Cardiff-by-the-Sea, named for Cardiff, Wales, is a destination point for camping, surfing, and fine dining and a great place to live.
Always fascinated by the name, years ago I searched the zip code book and was pleasantly surprised to find there were several Cardiffs listed in the United States. I was able to make contact with Colorado, Illinois, New York and Tennessee and like Cardiff, Wales, the common thread was coal mining. I got no replies from Alabama, Maryland and New Jersey.
I was especially interested in Cardiff, Colo. because at the time our son lived in Breckenridge and we were able to visit what was left of this small mining town.
In a letter from the Frontier Historical Society of Glenwood Springs dated 1997, I learned that the Colorado Midland Railroad came into Cardiff in the fall of 1897. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company owned the coal lands and started mining coal as soon as ovens were built.
Coal from the mines on the Jerome Park Branch was converted in the ovens at Cardiff. Each oven yielded a ton of finished coke and piles of wood provided intense heat for the firing operation.
In 1917 the Colorado Midland was abandoned and mines and coke ovens in that area were closed. The ovens, still visible in the hillside, are listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Recent communication from the Frontier Historical Society states they are working towards an interpretive park in Cardiff. They own 10 of the ovens and hope to receive, by deed, the remaining 40.
My letter to Cardiff, Ill. was directed to Dwight, Ill. and a letter from the Prairie Creek Public Library District stated that “It was a little coal mining town about 10 miles from Dwight which disappeared when the coal mining petered out. About all that’s left are a trio of slag heaps and the towns of Coal City and Diamond-they are just wide spots in the road on the way to Chicago.”
The letter included a couple of news articles, which informed that a coal mining blast in 1903 buried three miners whose bodies were never recovered. “Before the blast,” a point of reference, a resident named Mrs. Biavi operated a confectionary and sold soda pop, ice cream, bread, milk and sundry items. A 1996 correspondence states that her store has been turned into a metal shop by her relatives. The article also mentioned that the boom town once had 18 saloons, two marshals, two Mafia murders, six groceries, two dance halls and drank down three carloads of beer a week which was shipped from Milwaukee and Kankakee. One can readily see that life in Cardiff was eventful!
We cannot claim two dance halls or six groceries, and I have no documentation on the possible consumption of three carloads of beer a week, but may the Cardiff-by-the-Sea we proudly call home always be a destination point and never a wide spot in the road.
Irene is a founding and life member as well as past president of the Friends of the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Library and currently serves on the board. She has lived here since 1982.