The Pirate Tower Lies at the Center of Some Terrific Orange County Legends
On a hidden beach in South Orange County, CA, visitors are treated to a sight that has even the most skeptical hoping to stumble upon buried treasure, scanning the horizon to try and spot a distant galleon bearing the skull and crossbones, or perhaps craning their neck in hopes of spying a fair maiden in need of rescue. The cause of these fantastical fancies of the imagination is almost as magical as the musings themselves, a tower, known simply as La Tour, or The Tower. Resembling something straight out of a fairy tale, it stands on the shoreline reaching for the sky as it stretches up the cliff face, enduring crashing waves and the harsh salt air of the Pacific Ocean.
La Tour has long been on my bucket list of places to see, and I have little excuse for not seeing it as it is practically right here in my own backyard. I chose sunset during a stormy weekend to add as much drama to the story as Mother Nature could muster, and my camera could capture. I think I lucked out in both respects. Hopefully the images compel you to read on, or at the very least, see La Tour for yourself.
Getting to La Tour
To see this come-to-life story book portrait for yourself, pack up your beach gear and head to Laguna Beach at low tide. La Tour is inaccessible during high tide. As you head toward South Laguna along Pacific Coast Highway, watch for Victoria Drive. Don’t worry if you miss it, you can also access the beach from Sunset Terrace, or McAuley Place. The real trick is finding parking. You will find none on any of the mentioned streets, you’re best bet is on PCH or in the neighborhoods on the inland side of the highway. Once you find parking head down any of the aforementioned streets, the beach lies below the houses on the cliff along Victoria Drive. There is a staircase to access the beach just a few feet south of Sunset Terrace on Victoria Drive. It’s a little steep, and a hike back up, but worth every step to come face to face with the stuff of dreams.
If you enjoy the romance and magic of pirates and magic castles, read no further, or risk having the magic hijacked by the pirates of knowledge and reason as the real story of La Tour is revealed below.
The Magic of The Pirate Tower Shattered
I’m sad to inform those who have read this far, that the tower never housed any damsels in distress, was not used to watch for pirates, and never even served as noble a purpose as a lighthouse. La Tour is nothing more than a fancy staircase built in 1926. It was built as access to the beach for the private residence of state senator William E. Brown on the cliff above.
In 1940, Brown sold the home to a retired naval officer named Harold Kendrick. It may have been Kendrick who lit the imaginations of area youth with stories of lost pirate treasure, and the need to keep a sharp lookout for the scourge of the high seas. It seemed Kendrick rather fancied dressing up as a pirate himself and hiding coins in the cracks of the tower for visiting children to find. But Kendrick’s kindness and imagination were the closest thing to real pirates to ever scale the hidden staircase.
Preserving the Real Treasure of La Tour
I don’t like this explanation for the towers existence. It steals everything we love about La Tour from our hearts and souls. To lose the magic of La Tour is to lose something much more valuable than losing all the buried treasure ever plundered or pillaged in the name of rogue privateering. I prefer to think the stories of state senators and retired naval officers are the real fairy tales; told to pesky visitors to throw them off the track, while treasure hunters continue their search for the very real buried treasure. And I know that if I listen carefully and watch the high window in the tower, one day I’ll see the imprisoned damsel seeking her hero, and she’ll tell me where the treasure is buried as soon as I rescue her… or warn me if the pirates are returning to claim their buried fortune.
I know the truth of the treasure of La Tour. Believe what you will.