So How Did Early Long Beach Celebrate New Year's Eve?

Gerrie Schipske
Hotel Virginia

Noisily. In 1910, crowds gathered on and adjacent to the Seaside Pleasure Pier and used "horns, whistles, and noise producers" to bring in the New Year. Large "yule log" fires burned in sand pits on the beach, while along the Pike revelers engaged in "confetti battles." Concession stands remained open until midnight.

For the moneyed class, Hotel Virginia (between Chestnut and Magnolia on the beach) was the place to be. Advertised nationally as the "showplace of the Southland," it was considered to be one of the more luxurious hotels in California. The ocean view, lush sunken gardens, flower walk and tennis courts provided a cosmopolitan elegance.

The ocean front hotel was protected from the battering breakers by a seawall. Gardens surrounded the sides and front. Guests were driven to the Virginia Country Club, a nine-hole golf course and clubhouse located on 116 acres which became Recreation Park. In 1921, Virginia Country Club moved to its current Los Cerritos location.

The hotel was originally called "Hotel Bixby" but after several floors collapsed due to shoddy construction in 1906, killing and injuring workmen, the new construction was renamed "Hotel Virginia." It was managed by Civil War veteran and entrepreneur, Charles Drake. The hotel was demolished in 1932.

The Pacific Coast Club at 850 Ocean Blvd. was constructed during the "roaring 20s" in 1926 and was also the site for many New Year's festivities for the Long Beach socialites such as the Bixbys, Heartwells, Walkers and the Llewellyns. Perched on the bluff, its medieval design stood out as a landmark in the oil rich city by the sea. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was delisted and demolished in 1988.

Just west of the site of the Pacific Coast Club on Ocean Boulevard, still stands another party location -- the Breakers Hotel. Completed in 1926, it featured an elaborate 500-seat dining room known as the “Hall of Galleons,” and hosted such legendaries as Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart. When it was purchased by Conrad Hilton in 1938, the Sky Room was opened atop the hotel and became "the spot" to be seen by the Hollywood crowd that included Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable and Cary Grant.

Yes, Long Beach was the place to party. Considering that the city began as a "dry city" which prohibited the sale of alcohol within city limits for many years, Long Beach eventually became the location for noisy, elegant celebrations.

Gerrie Schipske is the author of four books published by Arcadia Publishing: "Rosie the Riveter in Long Beach," "Early Long Beach," "Early Aviation in Long Beach," and "Historic Cemeteries in Long Beach."



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