Have you ever wondered how Santa Monica got its name? How about when Santa Monica Pier first opened its doors to visitors? Or how a private Santa Monica mansion becomes one of the city’s most famous hotels? Travel through time and explore Santa Monica’s rich cultural history, from the discovery of Santa Monica Bay to the expansion of the Metro Expo Line from Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica’s shores.

The 1700s and Earlier

1542
Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo drops anchor in Santa Monica Bay.

1769
Father Juan Crespi, a Franciscan in Gaspar de Portola’s expedition party, names the area after Saint Monica.

1770
Saint Monica’s fertile open country remains under Spanish rule.

The 1800s

1828
Mexico, free of Spain, divides the area into three expansive land grants called Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, Rancho Boca de Santa Monica and Rancho La Ballona.

1850s
Santa Monica becomes a lively winter playground for well-to-do East Coasters; commercial opportunities boom

1872
Col. Robert S. Baker of Rhode Island purchases 38,409-acre Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica for $54,000; wife Dona Arcadia de Baker buys what is now Pacific Palisades for $40,000.

1874
Nevada Senator John Percival Jones, regarded as the founder of Santa Monica, purchases control of Rancho Santa Monica for $162,000.

1875
Santa Monica takes shape; Colonel Baker and Senator Jones plot the city’s physical layout, including ample parks.

1875
Senator Jones donates 26-acre Palisades Park to the city; the first residential lot sells for $300. The seaside sanctuary’s population grows to 1,000 in nine short months.

1886
The city of Santa Monica is incorporated – all 8.3 square miles.

1888
Senator Jones’ famous ‘Miramar’ mansion is built on the city block of Ocean Avenue in a site that was originally slated for a grand hotel; the landmark Miramar Moreton Bay Fig Tree marks the estate’s location today.

1893
Santa Monica’s mile-long wharf is built; the city bustles as the major port of call for Los Angeles until 1903

The 1900s

1909
Santa Monica’s famed pier, the only pleasure pier on the West Coast, opens to an international crowd of enthusiasts.

1920
Santa Monica is home to Hollywood “A-listers” and wealthy East Coasters; population soars to 37,000.

1922
Humorist Will Rogers acquires 345 acres in Rustic Canyon and builds a horse ranch and polo field for fellow players that included: Spencer Tracy, Robert Montgomery and Walt Disney.

1924
Senator Jones’ mansion becomes the grand Miramar Hotel

1926
William Randolph Hearts builds Marion Davies a palatial, Georgian-style mansion on Will Rogers State Beach.

1934
Muscle Beach ignites an international fitness craze on Santa Monica State Beach.

1955
Santa Monica inherits Will Rogers’ 345-acre State Historic Park.

1980s
Santa Monica becomes a hotbed for world-class dining; the iconic Michael’s restaurant opens and becomes a pioneer of California cuisine.

1989
Third Street Promenade opens, welcoming up to 7,000 visitors daily.

1999
Massive beachfront redesign marks the millennium, including the rebirth of legendary Muscle Beach, renovation of Palisades Park and debut of two new beachfront hotels, the last properties to be built along Santa Monica’s shoreline.

The 2000s

2007
Santa Monica Travel & Tourism celebrates its 25-year anniversary.

2009
The Santa Monica Pier celebrates its centennial anniversary.

2010
Santa Monica Place reopens after an extensive remodel as one of the top luxury malls in the country.

2013
Tongva Park, a seven-acre park with majestic views of the Pacific Ocean, opens in the heart of Santa Monica.

2015
Santa Monica launches its Breeze Bike Share program, the first-ever bike sharing program in the Los Angeles region.

2016
Metro’s Expo Line light rail 6.6-mile extension to downtown Santa Monica connects Santa Monica to greater Los Angeles by rail for the first time in over fifty years. The new, adjacent Colorado Esplanade opens concurrently, connecting the Expo Line Downtown Santa Monica station to the Pier, Ocean Avenue and Palisades Garden Walk Park.