The Adventure Continues… Norconian Resort
I recently finished reading a book called All the Gallant Men, a fascinating memoir by Donald Stratton, who was serving aboard the USS Arizona at the time of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. He survived the ship’s sinking but suffered serious burns; and while he and his fellow survivors were initially treated in Hawaii, they were later transferred first to Mare Island and then to an incredibly luxurious naval hospital just north of Corona, California — the former Norconian Resort.
He explains that the failing property was acquired by the US Navy on December 8, 1941, and would go on to treat 5,000 sailors by the end of the war. Most of the doctors came from the Mayo Clinic in April 1942. And surely the beautiful surroundings and movie star level accommodations must have helped in the recovery of these battered and scarred heroes, many of them little more than teenagers at the time.
This 1929 structure adorned with incredible Art Deco art is still very much in danger of disappearing forever, although the Lake Norconian Club Foundation has been working for the past several years to preserve and protect what remains, including suing the State of California in 2014 for “willful neglect” of the property. The foundation’s website includes a fantastic slideshow that includes a timeline of their efforts plus images of the irreplaceable artwork that makes clear why Huell was so overwhelmed by what he saw during his visit.
In the mid 1920’s, Rex B. Clark, an unmatched visionary of his time, accomplished the near impossible by constructing the world-class Norconian Resort in a remote area of Southern California.
The Norconian was an immediate success and frequented by the rich elite and Hollywood’s finest. Unfortunately, the Club never made a nickel as the Stock Market crash and subsequent economic depression forced Clark to give up his dream after a ten year fight.
The story didn’t end there. The fabulous resort was converted into one of the pre-eminent Naval Hospitals in the United States; a facility that treated survivors of Pearl Harbor and pioneered the use of Penicillin, the polio vaccine and state of the art rehabilitation techniques.
Subsequently, one of the finest Naval Weapons Testing sites in the nation and the California Rehabilitation Center, the first state-funded addict treatment center in the country, called the old resort home; adding to the Norconian’s rich and fabulous history.
Huell travels to the site with Kevin Bash who is a filmmaker and historian to see this faded but beautiful structure in all its glory.