History Header - Santa Monica History Museum/Jones Collection

The city of Santa Monica's story began when a Franciscan monk, inspired by the region's natural springs, named the area after Saint Monica. The rest, as they say, is history, and a rich history at that.

Santa Monica History Museum/Jones Collection

History of Santa Monica

1542: Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo drops anchor in Santa Monica Bay

1769: Father Juan Crespi -- a Franciscan in Gaspar de Portola’s expedition party -- inspired by a free-flowing natural spring names the area after Saint Monica, who wept for her wayward son.

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

1828: Mexico, free of Spain, divides the area into three expansive land grants entitled 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 Easterners; 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 Bandini 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 and promontories.

1875: Senator Jones donates 26-acre Palisades Park to the city; the first residential lot sells for $300. In nine short months the seaside sanctuary grows to a population of 1,000.

1886: The opulent Arcadia Hotel, one of the many grand resort hotels to grace Southern California’s seashore, is built.

1887: The city of Santa Monica is incorporated -- all 8.3 square miles.

1888: Initially sited for a grand hotel, Senator Jones’ famous “Miramar” mansion is built on the city block of Ocean Avenue; a 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.

1909: Santa Monica’s famed Pier opens – the oldest pleasure Pier on the West Coast – drawing an international crowd of enthusiasts.

1910: Ocean Park Bath House adorns the shore; across the street the ornate Million Dollar Pier is built (dismantled in 1970).

1920: Santa Monica is home to Hollywood’s “A” list and wealthy Easterners; population soars to 37,000.

1920: Aviation pioneer Donald W. Douglas, Sr., founds Douglas Aircraft Co., which later provided much needed jobs during World War II.

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

1924: Senator Jones’ mansion becomes the grand Miramar Hotel.

1924: Dancers from around the world flock to the newly-built 10,000 person La Monica Ballroom, built on the foot of the Pier.

1925: Santa Monica’s “Gold Coast” becomes hot realty; Greta Garbo checks into the Miramar Hotel as first U.S. residence.

1926: William Randolph Hearst builds Marion Davies a palatial Georgian- style mansion (55 rooms, 37 fireplaces) 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 hotbed for world-class dining; two first-class beachfront hotels debut drawing international acclaim; Third Street Promenade opens in 1989.

1984: Aggressive $45 million multi-phased Pier Restoration project begins with refurbishment of the historic carousel.

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.

2001: Big Blue Bus Downtown Transit redevelopment.

2002: New Visitor Center opens in Santa Monica Place Mall serving visitors, residents alike.

2005: Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau moves to Main Street Location.

2007: Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau celebrates 25-year anniversary

2009: Santa Monica Pier celebrates it's Centennial 

2010: Opening of the new Santa Monica Place


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