One of Catalina Island’s many photo hot spots – especially for small children – perches regally at the corner of Crescent Avenue and Pebbly Beach Road. This bronze sculpture of a California sea lion is just the perfect size to climb on and take a cute photo to share with the folks back home.
The statue is a tribute to what was one of Avalon’s favorite residents. Old Ben was a bull California sea lion that seemed to prefer the company of humans to that of his fellow pinnipeds. Nearly every day, Old Ben would haul himself out on Avalon’s beaches and then cruise through town looking for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. Well fed by the townspeople, Old Ben would let himself be petted and pose with the island’s visitors.
After nearly two decades of friendly visits to wander the streets of Avalon, Old Ben swam off into the sunset one day in 1920 and was never seen again — until 1976, when a statue in his honor was installed at the Cabrillo Mole. It quickly became a favorite site for visitors and locals returning to the island and the original concrete version was replaced with a bronze version in 1986.
Old Ben’s memory was honored again recently, when Avalon Beautiful needed a centerpiece for their new pocket park on the corner of Crescent Avenue and Pebbly Beach Road. After more than 25 years of salt spray and sea gull graffiti, Old Ben’s statue was in need of restoration and the pocket park was the perfect new home. The shiny statue now greets visitors and locals alike, just as Old Ben did all those years ago.