The Castaways

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Introduction to the enclave: The Castaways, a landmark community of 120 homes built by Taylor Woodrow in 1997-1998 attracted more than 5,000 visitors during its first weekend of sales. Blending the elegant yet casual charm of Cape Cod-style architecture with unique contemporary floor plans ranging from 3,077-4,211 square feet, The Castaways was planned into three different areas to create sub-neighborhoods within the overall project: the “Bluffs” perched high above the Back Bay, a center “Island” area and a straight “Peninsula-shaped” portion. Three floor plans created for non-view lots and two floor plans along the Bluffs were designed to embrace different lifestyles, the front row of the Bluffs offering panoramic views of the Back Bay, the turning basin of Newport Harbor and out to Catalina and beyond. The Castaways won the 1997 Gold Nugget Grand Award for Detached Community of the Year, and in 1998 received the MAME Award of Merit for Best Overall Community of the Year.

Bordered by: The Castaways is bordered on the west by Bob Henry Park, Newport Harbor Lutheran Church and Dover Drive, to the north by the eucalyptus-lined Castaways Trail at Westcliff, the bluff overlooking the Back Bay on the east and the 17-acre Castaways Park to the south – a wildlife habitat and natural conservation area.

History – The Birthplace of Newport: Castaways Park overlooks one of the most historic spots in the city of Newport Beach. Don Webb, our beloved former councilman, civil engineer and Director of the Newport Beach Public Works Dept. graciously sat down with me at our neighborhood Westcliff Starbucks to share some of the history and sundry tales of the Castaways area.

“I like to call it the birthplace of Newportm,” Councilman Webb said. In 1870, Captain S. Dunnels piloted the Vaquero, a flat-bottomed steamer into Newport Bay, known at that time as the San Joaquin slough, and landed just inland from the present Coast Highway bridge, intent upon selling lumber to Santa Ana developer William Spurgeon. The steamer’s crew named the landing “New Port.” From about 1875 to 1889, the McFadden brothers operated a shipping service at the same “New Port” until moving their ocean wharf to the peninsula. During that time a warehouse, storage yard and the beginning of a wagon road to Santa Ana supported the transport of lumber and other building materials for a growing community.

I find it fascinating that many neighbors remember the Castaways Club, a popular watering hole and Orange County landmark that was destroyed by fire in 1956. The bluff top has been referred to as the “Castaways” ever since. The 160-acre site was originally built as the Orange County Country Club in 1913 and included an 18-hole golf course below the Castaways bluff, several tennis courts, a boathouse and bathhouse. Since golf courses didn’t start their transition to grass until the 1920s, the Orange County Country Club golf course (now called the Santa Ana Country Club) was probably compacted oil and sand until it was relocated to its present site in 1923 where wells could support irrigation. The Castaways course became a public course, and the clubhouse was refurbished as a restaurant and bar. It is rumored to have been a house of ill repute while operating as The Countess and Mona’s, until finally opened as the Castaways Club perched atop the bluff where the present park benches overlook the Newport Harbor basin.

Tragedy struck the community in 1995 when Newport Beach five-year veteran Police Officer Robert J. Henry was killed in the line of duty, ostensibly trying to stop a suicide attempt under a large ficus tree next to the Lutheran Church at Dover Drive and 16th Street. A memorial plaque commemorates Officer Henry’s service and untimely death at the entrance to The Castaways, and the stately ficus was carefully relocated to Bob Henry Park, named in his honor.

Why I Love Living Here: The Castaways neighborhood is a relaxed family environment with a casual Eastern seaboard culture. Once we enter through the gates past our friendly and well-loved guards, the stress and intensity of the day seem to melt away in a sanctuary of bird feeders, tail wagging dogs, barefoot kids and even the occasional front porch sittin’. Tree-laden stradas lead to the Castaways Trail, where we witness the quiet splendor of the sunrise over Saddleback Peak, the lights of Newport Center skyline at twilight, enjoy the aroma of rosemary and sage, and welcome the rhythm of more than 35,000 migrating birds. I can almost mark the changing seasons according to the sights and sounds of Little League Baseball at Bob Henry Park in Spring, the parade of Jr. Lifeguards in red bathing suits biking down Dover in the Summer, or the flapping navy blue Newport Harbor High School “Game Day” flags in Fall.

