History of the Beach Cities
The South Bay is somewhat newly developed in comparison to its surrounding cities. The various portions of land changed hands many times during the past century and a half from what was originally a part of a Mexican land grant. The land granted in 1837 was known as Rancho Sausal Redondo, which means ‘round Willow-grove ranch’. The grant included what is now Playa Del Rey, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Lawndale, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Hawthorne, and Redondo Beach.
Manhattan Beach land changed ownership or lease multiple times, trading hands from Scottish immigrant Sir Robert Burnett in 1863 to being leased in 1873 to Canadian, Daniel Freeman. Freeman moved his wife and children onto the ranch to grow crops and eventually bought the ranch from Burnett for a mind-blowing $140,000. Shortly thereafter, George H. Peck purchased part of what is now the north section of Manhattan Beach, and in 1901, John Merrill bought the south portion and called his section Manhattan after his hometown of New York City. Legend has it that Peck and Merrill decided the fate of the city’s name by a coin flip. The city’s last name, “Beach” was not added until 1927.
Interestingly, yet often known only to locals’ in the know’, Manhattan Beach was formerly sand dunes and during early development around the mid-1920’s a huge portion of excess sand was sold and shipped to Waikiki, Hawaii, to make the rocky beaches the powdery soft beaches they are today.
Hermosa Beach, named for the Spanish word meaning beautiful, was also part of the Rancho Sausal Redondo. Originally, it was used as farmland and herding grounds. In 1900, a tract of acreage was purchased by A. E. Pomroy for $35 per acre. Development of the land quickly began to take place; a boardwalk and a few major streets were built, as well as the first pier in 1904. Though the pier eventually was washed away, it was replaced in 1914 with a 1,000 foot concrete structure.
A trolley system was added soon after to shuffle tourists back and forth that visited from Los Angeles, and the Santa Fe Railway was added just seven blocks from the beach. The street was later renamed Pier Avenue.
Trolley cars have had a lasting impact on the surf spot in Hermosa Beach formerly known as “Trolley Cars” just off the Hermosa Pier. In the early 1960’s, Pacific Electric Red Cars were dumped into the ocean to create an artificial reef.
Originally home to the Chowigna Indians, Redondo Beach and its now non-existent Salt Lake was a source of food including halibut, lobster, and sea bass, and of course salt in the 1700’s. After the Native Americans were relocated, the company, Pacific Salt Works moved in and began manufacturing salt until it closed in 1862. In 1941, the Old Salt Lake site became a California State Historical Landmark in honor of the Chowigna Indians. This location is now the AES plant, and a small marker can be seen roadside today at its location.
When Redondo Beach was growing as a hub for tourism in the late 1800’s, the Hotel Redondo opened in 1890, as well as the Seagull Inn to house workers and its’ visitors. Guests would walk on Moonstone Beach to collect natural stone washing ashore, as well as be entertained with a surfing demo by a Hawaiian-English athlete named George Freeth that would demonstrate the art of surfing as entertainment for Redondo Beach visitors.
Redondo’s population began to boom in the mid-1900’s, from a population of 700 in 1890 to almost 55,000 by 1965. Today, Redondo Beach has a population of almost 68,000 and is still known as a tourist spot.
Palos Verdes Peninsula
Though excavations have discovered a probability of at least four different cultures along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the most recent, Tongva-Gabrieliño Native Americans, called the Palos Verdes Peninsula home for thousands of years before being discovered by Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542. Despite passing through various owners throughout the last few hundred years, Frank Vanderlip receives the most credit for its growth and development. In 1914, Vanderlip hired building and landscape architect firm, the Olmsted Brothers, to begin development. Vanderlip found the coastline reminiscent of the Italian Amalfi Coast and to this day, thanks to the Palos Verdes Art Jury, the Mediterranean vibe of the community still represents the vision for an Italian-like village Vanderlip had for the community, as well as the Spanish roots of its European discoverers.
Famous landmarks like the Point Vicente Lighthouse was built in 1926 to safely guide ships into the harbor along rocky cliffs and shallow water. Soon after, in 1930, the statue of Neptune was erected in Malaga Cove Plaza being an exact copy of the original in Bologna, Italy. In typical Palos Verdes fashion, the forefathers always strove to stay true to the cities roots.