How Bean Hollow Lagoon Got Its Name Change….New Story by John Vonderlin

[Note: John has been recovering from eye surgery, which was very successful. We all want you to “get well soon!” Here’s John latest piece.]

How Bean Hollow Lagoon Got Its Name Change

Story by John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])


I need to keep this short because of my eye, but thought you might want to know this. When I was writing about the Bean Hollow Bridge and Loren Coburn’s constructing what we now know as Lucerne Lake, you asked if I knew where the name of the lake came from. Not knowing, I posited that Loren may have wanted to add a little  pretension to his resort, the Pebble Beach Hotel. I knew he hoped the hotel, nicknamed “Coburn’s Folly,” by derisive Pescaderans, would compete with the famous Del Monte Hotel in Monterey, and I thought that by naming the lake he created after the famous and stunningly beautiful Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, he was furthering that dream.  Apparently, the reason is nowhere near as colorful.

Meg came to visit today and lent me a book she had borrowed, entitled “Place Names of San Mateo County, by Dr. Alan K. Brown.  The book had been reprinted in 1975.  by the San Mateo Historical Society, with a few corrections by Dr. Brown, from his original manuscript, finished in 1960. Here’s what he has to say:

“What used to be Bean Hollow Lagoon was made into a reservoir and renamed in 1923 by F.L. Lathrop, manager of the land company. The new name was suggested by alfalfa culture, and has been intensely disliked by Pescadero, on the grounds that it is likely to cause the old name, Bean Hollow, to be forgotten. The county’s new Bean Hollow Beach sign on the highway here has probably removed the cause for quarrel.”

Alfalfa used to be called lucerne, particularly in Great Britain, which explains Dr. Brown’s excerpt. Though I must confess I had to look up the connection.

I need to rest my new bionic eye now, but Dr. Brown’s book also has some interesting facts about Bean Hollow’s naming I’d like to return to in another posting, along with some facts I’ve discovered about Mr. Lathrop. Enjoy. John

P.S.  Here are some of Dr. Brown’s numerous publications over the past five decades, some that I’ve read, all I hope to:  A Description of Distant Roads: Original Journals of the First Expedition into California, by Juan Crespí (San Diego State University Press, 2001); Place Names of San Mateo County (San Mateo, CA: San Mateo County Historical Association, 1975); “Discovery of the Redwoods,” Forest History, 13 (1969; with F. M. Stanger); Who Discovered the Golden Gate? The Explorers’ Own Accounts (with F. M. Stanger; San Mateo, 1969); “Rivera at San Francisco: A Journal of Exploration, 1774,” California Historical Quarterly, 41 (1962): 325-41; and “Salt for the Scraping: Origins of the San Francisco Bay Salt Industry,” California Historical Quarterly 39, (1960).

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