Parks for the People - San Mateo County Story Panel

Mori Point's Hidden History

A visit to Mori Point reveals the site's natural beauty and scenic coastal views. What is not evident upon a glimpse of Mori Point is the hidden history behind the site's name.

Mori Point was originally part of the San Pedro Spanish Land Grant, a rancho that covered the approximate boundaries of present-day Pacifica. Beginning in the 1890s, the land was inhabited by Stefano Mori and his family who emigrated from Italy in the 1870s. The family settled on the site, built a 21-room farmhouse, and operated a ranch on the land, raising cattle, horses, and agricultural crops. The Mori family kitchen built to feed the ranch hands, developed into the Mori Point Restaurant, Inn, and Tavern, a frequent stop for travelers on the journey from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay and beyond.

Stefano Mori's son, Jack Mori, ran a bootlegging operation during prohibition. He moved Canadian Scotch whiskey from offshore ships through the inn and sold liquor under the counter. He was successful until he was arrested in 1923 when 24,000 cases of whiskey were confiscated from the site. In 1932, Stefano Mori's other son Ray and Ray's wife Marie reopened the inn. The Mori Point establishment existed as Mori's Point Dine and Dance until 1965 when it was condemned as a safety hazard. Soon after, in 1966, the structure burned down.

The Mori family history is sometimes overlooked due to lack of evidence left on site. Mori Point is now protected parkland and its history, both cultural and natural, is being preserved by the GGNRA and its partners.

 
Mori Point
Left: Mori’s Hotel postcard. Middle: Richard Hall and Dede Girdler atop motorcycles in front of the Mori’s Point Dine and Dance sign, circa 1954-1955. Right: Mori Point Restaurant, 1952.

Left: Courtesy of the Pacifica Historical Society. Middle: Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 34806 Right: Courtesy of the Pacifica Historical Society.

 

Sweeney Ridge's Historic Panoramic View

Sweeney Ridge is known for its 360-degree panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay Area. This view was glimpsed for the first time by European settlers on November 4, 1769, on an expedition led by Captain Juan Gaspar de Portolá. In the 1700s, Spain was determined to control the west coast of North America and moved to establish a presidio at Monterey Bay. Portolá's expedition of 64 men and 100 mules left San Diego in July 1769, planning to meet a supply ship in Monterey Bay. The journey proved difficult due to the rough terrain, lack of food supplies, and poor navigation. The party became disoriented and accidently passed by the harbor of Monterey. By October, many of the soldiers, including Portolá, were ill or injured and their provisions were running low, but the explorers pushed northward.

In late October, the expedition realized they had passed Monterey and had reached the Bay of San Francisco in error, recognizing the view from previous accounts by other Spanish missionaries. On October 31, the party camped in the San Pedro Valley and rested to regain their strength. On November 4, the entire expedition climbed what is now known as Sweeney Ridge and viewed the San Francisco Bay from the ridgeline. The soldiers described the site as a great harbor that "could contain not only all the armadas of our Catholic Monarch but also all those of Europe." They explored the area until November 11, at which point they began to travel southward towards Monterey Bay and eventually San Diego. Their journey south was as difficult as their northward trip, but not a single man was lost on the expedition.

In 1968, the area was designated as the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, a National Historic Landmark. The GGNRA works to protect this historic view of the San Francisco Bay along with the natural habitat of Sweeney Ridge.

 
Sweeny Ridge and Portola
Left: Postcard of the Portolá Expedition glimpsing the San Francisco Bay on November 4, 1769.  Middle: The National Historic Landmark marker for the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site.  Right: A postcard of an aerial view of Pacifica and Sweeney Ridge where “X” marks the spot that the Portolá Expedition viewed the San Francisco Bay in 1769, and “A” marks their campsite.

All: Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, GOGA 35304.

 

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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