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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel-by-the-Sea, usually called simply Carmel, is a small town endowed with a rich artistic history situated on the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey County, California. In 1906, the San Francisco Call devoted a full page to the "artists, poets and writers of Carmel-by-the-Sea" and in 1910 it reported that 60 percent of Carmel's houses were built by citizens who were "devoting their lives to work connected to the aesthetic arts." Early City Councils were dominated by artists and the town has had several mayors who were poets or actors including Herbert Heron, founder of the Forest Theater, and actor-director Clint Eastwood, who was mayor for one term, from 1986 to 1988. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 4,081. When referring to this city or its attributes, the name Carmel is pronounced "car-MEL".


Carmel-by-the-Sea is located at 36°33'16" North, 121°55'16" West (36.554552, _121.921174), on the Pacific coast about 330 miles north of Los Angeles and 120 miles south of San Francisco. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total land area of 1.1 square miles (2.8 km²), none of which is covered by water.

Early history

Carmel-by-the-Sea is permeated by Native American, early Spanish and American history (Blanks, 1965). Most scholars believe that the Esselen-speaking people were the first Native Americans to inhabit the area of Carmel, but the Ohlone people pushed them south into the mountains of Big Sur around the 6th century. The first Europeans to see this land were Spanish mariners led by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, who sailed up the California coast without landing. Another sixty years passed before another Spanish explorer and Carmelite Friar Sebastian Vizcaino "discovered" what is now known as Carmel Valley in 1602, which he named for his patron saint, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Spanish did not attempt to colonize the area until 1769, when Gaspar de Portola and Franciscan Father Juan Crespi visited the area in search of a mission site. They returned one year later in 1770 to found the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo at the southeastern edge of Carmel. The nearby colony of Monterey, established at the same time, soon became the capital of California until 1849. From the late 18th through the early 19th century, most of the Ohlone population died out from European diseases against which they had no immunity, and overwork and malnutrition at the missions where the Spanish forced them to live. In 1821, Carmel became Mexican territory when Mexico gained independence from Spain. A Scottish immigrant, John Martin, acquired lands surrounding the Carmel mission in 1833, which he named Mission Ranch. Carmel then became part of the United States in 1848, when Mexico ceded California as a result of the Mexican-American War.

Known as "Rancho Las Manzanitas", the area that was to become Carmel-by-the Sea proper was purchased by French businessman Honore Escolle in the 1850's. Escolle was well known and prosperous in the City of Monterey, owning the first commercial bakery, pottery kiln, and brickworks in Central California. In 1888, Escolle and Santiago Duckworth, a young Catholic developer from Monterey with dreams of establishing a Catholic retreat near the Carmel Mission, filed a subdivision map with the County Recorder of Monterey County. By 1889, 200 lots had been sold.

In 1902 Frank Devendorf and Frank Powers, on behalf of the Carmel Development Company, filed a new subdivision map of the core village that became Carmel; that village actually developed in 1904 and was incorporated in 1916. In 1910, the Carnegie Institution established the Coastal Laboratory, and a number of scientists moved to the area.

Arts and culture

Carmel Arts and Crafts Club

In 1905, in an effort to foster the arts, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club was formed. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake the village received an influx of artists and other creative types escaping the disaster area. Jack London describes the artists' colony in a portion of his novel, The Valley of the Moon; among the noted artists who thrived here were Mary Austin, Armin Hansen, George Sterling, Robinson Jeffers, Sinclair Lewis, Sydney Yard, Ferdinand Burgdorff, William Frederic Ritschel, William Keith and Percy Gray.

Arts and Crafts Clubhouse/Golden Bough Playhouse

In 1906-07 the town's first cultural center and theatre, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Clubhouse, was built. Poets Austin and Sterling performed their works there. A theatre program was initiated and numerous plays and recitals were given. By 1913, The Arts and Crafts Club had began organizing lessons for aspiring painters, actors & craftsmen. Some of the most prominent painters in the United States, such as William Merritt Chase, Mary DeNeale Morgan and C. Chapel Judson offered six weeks of instruction for $15. The original clubhouse, along with an adjoining theatre built in 1922, burned down in 1949 after a production of "By Candlelight". The site, which has been declared historic, is now home to the Golden Bough Playhouse, built in 1951. It is owned and operated by Carmel's only professional theatre, Pacific Repertory Theatre, founded in 1983 by Carmel resident, Stephen Moorer.

Forest Theater

In 1910, the Forest Theater, the first outdoor theater west of the rockies, was built, with poet Mary Austin and actor/director Herbert Heron leading the endeavor. Numerous groups, including the Forest Theater Society and the Western Drama Society, presented plays and pageants. Original works and the plays of Shakespeare were the primary focus. The property was deeded to the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea in order to qualify for federal funding and, in 1939, the site became a WPA project. After several years, the site re-opened as The Carmel Shakespeare Festival, with Herbert Heron as its Director, and, with the exception of the WWII years of 1943-44, the festival continued through the 1940s.

