Pismo Beach history begins
approximately 9,000 years ago with the Chumash Indians,
who spoke of the area as the place to find pismu, or tar. The more modern Pismo Beach
history goes back to 1769, when Don Gaspar de Portola and his parties camped in the area.
According to the diary of Costanso, a member of the Portola party, "The party
continued over the sand dunes and then descended to the beach, along which they walked for
several miles before camping for the night. Near their camping place was an Indian village
of some forty people." Undoubtedly, the beach walked upon by the Portola party was
that known today as Pismo Beach.
Pismo Beach is rich in history and is a well-vacationed
tourist location, offering sporting activities, wildlife viewing, surfing, biking, roller
skating, an annual car show and more. The Price House Homestead Museum offers a glimpse
into the rich history of Pismo Beach.
Pismo Beach is the winter home of the Monarch butterfly
that comes to stay annually from October to February. This year Pismo was the home
to approximately 56,000 Monarchs.
El Pizmo Beach and the Captive
By: Effie McDermott, March 2006
In 1905, George R. Lawrence, a photographer in the
Chicago area, captured the attention of the US Army and Navy with his methods of aerial
photography. President Theodore Roosevelt,
fresh from the Spanish-American War, requested the US Army and Navy ask George R. Lawrence
to demonstrate his Captive Airship method of aerial photography for potential
Lawrence had successfully photographed entire
factories, the Chicago Stockyards and other Midwest scenes from the air. He was experimenting with ways to get good photos
from a high vantage point, but after a nasty fall coming down from a 200 foot high tower,
he determined to figure out a way to use balloons or kites to get his cameras aloft. After demonstrations to the US Government, both on
land and from ships, the Navy report indicated that Lawrences methods had promise
and the US Government should acquire rights to the concept and further develop the
technique for military use.
Lawrence, however, continued to improve a
train of kites system and had his Captive Airship working when the
1906 San Francisco earthquake struck. Using a
sequence of kites and guywires, a camera platform stabilized with three outstretched
booms, and an electrical device to trigger the shutter, he was able to take some of the
now famous aerial panoramic photos of San Francisco in ruins after the earthquake and
Simultaneously, the El Pizmo Beach Company was in
need of photography to promote their newly upgraded resort.
George R Lawrence was hired to loft his camera above Pismo Beach. His 1906 aerial panoramic photo of El Pizmo Beach
focuses on the Inn and Tent
City. It pans the
Shell Beach Hills in the distance and south to the vicinity of Pismo Creek. It shows the beach, the town, the Inn, Tent City,
the pavilion, the Wave Hotel, homes and businesses sprinkled in the downtown area, the
early school houses at what is now 1000 Bello, the clam cannery, and the lay of the land.
For a better look at this photo, go online to the
Library of Congress at www.loc.gov. Select American Memory and enter a search for El
Pizmo Beach. It is in the Panoramic Photos
collection. -- Or visit the South County
Historical Societys Heritage
House Museum at
126 S. Mason St, Arroyo Grande, where a
large print that once belonged to the resort is displayed.
Special thanks to Ray Holm and Norm Hammond for
tips on this topic.