substantial historical documentation describing where the rock was in 1854 because of the records still in existence indicating the back story of the incorporation of the Pacific Salt Works Company at the salt lake and its sale to the Americans in 1854 by Manuel Dominguez, the owner of Rancho San Pedro, the owner of the rancho south of the boundary line established by the stone marker. Importantly, there is the testimony and depositions from the 1855-56 U.S. Land Claims Court case about whether the stone marker was moved or not. The Abila family, owner of Rancho Sausal Redondo north of the boundary line, claimed the rock was moved. Documents from this case include descriptions of the size and shape of this rock, although these descriptions are not precise. However, the location of where the stone boundary marker was in 1854 is well documented and is iterated through time. For instance, the rock is mentioned in the original and official map of the "Townsite of Redondo Beach" submitted to the Los Angeles County Recorder in 1889. The rock is also mentioned in the written official territorial boundary of the City of Redondo Beach submitted to the Los Angeles County Recorder in 1892. Indeed, the 1892 City of Redondo Beach territorial definition actually refers to the rock as "west 3.44 chains to a rock which is station 10 of the official survey of the Rancho San Pedro". This same rock being previously referred to in the official Patent of the Rancho San Pedro (1858) and the Plat of Rancho Sausal Redondo (1875) as an orientation point of the boundary line between the two.
What is significant about (the context of) this stone boundary monument? The answer is - just 10 years before the marker was first installed by the Spanish on top of the hill, prehistoric people were living there. The history of this stone boundary marker is a microcosm of Spanish, Mexican and American culture. At the very least, the context is a fascinating case study of American corporate culture in the Far West. So, creating a replica or two of the stone boundary marker seems to be a worthwhile endeavor given the impact corporate culture has had and is still having "upon a once-undifferentiated natural environment".
What is the purpose of a boundary marker?
"According to Josiah Ober [American historian and professor of classics and political science, at Stanford University], boundary markers are "a way of imposing human, cultural, social meanings upon a once-undifferentiated natural environment." Boundary markers are linked to social hierarchies, since they derive their meaning from the authority of a person or group to declare the limits of a given space of land for political, social or religious reasons. Ober notes that "determining who can use parcels of arable land and for what purpose, has immediate and obvious economic implications."
Many borders were drawn along invisible lines of latitude or longitude, which often created a need to mark these borders on the ground, as accurately as possible, using the technology of the day. Advances in GPS technology have shown that there are many borders inaccurately marked on the ground.
Boundary markers have often been used to mark critical points on political boundaries, i.e. those between countries, states or local administrations, but have also been used to mark out the limits of private landholdings, especially in areas where fences or walls are impractical or unnecessary. In developed countries the use of markers for land ownership has in many places been replaced by maps and land ownership registration. Boundary markers are not legal markers in Western countries and may have troublesome legal effects. However, boundary markers have legal meaning in Japan, and are generally installed across the country. Markers are still used extensively for marking international borders, which are traditionally classified into two categories: natural boundaries, correlating to topographical features such as rivers or mountain ranges, and artificial boundaries, which have no obvious relation to topography. The latter category includes borders defined by boundary markers such as stones and walls. International boundary markers are placed and can be maintained by mutual agreement of the bordering countries."
Figure 1 is a general overview of the region - showing rain Catchment Areas, Rectangular Survey Township grid lines and the approximate the boundary line of the Rancho
San Pedro. Note the markup indicating the approximate location of the boundary monument rock on the northwest boundary line of Rancho San Pedro. The boundary line established by the
location of the boundary rock cuts through the middle of rain catchment area of the salt lake. The groundwater from this catchment once fed the salt lake and helped replenish the
underlying fresh water aquifers. The point being the catchment area, the lake, and the fresh water aquifers have been devastated by American corporate culture - beginning with Spanish
and Mexican culture.
Screenshot of "City Boundaries for Los Angeles County" website showing current City of Redondo Beach boundaries with markup added indicating
location where the historic boundary rock was on the northwest portion of the boundary line of Rancho San Pedro per the 1858 Patent and original City of
Redondo Beach northern boundary line.
[Figure 2 - Underlying map from - https://controllerdata.lacity.org/dataset/City-Boundaries-for-Los-Angeles-County/sttr-9nxz]
Rancho Boundary Patent Maps
Detail of 1858 "Map of the Rancho San Pedro", P01-119,
Download Full Map (PDF, 809 KB). Note upper middle of figure - "Sta.10", "Road", "Stake" - "Road" is a typo. It should read "Rock".
