It is the rarest of trees, springing from the rarest of places.
It has weathered centuries of seasons. It has survived the paint of vandals and the flames of arsonists.
It is Stop 12 to the 2 million tourists who visit the Del Monte Forest every year.
The Lone Cypress has been the featured attraction of 17-Mile Drive ever since the route was formed in 1881. Known simply as Midway Point back then, its craggy silhouette popping against the horizon of the Pacific is instantly recognizable throughout the world.
Pebble Beach is one of two locales in the world where the Monterey Cypress — Cupressus macrocarpa— grows natively. Its sister grove resides across Carmel Bay at the Point Lobos headlands. (You can now find Monterey Cypress planted in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.)
While the Monterey Cypress can grow to a towering 90 feet — as a visit to the sheltered Crocker Grove will highlight — the wind-shaped Lone Cypress improbably sprouts from a granite pedestal, ultimately standing a proud 25 feet tall.
As we celebrate the Del Monte Forest during our Centennial year at Pebble Beach Resorts, we take a look back at the history of its most famous inhabitant — The Lone Cypress.
THE LONE CYPRESS WAS INTRODUCED TO THE WORLD IN 1881.
But not by that name. When a 17-mile scenic drive opened in 1881, launching from Monterey’s Hotel Del Monte and tracing the peninsula’s ravishing coastline, maps identified the most famous stop along the route simply as “Midway Point.”
The attraction earned the literal moniker because it marked the halfway point of a day-long carriage ride along the scenic drive. Even in 1929 — when 17-Mile Drive had moved entirely inside the Del Monte Forest — this map still refers to The Lone Cypress location as Midway Point:
THE LONE CYPRESS STARTED TO RECEIVE STAR BILLING IN 1889.
The first written reference to The Lone Cypress came from the local newspaper, which was aptly named the Monterey Daily Cypress. R. Fitch wrote on Jan. 19, 1889:
“Rounding a short curve on the beach, we approach Cypress Point, the boldest headland on the peninsula of Monterey. Down almost to the water grows the cypress, and on the extreme point a solitary tree has sunk its roots in the crevices of the wave-washed rock, and defies the battle of the elements that rage about it during the storms of winter.”
Since then, The Lone Cypress has been the subject of photographs by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, a stand-in for Napolean’s exile to the Island of Elba, and the silver screen backdrop for a handful of movies, including the 1934 classic “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
SAMUEL F.B. MORSE ADAPTED THE LONE CYPRESS AS THE LOGO FOR PEBBLE BEACH RESORTS IN 1919.
As you can see from this stock certificate, Samuel F.B. Morse chose The Lone Cypress to represent the newly formed Del Monte Properties Company in 1919. Now called Pebble Beach Resorts, The Lone Cypress has represented the company Morse founded the last 100 years.
MEASURES TO PROTECT THE LONE CYPRESS BEGAN IN 1941.
In 1925, you can see The Lone Cypress springing from its rocky perch overlooking the Pacific. There was a path that led directly to the iconic tree, and visitors could even picnic alongside it.
By 1941, photos show The Lone Cypress pedestal shored up by stonemasonry. By 1948, The Lone Cypress was also supported by steel cables.
Morse cared so passionately about The Lone Cypress that during one particularly wicked and windy night, he crawled out to its perch to protect it. It’s unclear what Morse could have done to shield The Lone Cypress from Mother Nature, but both survived the night.
THE LONE CYPRESS SURVIVED AN ARSON ATTACK IN 1974.
The Larkey family bought property just south of The Lone Cypress in 1923. A half-century later, Frances Larkey helped save The Lone Cypress from an arsonist.
Late one night during Crosby week in 1974, Larkey noticed an unusual glow outside her window. The Lone Cypress was on fire. Larkey called the Fire Department, who extinguished the flames before they could destroy the tree. “There was a large pile of incendiary material at the foot of the trunk,” Larkey recalled. “It definitely was arson.”
A few years earlier, the trunk and branches of The Lone Cypress had also survived a dousing of red paint from vandals.
THE LONE CYPRESS STILL PERSEVERES TODAY.
The Lone Cypress has been battered by atmospheric rivers and gale-force winds, but it is still standing strong today. A storm in early 2019 clipped a branch, but an arborist examined The Lone Cypress and confirmed that it is both healthy and secure.