Catalina Island has the unusual distinction of having Union Barracks dating back to the Civil War. In January 1864, the U.S. Army sent a scout team to Catalina Island for a proposed reservation for “militant” Native Americans. In a scout report the area was reported to two good harbors, available fresh water and favorable weather in the southern part of the California coastline. Southern California was also believed to be full of Confederate sympathizers and the U.S. Army Drum Barracks in San Pedro was concerned about Confederacy guns and gold being taken to the island and later picked up and smuggled to ships heading around the Horn to ports in the South.
83 Union soldiers from Company C, 4th Regiment, California Voluntary Infantry and occupied the barracks in Two Harbors. By late 1864, the Confederacy was about to be defeated and native uprisings had settled down, the troops were withdrawn and returned to Drum Barracks.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Hollywood film crews used the Two Harbors Barracks as housing while they transformed Santa Catalina Island into the South Pacific for movies like Mutiny on the Bounty and Old Ironside.
Decades after their first tour, the barracks were once again called on by the U.S. military. During World War II, the U.S. Coast Guard used the barracks as a training station for new recruits. Since 1951 the barracks have been managed by the Isthmus Yacht Club. The barracks still stand as the island’s oldest structure.