Detail of 1875 "Plat of the Rancho Sausal Redondo", P01-507,
Download Full Map (PDF, 553 KB). Note middle of figure - "Large Rock on Round Hill". Also, note the rock is located just west of the corner of "Sec.31",
"Sec.32", "Sec.6", and "Sec.1" - "Sec.1" is a typo. It should read "Sec.5".
City of Redondo Beach - Original Boundary Map and Description
Detail of page 5 of 1889 "Townsite of Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County, California", "Drawn under the direction of Geo. Tod, Jr. Civil Engineer"
Download Full Map (PDF, 2.8 MB). "Original Recorded [with County Recorder] April 27, 1889 at request of Redondo Beach Co". Note: upper right
of figure "Old Post at Large Sandstone".
1912, "Los Angeles County Official Boundaries of Incorporated Cities", detail page 479, "City of Redondo Beach". Note "west
3.44 chains to a rock which is station 10 of the official survey of the Rancho San Pedro".
1942, Los Angeles County Surveyor, CEFB0961, page 62, see upper left notes "Sta #10 - Ro. San Pedro Fd. L&T in Sandstone rock". Also see in the middle
List of Selected Eyewitness and Official Descriptions of the Boundary Rock
Recent Google Earth Screenshots of the Boundary Rock Site with Markup
Figure 10 is a photograph of the first model replica of the monument stone. The photograph was taken right after it was created
around noon on April 17, 2019. The material used was "Crayola Air-Dry Clay" which is actually not clay, but paper, resin, and
glue. The model was made in 1:8 scale - and was created rather quickly and not supposed to be perfect or canonical. The
purpose of this model is just to see what we are dealing with.
Figure 11 is the diagram created to make the above 1:8 scale model. Importantly, the diagram also includes the numbers we are working
with at this point for what was the full scale dimensions of this stone boundary marker monument. This first diagram and then first model replica
are historic in themselves and/or at least key milestones in the ongoing project to create one or two - authentic as possible - full size
replicas of the stone boundary marker by synthesizing the various known historical descriptions of it - which are listed above in this report.
May 16, 2019 photograph of the 1:8 scale model replica. Looking southeast from the location noted in Figures 8, 9 as a possible site to install a future full size replica.
Notes on Where the Original Boundary Rock Went
People are asking me where the original stone boundary marker went. Probably the best way is to discuss what happened to it involves some combination of context and uncertainty. Uncertainity because, of course, because nobody knows for sure what happened to this stone. Context because, to begin with, I wonder where any of these old stone markers went.
There are no Spanish era rancho stone boundary markers currently in existence in Los Angeles County or even California - as far as I can tell. There is not even a photograph of one of these types of old stone boundary monuments, or even a copy of one, except the model I just made (see above). What does that mean?
Moreover, I've looked at the 1850's field notebooks of the American surveyors Henry Hancock and George Hansen - specifically their surveys of Rancho Palos Verdes and Rancho San Pedro and I don't think anything they left as a marker then is there now. What does that mean?
Back to the question about where the original boundary stone of Redondo Beach went. I have a clue. The clue is as follows - some 5 years ago, as a Reader at The Huntington Library in San Marino I looked at their collection Redondo Beach area maps. In this collection, is a 1960 street map of the City of Redondo Beach. What is unique about this map is it has data added to it - drawn on it. On this 1960 map is handwritten an additional title "Harbor Fill Material Borrow Sites" and a number of the streets on the map are color-coded and labeled as borrow sites.
I digitially photographed this map and the markup on it at the time I originally looked at it. The other day it occurred to me that the site where the stone boundary monument was - may have been color-coded. I checked my archives, and yes, that entire block where the rock was - was color-coded as being prepared to be used as fill for the new harbor being built by the City of Redondo Beach. I briefly checked the city Clerk's archives for 1960 and indeed large amounts of fill were being used to build the harbor, etc.
Ok, the stone marker was still in place in 1942. If, somehow by the end of 1960, it was still in place, the stone could very well have become (pulverized?) fill for the harbor. Also note, the homes there now, in and around where the boundary rock was, those homes were built in 1962 and presumably, during construction of those homes, if the rock was there, no existing authority would have intervened to keep the rock in the spot where it had been since at least 1854. The point being, by 1960, the monument boundary stone was probably meaningless to local authorities.
Now, back to context. What does it mean that the stone marker could have become fill for the harbor? Add to the context - the harbor destroyed the famous pebble beach that was there. Is this pattern of meaningless devastation typical of what happened to all of the original boundary markers? What does all this mean about the meaning of the model replica I just created?