Early Long Beach Subdivisions

From Farms To Subdivisions

RAILROADS Real estate development in Long Beach started when a sandy, curly haired Englishman with a high broad forehead and blue eyes, William Erwin Willmore, conceived of the idea of founding a colony.  In 1880 Willmore’s plan for his American Colony began to take shape when he met with Jotham Bixby to discuss the subdivision of the Rancho Los Cerritos. Willmore hired Charles Healey to prepare a map of the project which Willmore called the American Colony. Though he originally hoped to purchase 10,000 acres, Willmore scaled down his dream upon the recommendations of Healey to 4,000 acres, 350 of which would form his townsite of Willmore City.  Judge Robert M. Widney, a Los Angeles attorney, was the money man behind William Willmore in his early endeavors. It was Widney […]

Willmore City and American Colony subdivisions

Willmore City District  William Willmore founded Willmore City which later became Long Beach Today the Willmore District of Long Beach extends from the Los Angeles River to Pacific Avenue, and from 4th Street to Anaheim Street.  It encompasses parts of the original town of Willmore City, organized by city founder William Willmore.  Willmore had started his American Colony in 1882 when he purchased 4000 acres of the Cerritos Rancho.  Since every colony needed to have a townsite where people could go to shop and socialize, Willmore set aside 350 acres for his city. The town site was on a mesa about twenty feet above the beach, encompassing an area from the ocean to 10th street and from the river to Alamitos Avenue.  American Avenue, 124 feet wide, extended through the […]

Alamitos Subdivisions

Alamitos Townsite History There was a tremendous land boom in Southern California when the new transcontinental Santa Fe railroad was completed in 1885.  A price war developed between the Santa Fe and the older Southern Pacific with tickets falling from $52.50 in 1883 to $4 in 1886. Thousands moved to the Southland, many of them to Willmore City (which would become Long Beach). Captain Charles T. Healey, who surveyed the original Willmore City townsite in 1882, also laid out the new Alamitos townsite (also referred to as Alamitos Beach townsite) in 1886.  The dividing line between Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Alamitos was present day Alamitos Boulevard, and on the other side of the boundary with Long Beach John Bixby and his associates began selling land.  Their townsite was 20 […]

Alamitos Peninsula, Naples and Alamitos Heights Subdivisions

Alamitos Bay Peninsula The idea of a harbor at Alamitos Bay appealed to many investors in the land boom days of the 1880s.  Southern California was in the middle of tremendous real estate development, this, along with plans to bring in a railroad, stirred hope that a major harbor could be developed at Alamitos Bay. The Alamitos Land Company planned to give the Los Angeles and Ocean Railroad, competitors to the South Pacific, a right of way through land around Signal Hill.  Alamitos Bay would be the terminus of the new railroad and the bay developed into a major harbor.  By the end of January 1888 the Los Angeles and Ocean Railroad acquired the last link of land from Los Angeles.  The proposed rail line was to enter the Alamitos […]

The City of Belmont Heights

The area we now call “Belmont Heights” started as the Mira Mar tract in 1901 by real estate agents Frank Shaw and H. S. Gundry.  Promoters advertised the tract as being on a high bluff overlooking the ocean just north of Devil’s Gate and one and one-half miles east of Long Beach. Before the arrival of the Pacific Electric you couldn’t have given the land away. Why? It was too far from Pine Avenue. But by 1905, with the electric rail line, and service every half hour, you could be in downtown Long Beach in eight minutes. Sales in Mira Mar really took off. In January 1905, 120 lots (none smaller than 50 feet) were placed on the market with prices ranging from $500 to $1250 per lot. No shacks […]

The “Willows” and Wrigley District

The Willows Early development in the Willows/Wrigley area The Wrigley District of today is part of what was once known as “Willows.”  In 1887, on the flat west of the American Colony (Long Beach was the city portion of the American Colony), was an area known by three names:  The Willows, the Wilmington Colony Tract, and Lucerne.   All three names were given the area which was situated 18 miles south of Los Angeles, 2  1/2 miles northwest of downtown Long Beach and 4 miles north of Wilmington.  The settlement which became known as Lucerne in the late 1890s started as the Wilmington Colony Tract.  Then, when a school district was formed the name of the district was designated “Cerritos.”  This was exceedingly confusing since there was already a settlement known […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]