In 1949 the Forest Theater Guild was incorporated, and under the leadership of Cole Weston, the 60-seat indoor Forest Theater was created. For most of the 1960s, the outdoor theater lay unused and neglected. In 1968, Marcia Hovick's Children's Experimental Theater leased the indoor theater and continues today. In 1972 the Forest Theater Guild was reactivated and continues to produce musicals, adding a film series in 1997. In 2006, the Guild presented the California community theatre premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats, based on T. S. Eliot's "Old Possums Book of Practical Cats".

In 1984, Pacific Repertory Theatre began producing on the outdoor Forest Theater stage, reactivating Herbert Heron's Carmel Shakespeare Festival in 1990. In 2005, PacRep presented the facility's highest-attended production, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, to a combined audience of over 10,000 ticket holders.

Robinson Jeffers' Tor House and Hawk Tower

In 1914, when they first saw the unspoiled beauty of the Carmel-Big Sur coast south of California's Monterey Peninsula, poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), and his wife, Una (1884-1950), knew they had found their "inevitable place." Over the next decade, on a windswept, barren promontory, using granite boulders gathered from the rocky shore of Carmel Bay, Jeffers built Tor House and Hawk Tower as a home and refuge for himself and his family. It was in Tor House that Jeffers wrote all of his major poetical works: the long narratives of "this coast crying out for tragedy," the shorter meditative lyrics and dramas on classical themes, culminating in 1947 with the critically acclaimed adaptation of Medea for the Broadway stage, with Dame Judith Anderson in the title role. He called his home Tor House, naming it for the craggy knoll, the "tor" on which it was built. Carmel Point, then, was a treeless headland, almost devoid of buildings. Construction began in 1918. The granite stones were drawn by horses from the little cove below the house. Jeffers apprenticed himself to the building contractor, thus learning the art of making "stone love stone." Construction was completed in mid-1919.

In 1920, the poet-builder began his work on Hawk Tower - a retreat for his wife and sons. It was completed in less than four years, a remarkable feat since Jeffers built the tower entirely by himself. He used wooden planks and a block and tackle system to move the stones and to set them in place. Many influential literary and cultural celebrities were guests of the Jeffers family. Among them were Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin. Later visitors have included William Everson, Robert Bly, Czesław Miłosz and Edward Abbey.

Aimee Semple McPherson

Carmel figured in a 1926 scandal involving radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who vanished for a period of time, claiming to have been abducted. Several witnesses reported having seen her in Carmel together with broadcasting colleague Kenneth Ormiston during the time she was missing, and a grocery receipt signed by McPherson was discovered in a Carmel cottage.

Carmel Art Association

Gray Gables at Lincoln and Seventh was the birthplace of the Carmel Art Association, founded by artists Josephine Culbertson and Ida Johnson. This small group nurtured art, primarily through the auspices of the Carmel Arts & Crafts Club, until 1927, when a breakthrough meeting took place, and the group committed to building an exhibition gallery to display their works. Their first show with 41 artists took place in October of the same year in the Seven Arts building of Herbert Heron. The permanent gallery was completed in 1933 at its present location on Dolores Street. In the early 1930s the tiny group claimed four members who had attained the status of membership in the National Academy of Design.

Carmel Bach Festival

The Carmel Bach Festival began in 1935 as a 3 day festival of concerts, and now encompasses 3 weeks of concerts. These concerts link historical performance practices and a rediscovery of Baroque music. Currently, the Festival is under the leadership of Jesse Read, who started as a performer with Carmel Bach in 1980. The 3 weeks of performances include concerts, recitals, master classes, lectures sumposia and other programs in various venues through-out the town of Carmel.

Monterey Symphony

Considered one of California's premiere symphony orchestras , the Monterey Symphony provides triple performances of a seven concert series as well as an extensive education program and special performances. It was founded in December 1946 in the Carmel home of its first president Grace Howden. It is currently led by Spanish conductor Max Bragado Darman who joined the orchestra in 2004. The music directors of the Monterey Symphony are Lorell McCann (1947-1953) and Clifford Anderson (1947-1954), Gregory Millar (1954-1959), Earl Bernard Murray (1959-1960), Ronald Ondrejka (1960-1961), John Gosling (1961-1967), Jan De Jong (1967-1968), Haymo Taeuber (1968-1985), Clark Suttle (1985-1998), Kate Tamarkin (1998-2004), and Max Bragado Darman (2004 to present).

Carmel Pine Cone

See also: Media in Monterey County

The Carmel Pine Cone is the town's weekly newspaper and has been published since 1915, covering local news, politics, arts, entertainment, opinions and real estate. The newspaper also has a section called The Police Log that contains almost every report of a crime in the Carmel area, often read with a quaint twist of humor by readers since the contents of the log are fairly innocuous. Veteran CBS and NBC network news producer Paul Miller became publisher in 1997. In 2005, after failing to convince city officials to rezone a potential site for the Pine Cone's operation, he moved the paper's production offices to Pacific Grove, while maintaining a reduced news staff in downtown Carmel. In 2007, the paper began offering a Adobe Acrobat (*.PDF) version of its complete newspaper on the Internet, giving readers a chance to keep up with local news online.


