Still Going Strong 6-24-2003

Carmel-by-the-Sea celebrates 100 years of the good life

By: Mary Ann Hemphill

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. For much of the last hundred years, Carmel-by-the-Sea has been a consummate getaway locale, noted for its natural beauty and strong artistic community. A morning here can be spent taking a lengthy stroll on Carmel Beach and the afternoon hunting for art and antiques in one of the nearly 100 galleries in the square-mile city limits. The area is also famous for its superb golf courses and elegant restaurants serving international cuisine.

This year, Carmel celebrates the centennial of the city’s initial development by Frank Powers and J. Franklin Devendorf. Although the city wasn’t incorporated until 1916, Powers and Devendorf, calling themselves the Carmel Development Co., started in 1903 by offering lots at $5 to $10 down and $5 a month. Back then, the town boasted of “rugged, browned and happy youngsters of the near-to-nature type physically and the aesthetically capable type mentally.” Life in Carmel has maintained much of the charming simplicity of those early years. There are no street addresses or mail delivery. Locations are indicated by the nearest intersection, and picking up mail is a daily social event for residents. You’ll see no streetlights, no sidewalks in the residential areas, no parking meters and no chain restaurants or fast-food outlets. Eating on the street is strongly discouraged. Trees are treasured protected by a 1917 city ordinance that still is strictly enforced. Because of the irregular street surfaces, there’s even a sometimes-enforced ordinance against high-heeled shoes, which can be worn only after signing a liability waiver.

Tucked in a pine forest above a spectacular, expansive beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea is best seen on foot. A walk through the residential areas reveals a fascinating variety of styles, including cottages, bungalows, Spanish colonials and contemporary homes. There are only a few chain stores among the more than 400 intriguing shops, many of them nestled in courtyards, often dotted with gardens or fountains.

Walking tours reveal further quirks and delights of Carmel. Carmel Walks offers tours at 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays. The Carmel Heritage Society’s walking tours begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturdays. The Carmel Business Association & Visitors Information Center has maps of self-guided walking tours.

The artistic influence generated by early residents remains strong. In addition to the busy gallery scene, there are numerous art, music and theater events throughout the year, such as Sunday afternoon concerts in the Outdoor Forest Theatre (June to August), and the Carmel Shakespeare Festival (Aug. 7-Oct. 12). These will be supplemented in 2003 by special events celebrating the city’s “100 Years in Paradise.”

Among the many events, the renovated historic Sunset Center will unveil the results of its $21-million renovation at the 66th annual Carmel Bach Festival (July 19 to Aug. 10). The theater has been the venue for the Monterey County Symphony and several resident and traveling musical and theatrical groups. Other 100th anniversary events include a display of historical photographs and memorabilia at the Marjorie Evans Gallery (through Dec. 31) and the Carmel-by-the-Sea Birthday Party and Parade Oct. 25. The annual Fourth of July Celebration and the September Great Sand Castle Contest (the exact date for this is a closely guarded secret until one month before the contest) also will feature centennial themes.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is 120 miles south of San Francisco and 350 miles north of Los Angeles. Nearby attractions include the stunning scenery on coast-hugging Highway 1 to Big Sur, the Carmel Mission, Pebble Beach’s 17- Mile Drive and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The area is served by Monterey Peninsula Airport just 10 minutes from Carmel. United Express, American Eagle and America West all fly into Monterey. (On a side note, the world-famous Monterey Jazz Festival takes place here in September.)

Carmel remains as quaint as it was 100 years ago: white-sand beaches, a picturesque lagoon, wooded trails. And its natural beauty has been well complemented by the influx of painters, poets and writers to create the idyllic Carmel of today.

Where to Stay

(All hotels listed here offer travel-agent commissions.)

Along with the city, Carmel’s first hotel, the Pine Inn, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. ($95-$230 per night)800-228-3851;

The Cypress Inn, owned by actress and animal lover Doris Day, is one of the best places to stay in Carmel, especially with your pet. ($125-$295 per night) 800-443-7443;

The four-story La Playa Hotel has 75 rooms and suites furnished in a Mediterranean motif. For families needing more space or couples wanting more seclusion, La Playa has five cottages set a half-block away from the hotel. ($165-$475; cottages, $325-$650 per night)800-582-8900; www.laplaya

Inns by the Sea operates five Carmel inns, including the AAA four-diamond Carriage House Inn. (Rates vary by property.)800-433-4732;

The opening of a luxury inn, scheduled for 2004, is highly anticipated. David Fink, proprietor of Bouchee, one of Carmel’s top restaurants, acquired the Sundial Lodge (831-624-8578) and will be refurbishing it and renaming it the Auberge Carmel.

For More Information

Carmel Business Association & Visitor Information Center 831-624-2522;

Centennial events 831-620-2020;

Carmel Heritage Society 831-624-4447;

Carmel Bach Festival, 831-624-2046;

Carmel Walks 831-642-2700;