Ole Hanson, Founder of San Clemente

Ole Hanson, the fifth of six children of Norwegian immigrants, was born January 6, 1874 in the township of Norway, Racine County, Wisconsin. His parents were immigrants who streamed into this country at the end of the Civil War, just after the homestead laws had been signed. They arrived in New York and proceeded to Wisconsin where they joined the growing number of Norwegians who settled in colonies.

Ole Hanson was born into an era which was one of great restlessness and adventure. The environment of the East & Middle West had never been conducive to men with great energy and imagination. Yearning for escape, trails were blazed to the West where men of vision could find the opportunities missing in other parts of the country. The motives which prompted Ole Hanson to built a beautiful city on coastal California were born in this age.

Ole's brimming energy was to find its outlet in trying many professions - salesman, legislator, merchant, builder, mayor of a great city and "man of the hour" in a national crisis. His immense talents and determination gave him wealth on three different occasions, and each time he dropped to be almost penniless, but more determined than ever to never give up his dream and vision for a fuller life.

Ole taught school at the age of thirteen, at seventeen he worked in a clothing store night in Racine so that he could study law by day, and took the bar exam and passed it at the age of nineteen. He was prevented from practicing law until he turned twenty-one so he left Racine and went to Chicago, where he got a job as a mining broker. Ole married at twenty-one and became involved in the manufacturing of druggists sundries, traveling through the Midwest, East and South. In 1903, he was involved in a tragic train accident in the South, and was injured badly - so badly that the doctors said that he would be partially paralyzed and have difficultly walking.

This did not stop Ole. His destination was West and with his wife and children, he walked behind a wagon to the city of Seattle. The 2800 mile trek gave him back the use of his legs. As soon as he entered Seattle, he engaged in business by buying a small grocery store and ran it successfully. But his spirit wander again, as it was to wander for the rest of his life. After building a home for his family, he investigated the insurance business as a career, but discovered that insurance men did not invest in real estate -so he decided that that was not a sound profession. So Ole sold homesites and built houses - giving him the satisfaction of watching a community grow. This gave him full expression to his desire for a community sense, which was to color the rest of his life, and which was instrumental in the future of a city called San Clemente.

In 1908, we find Ole championing the cause of a clean town, with a vigorous campaign against gambling and vice. This swept him into the Washington State Legislature by the largest margin ever-he received all but ten votes. This was just the beginning of his goals - Ole became Mayor of Seattle and broke the historic strike of 1918. He constructed a large water project for Seattle and persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to endorse that great municipal development. Ole became an international figure and traveled the country on a lecture tour entitled "Americanism Against Bolshevism." He traveled to Europe and wrote the story of home life in the Old World which was published in seventy-five dailies and 8,000 weeklies in the United States.

After WW I, Ole gave up much of the land he owned in Seattle because he believed that "war-made money was stained with blood," and heavily in debt traveled to Mexico to rebuild his fortune. He was an arbitrator in a large land dispute and was awarded a one half interest in 52,000 acres of oil land, which turned out to be worthless when the oil industry declined.

Undeterred, Ole returned to California and purchased a piece of land in Los Angeles, in the Slausen Tract. There he developed a concept of what Hanson seemed to be striving for - a sense of community and a harmonious architecture of 2,000 neat homes. From there, Ole went on to Santa Barbara where he was involved in The Potter Hotel and he made a fortune. The Santa Barbara earthquake stopped his desire to continue any plans there. It is significant that a catastrophe of this nature was needed to bring fruition to his plans for a major undertaking.

Ole remembered a romantic strip of land he had seen before on the California coast a quarter century before while on a train trip from Los Angeles to San Diego - a new chapter was to be written in Ole's life and that of a future dream city, San Clemente.

Read Ole Hanson's vision.

Mike Cotter, Broker Associate, DRE #00806890
Century 21 O.M.A., 229 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672
Mobile 949.322.6009, Fax 949.492.7850
E-mail Mike@MCotter.com
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