As of the census of 2000, there are 4,081 people, 2,285 households, and 1,108 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,753.3 people per square mile (1,445.6/km²). There are 3,334 housing units at an average density of 3,066.3/sq mi (1,181.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 94.58% White, 0.44% Black or African American, 0.32% Native American, 2.25% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 0.91% from other races, and 1.35% from two or more races. 2.94% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 2,285 households out of which 11.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.4% are married couples living together, 5.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 51.5% are non-families. 44.1% of households are made up of individuals and 20.1% a single person who is 65 years of age or older. Average household size is 1.79 and the average family size is 2.39.

The age distribution is as follows: 9.9% under the age of 18, 2.9% from 18 to 24, 18.3% from 25 to 44, 38.1% from 45 to 64, and 30.8% who are 65 years of age or older, with a median age of 54 years. For every 100 females there are 77.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 75.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $58,163, and the median income for a family is $81,259. Males have a median income of $52,344 versus $41,150 for females. The per capita income for the city is $48,739. 6.6% of the population and 3.6% of families are below the poverty line. Of the total population, 5.6% of those under age of 18 and 4.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Planning and environmental factors

It is not an accident that Carmel has achieved fame for its natural features, ambience and an abundance of cultural and shopping venues. The town has historically pursued a vigorous strategy of planned development to retain its character of "village in a forest" and enhance its natural coastal beauty, a moniker the early town fathers applied. Carmel was incorporated in the year 1916 and as early as 1925 the town adopted a clear vision of its future as "primarily, essentially and predominantly a residential community" (Carmel City Council, 1929). Even today the cottages and houses still have no street numbers and there is no delivery of mail to individual addresses. Instead, residents go to the centrally-located post office to receive their mail.

Planning has consistently recognized the importance of preserving the character of these major sociocultural and public facilities:

  • Sunset Community and Cultural Center, Carmel's state-of-the-art concert hall and theatre, which supports over 160 events per annum, including the Carmel Bach Festival and performances of the Monterey County Symphony.
  • Golden Bough Playhouse, historic theatre complex, built on the site of Carmel's first arts center and theatre, the Carmel Arts & Crafts Clubhouse/Hall (1907-1949). Carmel home to the area's only resident-professional theatre, Pacific Repertory Theatre (PacRep). The facility includes the 300-seat Golden Bough and 99-seat Circle Theatre, presenting over 150 performances in Carmel every year.
  • Forest Theater, the oldest outdoor theatre "West of the Rockies" was founded in 1910, has played a great role in advancing the dramatic arts in California, with productions including Shakespeare, local playwrights and (in earlier years) the Forest Theater Society (1910), the Western Drama Society (1911), the Carmel Shakespeare Festival (1939 - reactivated by Pacific Repertory Theatre in 1990) and the Forest Theater Guild (1949 - reactivated in 1972).
  • Tor House & Hawk Tower, home to American Poet Robinson Jeffers. Construction on the house began in 1918 and was completed in mid-1919. In 1920, the poet-builder began working on Hawk Tower, completed it in 1923. Guests of the Jeffers family included Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin. Later visitors have included William Everson, Robert Bly, Czeslow Milosz and Edward Abbey.
  • Harrison Memorial Library, constructed in 1927, houses over 80,000 volumes.
  • City Hall, built in 1921 as a church, has been used since 1950 to house town government.
  • Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, founded in 1770 by Father Junípero Serra, Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi as one of Alta California missions. The mission was originally located at the Presidio in the centre of the settlement, but Father Serra subsequently moved it to its present site, at the southern edge of the modern town. It is now a National Historic Landmark.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is situated in a moderate seismic risk zone, the principal threats being the San Andreas Fault, which is approximately ten miles northwest as it traverses Monterey Bay, and the Palo Colorado Fault which traces offshore through the Pacific Ocean several miles away. More minor potentially active faults nearby are the Church Creek Fault and the San Francisquito Fault (Spangle, 1975).


Carmel is served by the Carmel Unified School District

Schools serving Carmel-by-the-Sea include Carmel High School, Carmel Middle School, and Carmel River Elementary School

Famous residents

See also


  • Carmel City Council Resolution no. 98, 1929
  • Helen Spangenberg, Yesterday's Artists on the Monterey Peninsula, published by the Monterey Peninsula museum of Art (1976)
  • Herbert B. Blanks, Carmel-by-the-Sea, yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 1965
  • John Ryan, Kay Ransom et al., City of Carmel-by-the-Sea General Plan prepared for the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Clint Eastwood, Mayor, by Earth Metrics Inc.,San Mateo, Ca. pursuant to requirements of the State of California (1984)
  • Kay Ransom et al., Environmental Impact Report for the Carmel-by-the-Sea General Plan, Prepared for the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea by Earth Metrics Inc., Burlingame, Ca. (1985)
  • Marjory Lloyd, History of Carmel (1542-1966), 1966
  • Seismic Safety Element of the General Plans of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Seaside, William Spangle & Associates, 29 September, 1975


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