The Necessary Requirements for a Seaside Laboratory

Below: Photograph of students attending Hopkins Seaside Laboratory.

So it was determined, by the expedition carried out by CH Gilbert and OP Jenkins that, of all the possible sites along the central coast of California to position a seaside laboratory, a headland projecting into the sea, named Point Aulon (Spanish for Abalone Point), in the coastal township of Pacific Grove, was sufficient as to satisfy those necessary requirements that Professor Oliver P. Jenkins had outlined. As previously mentioned, these requirements included (1) being in close proximity to the natural advantages necessary for a marine biological laboratory; (2) easy accessibility in terms of traveling to and from the facility; and (3) pleasant and convenient living accommodations for faculty, students and visiting research scientists. (7) The following paragraphs offer further detail into how these three necessary requirements were satisfied and the advantages afforded by selecting this location over any other along the California coast.

Natural Advantages: For the requirement of natural advantages, Point Aulon provided easy access to the elements necessary for biological research, that being the abundance of marine life and clean seawater for the laboratory. Despite the close proximity of the Stanford University campus, the San Francisco Bay was rejected as a location for the seaside laboratory as it was virtually landlocked, with two large rivers emptying their sediments into this coastal estuary, which contributed to the absence of marine life in this location.

Monterey Bay, being more exposed to oceanic conditions, provided an abundance of marine life. In addition, Point Aulon provided access to a rocky intertidal zone perfectly suited for marine studies. At this time in the history of California, the Monterey Peninsula itself, remained relatively untouched, a virtual paradise in terms of its natural environment. (8) Beyond the natural advantages that awaited those wishing to attend the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory, was the additional advantage of the peninsula being conveniently connected to Palo Alto and San Francisco by rail.

Accessibility: The requirement of accessibility, in terms of traveling to and from a facility were met by the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Monterey Express; then the fastest train run on the Pacific Coast. The first Southern Pacific Railroad passenger train arrived in Monterey, On January 1, 1880. Some nine years later, on June 29, 1889, the Southern Pacific Railroad, Northern Divisions, Monterey Express rail service was extended to Pacific Grove, three years prior to the opening of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. In addition to extending the rail line, the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed the Pacific Grove train depot, just a few blocks from Point Aulon. For those visiting the laboratory from the Stanford campus, travel time from the Palo Alto train depot to the Pacific Grove train depot amounted to an average of three to three and a half hours.

Accommodations: For the requirement of pleasant and convenient living accommodations for faculty, students and visiting researchers, Pacific Grove had been since 1880, the seat of the Pacific Coast Assembly for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. As the Pacific Coast Assembly held a gathering for two weeks every summer, there were to be found available, a supply of cottages and tents for rent at reasonable rates and furnished for light housekeeping. (9)

And so it was in the end, Pacific Grove’s Point Aulon, what is today the location of the city’s “Lovers' Point Park,” was chosen as the location for establishing the teaching and research facility.


(7) Jenkins, Oliver Pebbles. (1893). The Hopkins Seaside Laboratory. Zoe, 4: 58-63.

(8) Young, Betty Lou and Young, Thomas R. (2006). Frontier Chautauqua: The Chautauqua Movement on the Pacific Coast. Pacific Palisades. Casa Vieja Press.

(9) Leland Stanford Junior University. Third Annual Register 1893-1894. Palo Alto, California. Published by the University, April 1894.