One of the most unique and mysterious landmarks of Southern California is the tower that stands at the base of a cliff in Laguna Beach. Here is the story behind it.
The structure, known as “La Tour” (French for tower) or the “Pirate Tower,” is a 60-foot castle-inspired tower. It was built at the same time as the house at the top of the bluff, in 1926, and was used as a way to get from the house down to the beach below, which is a beautiful stretch of sand called Victoria Beach. The beach tower is made of poured concrete with an ocean stone foundation and cone-shaped roof made of shingles. Several narrow window openings in the tower wall allow light to pass through to the wooden spiral stairway inside.
The house, known as the “Norman House” due it’s Norman-style architecture, is itself a landmark of Laguna Beach. It was built for California State Senator William Edward Brown and his family and used during summers and holidays as a retreat from their Beverly Hills home.
The inspiration for the design of the house and the tower can be traced to the time Mr. Brown and his wife, Mary Eleanor, spent in France at the end of World War I, where they were part of the war relief effort. In fact, many Americans that spent time in France during WWI were inspired by the chateaus and castles of the region, and upon returning home to the United States, built homes during the 1920s that emulated this style. The Norman House is one of the few remaining examples of this on the oceanfront of Southern California.
Another mysterious structure that sits just to the south of the tower is the partially buried cement wall that once formed a circular pool. While the pool has partially filled up with sand, water still collects here when the tide is high enough for waves to crash in on it. It is believed that Mr. Brown is also responsible for building this structure.
To find the tower and pool, walk to the north end of Victoria Beach (click here for information on Victoria Beach), where you will find a rock outcropping at the base of the cliff. Continue walking north, around the bluff and over the rocks and past another sandy beach section. You will reach the pool first, which sits in front of a modern staircase. The tower stands directly to the north of the pool. All of this is easiest if you avoid high tide.
Please note that the tower is privately owned. You may walk up to it, but please do not try to enter it, or climb on it.