History of Point Dume, California

Point Dume, California | Brian Merrick


The story of Point Dume is full of history and intrigue. First used by the Chumash Indians who foraged the tide pools for fish and shellfish. The Point was also used as an important communication relay between their villages. The top of the Point formed a vital communication link between villages in Malibu, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. If you stand on the tip of Point Dume you can see Surfrider Beach to the east and the top of Boney ridge to the West. Communications between the villages were relayed from Ventura and Santa Barbara to Boney Ridge to Point Dume and on to Surfrider, home to the southern most Chumash Village in California Humaliwo.


How Point Dume Received It’s Name

Westerners first discovered Point Dume in 1542 when Spanish explorer Cabrillo passed the Point on his way up the California coast. It wasn’t until 1793 when explorer George Vancouver traveling south named the promontory Point Dumetz in honor of his friend Father Francisco Dumetz. Over the years the tz was dropped and the landmark became known as Point Dume. To this day many people debate the pronunciation, with some calling it Point Dume (Do-may) and others preferring Point Dume (Doom).


The Army’s Use of the Land

As late as the early 1900’s the Point was a barren windswept headland with nothing but an oil well located near present day intersection of Dume Drive and Sea Lion Place. During World War II, Point Dume was an important lookout station for the US Army and Coast Guard. It was also used as a target range for the Army. Targets were mounted on railroad cars that would move on a track by gravity along what is present day Cliffside drive and then winched back up to the headlands to repeat the cycle. The army fired 50 caliber machine guns and anti aircraft weapons at the targets which fell harmlessly into the ocean. The rail targets were later replaced by targets towed by planes which would fly over the point.


The Development of Point Dume Luxury Homes

Shortly after the war ended the Point was opened up for development and it was subdivided into residential lots. Bluff top lots along Cliffside Drive were selling for $2400 a piece but it was thought that you could never build on Point Dume due the high winds. Slowly over time the lots were bought up and single story ranch homes begun to spring up. The Point was divided into Rivieras 1-5 each with its own designated beach easements and beach lots. Properties located in Riviera 4 & 5, the windward side of Point Dume, lost their beach lot in the 1970’s to eminent domain. Prior to that there were beachfront homes on Westward Beach Rd and Riviera 4 & 5  had ownership of a 200 foot lot on Westward Beach. Local government provided eucalyptus and pine trees as wind breaks. Ironically, those same trees today block the very views many early residents enjoyed. Unlike the movie stars, musicians, and producers that now call the Point home, its first residents were working class people like teachers, engineers, firemen, and civil servants.  In the 1940s, the top of the headlands was shaved off for the purpose of building a luxury hotel it was determined to not be a feasible location due to geological concerns. One early general plan had a hotel, golf course, polo field, horse paddocks, lighthouse and a mix of light residential lots.  Modern day Point Dume consist of over 600 homes, condos, and apartments. Point Dume today is one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Malibu and those same $2400 lots once thought unbuildable sell for $10,000,000 if you can find one. Point Dume is California Registered Historical Landmark No. 965 a plaque commemorating the designation is located at the top of headlands.


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