On our latest Carnival Imagination cruise we used our stop at Avalon to visit the new Santa Catalina Island Museum. It is named the Ada Blance Wrigley Schneiner Building and is located at 217 Metropole avenue. For many years it had been on the lower floor of the Casino, very popular, but with limited space. We were met by Media and Marketing Manager Gail Fornaisere who explained to us what the new museum has to offer with its historic collections as well as new subjects for exhibition.
We went to the theater to see a film which showed some of Avalon's early history as well as the two fires that threatened it, one in its early years the other less than a decade ago.
In 2013 Avalon celebrated its Centennial as a town. An excellent exhibit marks this event showing how it has had a turbulent history with fire and ocean generated storms. On a positive note William Wrigley, after purchasing the island in 1919, turned it into a world renown resort in just ten years.
Hollywood has had much to do with this fame including its celebrities and locations for many films. A film about the old west was photographed with imported America buffalo. These animals prospered on the Island and are still be seen in the Island's interior. The original Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed there. And there is an exhibit concerning Errol Flynn films.
One exhibit displays some one hundred photos of famous visitors including Winston Churchill and movie stars like Marilyn Monroe. In fact Marilyn's connection with Catalina is also one of the exhibits since she was a teenage Norma Jean when she first visited the Island with her first husband and long before fame found her.
There is also the Tuna Club of Avalon with names like Winston Churchill, Charles Chaplin, Zane Gray and Bing Crosby.
Another exhibit explains the Island's early history as a native American settlement that existed for hundreds of years before Spanish explorers sighted it in the 1500s. Also one showing the era of William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum mogul from Chicago who purchased the Island in 1919 and immediately set about bringing it into the modern world. It was he who built the Casino that continues to dominate the Island's shoreline. Construction started in 1928 and was completed in 14 months with much work being done 24 hours a day at the cost of two million dollars.
Mr. Wrigley also owned the Chicago Cubs baseball club and started bringing it to Catalina for Spring Training. For this purpose he also built the Catalina Country Club, with its handsome clubhouse and dining facilities, and a nine hole golf course. Ronald Reagan's film career was launched after taking a screen test while on the Island with the Chicago baseball team. <
A new exhibit studies art nouveau and its effect on Avalon and the Island.
From where the cruise ship passengers disembark on the Island it is an easy walk through the town to the museum.
Give yourself plenty of time for a visit to the Catalina Island Museum . It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 310 510-2414, on the web at www.catalinamuseum.org.
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