Pelica Bay History

Published on by neal rosenthal.

Santa Cruz Island has been owned by ranching and winemaking families since it first left Mexican land grant status in 1857. The Island was visited by vacationers - either as guests of the owners, or as daring trespassers. But in the early 1900s, there was one outpost made available for tourists. This outpost was run by the Eatons at Pelican Bay, and it served as the rustic accommodations for island visitors, and for the film crews working on the island in the 1920s and 1930s. Ira Eaton was a sea captain, and he and his wife Evelyn lived on Santa Cruz Island 1908 - 1937. In 1912 a black and white silent film “Heart of My Heart” was filmed on the island, beginning a history of island film making in the Channel. According to Margaret Holden Eaton’s book  “Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife : Tales of Santa Cruz Island”  (1980), the film industry’s interest in using the island as a backdrop was the impetus for the Eaton’s to expand upon their lease with the island owners, the Caires, to operate a small resort at Pelican Bay. The resort at Pelican Bay consisted of rustic cabins perched on the rocky shoreline overlooking Pelican Bay. It attracted many film personalities over the years, from the early years when Santa Barbara was a hub for the burgeoning silent film industry, through subsequent years when the film epicenter moved into Hollywood. When legendary star of film and stage, John Barrymore, visited the Caires he did so from his accommodations at the Eaton’s Pelican Bay Camp. When the next Island owners, the Stantons, acquired shares of Santa Cruz they launched projects to restore the Island. One of the projects was to require the Eaton’s to close down and vacate Pelican Bay Camp, which by that time had become dilapidated buildings no longer in use by the Eatons. Margaret Eaton reflected upon the point of closure in her diary by observing; and that was the end of a time that would never be again. No Trespassing; sings are up at Santa Cruz Island, but I am sure that the blue heron or his descendent - undisturbed by wars or other human sorrows -still sits on his perch guarding what we once called our beautiful Pelican Bay.