Author's Blog

Signal Hill

Signal Hill One of the first to settle on Signal Hill was Henry Clay Dillon.  Dillon brought his family to Long Beach from Denver in the spring of 1887 because of insomnia, the Los Angeles Herald of December 4, 1892 reported.  There he purchased 160 acres from Jotham Bixby on what was then called “Cerritos Hill” for $150 an acre.   The land was covered entirely with sage brush and mustard plants, but in the spring there were wild flowers.  The Dillon’s first built a barn, in which the family lived until the house was finished.  Reservoirs had to be built and windmills installed and orchards planted — oranges and lemons, walnuts, olives and lots of guavas and figs. Dillon named  it Colorado Orchards.   By 1892 he had divided his land into five 20 acre lots and one 40 acre home tract and sold several to prominent Denver business men.  Dillon retained, however, the 40 acre tract and one 20 acre lot. On it there were seven orchards, segregated into various fruit varieties.  There were 2000 fig trees, 2000 olive trees, 1250 Eureka lemons, 120 navel orange trees, 300 walnut trees, 200 apple trees, 500 plum, 500 peach and apricot, 3500 guavas.  All in all there were over 30,000 plants fertilized with sewerage from the house and stable. Josephine Dillon once married to Clark Gable, grew up on Signal Hill Lemon growing was an extensive, though unprofitable, industry in the Signal Hill area in the 1890s.  Judge Dillon’s lemon grove was between Vine and Cherry Avenues, south of Catalina Street.  Thomas Wall and W. Patton Wilson each owned a ten-acre lemon orchard in the triangular block which came to a point at Pacific Coast Highway and […]

Los Cerritos

Today the Los Cerritos District of Long Beach extends from 48th Street on the North to the 405 Freeway on the South, to the Los Angeles River on the West and Long Beach Blvd. on the east. It was formed from land that belonged to the Bixby family of Rancho Los Cerritos. Los Cerritos District today Rafaela Cota Temple 1850 The Rancho Los Cerritos, which would give birth to the city of Long Beach, has a long history going back to 1784 when it was part of the much larger Rancho Los Nietos owned by Manuel Nieto. Nieto died and his survivors divided their inheritance. What would become the Rancho Los Cerritos passed to the hands of Dona Manuela Nieto de Cota in 1804. It was later sold by her heirs to Rafaela Cota, a niece of Manuel Nieto, and her husband John Temple on December 16, 1843, for $3,200. Burdened with debt because of a devastating drought, harassed by increased taxes, Juan Temple had to sell the Rancho Los Cerritos. On February 23, 1866, the Flints and the Bixbys purchased the 27,000 acres for $20,000, or 80 cents an acre. The firm made Jotham Bixby manager of the huge estate and in 1869 Jotham acquired a half interest in the rancho, for which he paid $10,000. In 1880 when William Willmore approached Jotham Bixby about buying land to form a colony, Bixby considered Willmore’s offer. With the additional money the Flint-Bixby Company could purchase neighboring Rancho Los Alamitos, which the Flint-Bixby Company had been leasing from the Michael Reese estate since 1878. The extra capital would allow for the purchase. As mentioned in my blog on Willmore City subdivisions, William Willmore could not pay […]

North Long Beach

Many of the housing tracts which would form North Long Beach weren’t built until the 1930s or later. I’ve written about these in my book Fighting Fear, which I will not repeat here, but let me tell of the area’s early development in the 1880s through the 1920s. California Cooperative Colony Ad 4/27/1887 There were other colonies forming around Long Beach’s American Colony, parts of which would eventually become North Long Beach. On the proposed narrow-gauge railroad from Long Beach to Pasadena, the California Cooperative Colony was created on 7000 acres of Rancho Los Cerritos territory on land lying east of the Los Angeles River and north of present 56th Street. It was about six miles inland from Long Beach. On May 2, 1887, stock in the colony was offered for sale. It operated on the subscription basis: 200 shareholders, to be known as “founders,” would each buy a $140 share of stock at a fifty per cent discount. Each share would entitle the holder to a business or residence lot in the projected town, and the privilege of purchasing not more than four ten acre plots of surrounding farmland at a discount. For subsequent investors the farm tracts were offered at $100 per acre, one-third down. The town, called Clearwater for the crystal clear water found in the area, was one mile square. It extended from Downey Road on the east to Cherry Avenue (now Garfield) on the west and from Washington (now Compton Blvd.) on the north to Flower Street on the south. In July 1887, the following ad appeared: “The California Cooperative Colony offers for sale at $100 an acre a portion of its valuable lands in the Cerritos ranch, to those […]

1915 Long Beach

103 YEARS AGO in LONG BEACH, CA. News stories from the local press  1915 LINCOLN MONUMENT IN PACIFIC PARK Since 1906 the stone foundation originally intended for a soldier’s monument in the southeast corner of Pacific Park had laid unattended. The project itself had a checkered past and was abandoned because of internal jealousies among members of the Sons of the Veterans’ Auxiliary over who would get credit for the monument. The original contractor was paid a $200 deposit, but was still owed $3,600 for the soldier statue still in his possession.  Exhausting all efforts to get paid, the contractor placed the matter in the hands of an attorney.  On the next Memorial Day an unusual wood and canvas monument was placed upon the granite base in Pacific Park.  The attorney was in the crowd jotting down the names of a number of participants who had originally donated funds.  A little later each of these received a letter from the attorney advising them that the use of the pedestal was a confession of liability and the money owed the original contractor must be paid.  Not surprisingly, the make-shift monument was removed, and the base remained unused.  The contractor did not get his money. In 1914, Park Superintendent Arthur Falkenhayn suggested the unsightly base be used as the foundation of a drinking fountain to show place the public library.  Receiving approval, he surrounded the base of the fountain with flowers.  The fountain itself was used as an urn in which he planted coleus vines and other shrubbery.  Because of this attention, the local women’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic decided to rejuvenate the movement to erect a memorial to those who were involved […]

1914 Long Beach

News stories from the local press.

1913 Long Beach

105 YEARS AGO in LONG BEACH, CA. News stories from the local press 1913     THE EMPIRE DAY DISASTER The Irish had their holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day, the Italians Columbus Day, why not a holiday for British Americans?  In 1913, 20,000 former British subjects living in Southern California chose May 24th, Empire Day, as their day to celebrate.  The British holiday began in 1838 to commemorate young queen Victoria’s birthday.  When she died in 1901 her subjects still wanted to honor her accomplishments so Parliament issued a proclamation establishing May 24th as Empire Day.  Now the first Empire Day celebration on the west coast was to be held in Long Beach, California. The Daily Telegram of May 23, 1913 described what was supposed to have happened: “The greatest British celebration ever held on foreign soil. That is what the committee in charge of the arrangements for the big Empire Day celebration to be held in this city tomorrow expects the fete to be.  From all over the southland will come those who formerly lived under the British flag.  Drawing card features of the day will be the presence of the British man-of-war, Shearwater, 60 of whose sailors will act as an escort for the veterans in the parade; there will be a big program of athletic stunts, national games, the parade, music and the natural attractions of Long Beach.  The parade will be  elaborate, with several floats each representing dominions or possessions of the English nation, the participants of each float being natives of the that particular country represented.  The parade will reach the auditorium where speeches will be made.  Five hundred dollars worth of prizes will be given to the winners of the various contests.”  What was to have been a […]