Queen City, Catalina Island: The City That Never Was

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TWO HARBORS—If there is one thing everyone knows about the Channel Islands, it’s there is only one incorporated city located on the archipelago located just off the Southern California coast. That city is Avalon, located near the east/southeast corner of Catalina Island. But an area closer to Catalina’s West End could have been where the archipelago’s sole municipality could have been located. Imagine making a trip to Queen City (instead of Avalon).

Queen City is what could have been if plans to develop a 40-acre stretch of Catalina’s West End were realized. The planned community at Catalina’s Wilson Harbor was proposed, in 1863, to be the island’s metropolis destination. The Civil War, ironically, is probably what prevented Queen City from ever coming online. (Avalon wouldn’t be incorporated for another 50 years.)

“A site for a city was located on Wilson Harbor. Lots were staked off, and Queen City became the mining metropolis of Santa Catalina,” an entry in the book, “The Lost Mines of Santa Catalina,” stated.

It wasn’t long before miners found gold on the island. Thousands upon thousands of claims were made within a year, according to “The Lost Mines of Santa Catalina.”

The area where Queen City would have been established was home to a planned mining operation. The Gold Rush hit Catalina Island’s West End in 1863, which, of course, brought over a fair share of prospectors.

Prospectors hoped Queen City could be developed, but no dice. The economy wasn’t doing so well at the time.

“They had no money to develop their claims, nor could they induce capitalists to aid them,” another entry in “The Lost Mines of Santa Catalina” stated. “It was a famine year of Southern California – the terrible dry seasons of 1863-64. Cattle and sheep were dying by the thousands, and the cattle barons, whose wealth was in their flocks and herds, saw themselves reduced to the verge of poverty.”

The Civil War didn’t help, either, with the Union Army trying to take control of Catalina’s West End to ward off the Confederacy and maintain a strategic advantage just off the California coast.

“The United States government had taken possession of the island, and had placed a military force on it to prevent it from becoming a rendezvous for privateers. The relations between honest miners and the country’s defenders were somewhat strained. Each regarded the other with suspicion,” it was stated in “The Lost Mines of Santa Catalina.”

The Union apparently believed the miners, who might have had sympathies with the South, had a plot to seize the island on behalf of the Confederacy. In the end, however, Queen City never happened.

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