The History of Newport Harbor Post 291
Post 291 was founded in 1924 by a group of thirty World War I veterans who were residents of the Newport Harbor area. They held an organizational meeting in the quarters of the Balboa Chamber of Commerce. The group elected as their first Commander, Raymond Hitchcock Brunswick.
One of the first problems to be solved was securing a permanent home for meetings. By various fundraising activities, enough money was raised to purchase a building site on 10th Street in Newport Beach from the city for the enormous sum of $1,500.00. With the property went a 25 year lease on the tide-lands intervening between it and the bay.
The Post incorporated and held more fundraisers to provide for actual construction of a Post facility. Original plans called for a two-story hut but it was decided that would be too expensive.
In October, 1925 construction began. The building, complete with all equipment including wiring and plumbing, cost $1,900 and was financed by a mortgage from the Bank of Balboa, the note being personally secured by several members of the Post.
The new hut was built almost entirely by volunteer labor provided by Post 291 Legionnaires and took about two months to complete. The first meeting was held in the new hut on December 2, 1925.
Post 291 then held its next great membership drive, starting February 16, 1926. That resulted in a total Post membership of 80 who met for dinner in the new hut on April 20, 1926.
On March 26, 1926, the Post voted to use a portion of its property as a hut site for the Newport Beach Boy Scout Troop which was formed in 1922 by Scoutmaster A. J. Twist. The Post then sponsored Boy Scout Troop 291.
Scouting always had a problem with what to do with boys a year or two younger than the minimum scout age of 12 years. Scoutmaster Twist solved the problem by creating a branch called “Cubs.” At that time, Cubs had no official standing in Scouting circles, but by 1929, the movement inaugurated by Twist was formally adopted and recognized by the National Council of Boy Scouts of America. Thus the Cub Scouts of America organization was born right here at Newport Harbor Post 291.
On April 20, 1936, a new lease was granted to Post 291 on the tidelands north of Bay Avenue but the property was too small for the Post’s purposes. On September 2, 1940, the lease of April 20, 1936 was canceled by mutual agreement.
On September 2,1940, the City granted to Post 291 a new lease at 15th Street (our current location) and set aside the tidelands for a permanent home for the Post.
The original building here at 15th Street was built in 1940, with the Great Hall being built in 1949. Most of the work was done by volunteer members and friends. The public marina was constructed in 1958-59. A new 25 year lease was entered into on March 15, 1975 with The City of Newport Beach.
Fire destroyed the Great Hall on December 14, 1979. The early morning blaze destroyed a major portion of the hall. A floor furnace was found to be the source of the early morning blaze. Fortunately the leaders of the Post at that time had just insured the hall 11 days prior to the fire. With the insurance money and the help of many volunteers the building was fully restored and rebuilt by July 4, 1980.
The Post negotiated a new lease with The City of Newport Beach in late 2002. This is a 25 year lease with an option (Post 291’s) to extend it for another 25 years thus leaving a path for our future membership to follow. We here at Post 291 are very blessed to have the site that we have. We are very thankful to our fellow veterans who came before us and had the insight to build and manage such a wonderful facility.
To those original thirty members….we salute you for not only your service to your country in time of need, but for laying the ground work for an organization that has grown and blossomed into a fantastic group of men and women who not only help their fellow veterans but also help many of our local children and civic organizations in and around Orange County.
We are a growing concern and we need to make sure we keep this facility up-to-date and well-maintained so that the veterans of the future will be able to enjoy it as much as we do today.