Several years ago I chuckled with relief as I saw two young teens walking down the street, my precious escape artist beagle Madison in tow. They were kindly traveling door to door looking for Madison’s home. We often receive colorful fliers inviting our family to neighborhood Movie Nights, casual pot lucks, Halloween pumpkin-carving parties, traditional Christmas gatherings or a gracious Spring Tea. Come one, come all, everyone is welcome. But the most memorable neighborhood event is our annual blockbuster 4th of July celebration: a DJ, plenty of food and drink, a bounce house, water balloons, musical chairs, more food and drink, kids, grown-ups, dogs, all capped off by the spectacular Dunes fireworks display viewed from the Castaways bluff.

My husband and I often share a short walk to Dan Marcheano’s “The Arches” for dinner, or stroll with our dogs to Martin Diedrich’s “Kean” coffee on a leisurely Saturday morning. If the exercise bug bites us we might run serpentines around the Newport Harbor High School track, bike to Balboa Peninsula by way of the Balboa Island ferry or hit the Back Bay Loop Trail with a fun “Babe the Bobcat” stop at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. Across the street, the Butterfly House at the Environmental Nature Center hosts 45 different nectar plants for the native Orange County butterflies that live within, beckoning us to appreciate fully the native flora and fauna in our backyard. Or, we might just sit in awe on the benches overlooking Newport Harbor where the Castaways Club once stood and quietly give thanks for the privilege of living here. The neighborly and relaxed casual elegance steeped in history and tradition with a sincere appreciation and commitment to preservation of natural open habitats is why I love living in The Castaways.

Current Market Activity:

Families seldom move from The Castaways as reflected in the market activity. At the present time there are no active listings for sale. Four homes are under contract, but accepting backup offers: two along the Peninsula and two atop the Bluffs. A “Martha’s Vineyard” model at 14 Cape Danbury along the Peninsula offers 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 3,077 living sq. ft. and a dream backyard with more than $500,000 invested into the pool, waterfall, fireplace, BBQ and bar area. On the Newport Harbor Home Tour, scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 14 Cape Danbury is listed at $1,425,000. 22 Cape Danbury is nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac and commands 3,700 sq. ft. The “Tradewinds” model with 4 bedrooms and 4 baths, this light open floor plan showcases an extensive use of marble, imported stone and a wine cellar. The backyard is an entertainer’s delight and features a cascading rock waterfall, custom pool and chef’s BBQ. 22 Cape Danbury is listed at $1,500,000. The two magnificent homes atop the Bluffs are ”Metropolitan” models and boast 4 bedroom-suites, each with 4 baths and 4,008 sq. ft. of living space. Beautifully designed and appointed with a gourmet kitchen, top-of-the-line appliances, even an elevator, the Cape Andover residences grant spectacular panoramic and unobstructed views of Newport Harbor, the Back Bay, the ocean toward Catalina and Castaways Park. 29 Cape Andover is listed at $2,379,000; 2 Cape Andover at $2,450,000. Five homes have sold in The Castaways since March 1, 2009 ranging from $1,625,000 to $2,450,000.

Information, provided by Cheri Ketner, Realtor, at First Team Estates, located at 4 Corporate Plaza, Suite 100, Newport Beach. Reach her at 949.233.7600 or by email at cheriketner@firstteam.com. www.cheriketner.com. Follow Cheri at www.twitter.com/cheriketner.

Editor’s Note: A special thanks to Councilman Don Webb for his historical perspective. Historical photos courtesy of Don Webb